Archive for the ‘Political Correctness’ Category

Service of Replacing Words: Deep-Six Mom and Dad

Monday, March 15th, 2021

Photo: schoolsweek.co.uk

At risk of sounding like a broken record, having recently written “Service of What’s Next in Whitewashing the Past?” I couldn’t let this story go by without piping up.

A NYC private school for children in junior kindergarten through 12th grade–Grace Church School–published in September a language guide/glossary of acceptable words. News only recently spilled beyond the school community.

Here are some of the guide’s recommendations:

  • Rather than mom and dad use grown-ups, folks, family or guardians and caregiver, not nanny/babysitter.
  • Say people, folks or friends instead of boys and girls or ladies and gentlemen.
  • Replace “What are you? Where are you from?” with “What is your cultural/ethnic background? Where are your ancestors/is your family from?”
  • Don’t ask a classmate where they’ve been on vacation because they may not have gone anywhere and don’t say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.
  • Use physically disabled, not handicapped.

Photo: artfulparent.com

 

I read several sources and I post quotes and the word suggestions above from all. So as not to weigh down the copy with each attribution, I here credit nbcnews.com, cbslocal.com, foxnews.com, dailymail.co.uk and nypost.com for the compilation. The NY Post published a longer list of preferred words from the 12-page “Grace Inclusive Language Guide,” developed to reflect the school’s mission. (Tuition at the school is $57,330 a year.)

According to the guide, “families are formed and structured in many ways. At Grace Church School, we use inclusive language that reflects this diversity. It’s important to refrain from making assumptions about who kids live with, who cares for them, whether they sleep in the same place every night, whether they see their parents, etc.

Photo: verywellmind.com

“While we recognize hateful language that promotes racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are already addressed in our school handbooks, we also recognize that we can do more than ban hateful language; we can use language to create welcoming and inclusive spaces.”

School head George P. Davison wrote: “We understand the power of language both to include and to cause alienation. We also know that it is our job to give community members resources to allow them to make informed and generous choices. If the boorish ‘cancel culture’ press wants to condemn us a newly dubbed ‘Woke Noho’ school of politeness, dignity and respect, then I embrace it, and I hope you will too.”

And he said: “We’re not telling people not to call their parents mom and dad. That’s the silliest thing anybody ever came up with. And its not even a word police. It is rather a guide to inclusive language, if you want to use it.”

Which of the recommendations do you agree with? Have you changed your word choices to be more sensitive to others? Should other schools publish similar guidelines? Is specificity lost with these word change suggestions?

Photo: health.wyo.gov

Service of Specificity: Bias-Free Language and Politics

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

 

 

Photo: sacnas.org

Photo: sacnas.org

I first read about this University of New Hampshire language guide kerfuffle on The Daily Beast and then linked to Holly Ramer’s Associated Press story, “UNH president offended by bias-free language guide,” on the pressherald.com.

Ramer wrote: “The president of the University of New Hampshire says he’s troubled and offended by many parts of a ‘bias-free language guide’ developed by students and staff, particularly a suggestion that using the word ‘American’ is problematic because it fails to recognize South America.”

She added: “He [Mark Huddleston] says it’s ironic that a well-meaning effort to be sensitive ended up being offensive to many people, including himself.” He made clear that “free and unfettered speech” is the policy of the university, not the language guide.

UNH unh.eduA few days later The Washington Post’s Janell Ross picked up the story in her “The Fix” column. She added a layer to the story that explained why we are now reading about a guide first published two years ago. “What has followed is a takedown of what a young conservative journalist and his editors regarded as a kind of fiendish political correctness happening at the University of New Hampshire. Of course, the guide at the center of this story is itself intended as a takedown on cultural insensitivity. Wheels within wheels.”

Peter Hasson is the “young conservative journalist,” a Texas correspondent for a conservative online publication, CampusReform.org, “wholly funded by the Leadership Institute, a Virginia-based nonprofit that aims to equip and train young conservative activists, journalists and future candidates, Morton Blackwell, a Reagan White House aide and the institute’s founder and president, told me.” [Janell Ross is the “me.”]

In addition to “American,” according to Ross, Hasson listed other words he “deemed problematic” that were flagged in the guide: homosexual; illegal alien, Caucasian, mothering, fathering, foreigners. Quoting the university’s website, the purpose of the guide is to “invite inclusive excellence in [the] campus community.” Instead of homosexual the guide recommends “same gender loving.” Preferable to “illegal alien,” is “undocumented immigrant” or better yet, “asylum seeker.”

I’m all for changes that help improve communications, which by that definition, also removes the sting of bigotry from language and maintains accuracy and clarity. Not all these examples do that. Does “Asylum seeker” address people who only come here to find seasonal work so as to send money home?  What to do with Caucasian, defined by Google as “white skinned of European origin,” which I am. As Seinfeld and his cronies used to say, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” so if it applies, what is?

I first became sensitive to the American North/South issue after spending a summer in Chile, Brazil and Argentina as a teen. There, which America I was referring to mattered. But why delete the word “American” from everything? Isn’t the audience pertinent? If I’m writing about a family-owned company with headquarters in the same Massachusetts town for its 100 years, and I’m sending a press release about it exclusively to media in the U.S., a subsequent reference to “American company” is clear, accurate and unbiased.

Where do you come out in all of this: Should the president of a university know what’s on the institution’s website long before a controversial part of it hits the press? Are liberals the only ones who are sensitive to the impact of words? Is the converse true—that conservatives don’t care? Isn’t “bias-free language” a less opinionated description of what is also called political correctness? Do other countries associate word-choice with politics?

 

Photo: worldofmaps.net

Photo: worldofmaps.net

 

 

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