A movement is arising, the critics say, driven largely by over-protected, too sensitive beyond words students, coddled and privileged who want to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. As an article in The Atlantic says, "Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law-or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in "that violates the law") lest it cause students distress."
The criticism, of what is called the "PC Movement" may be overblown, at least in terms of its original intent. For example it was intended to protect students of color from racist remarks. Too, the movement was intended to stop aggressions directed at women, and those of different abilities, religions, and so on. Eventually, the term came to encompass the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group, such as the poor and the disabled, and mentally challenged.
But, as can happen to any social movement, College PC seems to have gotten completely out of hand.
The "PC" movement is characterized by "trigger warnings, "safe spaces, " and microagressions. A "trigger warning" should be given by professors, "if what is coming in a lecture might hurt the sensitive feelings of one who can't leave the safe cocoon of their home environment," is a definition given by critics.
A "microagression" is a statement demeaning a "student of color." But in practice, this can mean that if a TA at UCLA corrects a "person of color's grammar that would be a microagression. And, actually, the teaching assistant was fired!
A "safe space" is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.
As the National Review reports, "At Yale, students are worried about the effects that insensitive Halloween costumes might have upon their 'security.'" At Colorado College, enrollees are concerned that the screening of a pro-gay film will put their "well-being," their "identity," and their "safety" at risk, if not inflict "violence" upon their bodies.
" At Wesleyan, undergraduates were so outraged by an opinion column in their university newspaper that they tried to shut it down on the grounds that its editors had failed to "provide a safe space for the voices of students of color."
As full disclosure, this reporter attended all of Professor Richard "Bulldog" Styles' classes at Orange Community College in California. At that time he had a kind of cult following among the brighter students who thought he was most brilliant, interesting teacher on campus. These students dominated student government and the Alpha Gamma Sigma honor society. They saw to it that Styles got every award possible, notably "Most knowledgeable of any Professor on campus."
Because I greatly admired him, in writing this article, I did a kind of "case study" on Style's misadventures with the PC crowd at Orange, when I heard of his troubles with them. Several students in Professor Richard Styles' Philosophy class went to a board of Trustee's meeting and demanded that he be fired for upsetting them when he compared American culture to that of some city-states in ancient Greece.
Styles evidently said that in ancient Athens there was a concept of what the "perfect man" ought to be, which was greatly different from the American ideal. That man should be an athlete, poet and playwright, artist, knowledgeable about philosophy, literature, art, and science, and perhaps above all, be a "good citizen" and actively participate in civic life. When I was his student years ago for this class he argued, "A man can win the Olympics and earn a wreath, but a few months later the question would be whether he had entered a poetry contest or something similar."
The professor argued that in our society the ideal American male should be a "winner," aggressive, competitive and achievement oriented, and make more money than his father. Styles said that such a man in Greek culture would be a slave since single-minded pursuit of any one thing, say business, without achievement in many areas, would indicate a "slave mentality."
Sally Cartwright told the Orange College Board of Trustees that Styles' analysis, "made me sick to my stomach," because "everyone knows that America is number one." Her friend, Edna Strange told the Trustees that Styles should have given the students in the Philosophy class a "trigger alert so that we could have left the classroom because we would be so personally insulted and made uncomfortable."
George Carleson said he was failing the Professor's class because he didn't understand his lectures. "He's supposed to get down to our level and care about me. He's supposed to take into account differing mental abilities. He's just not sensitive."
As background for what follows, In California Community Colleges, the Board of Trustees in charge of the institutions are elected officials. They are apt to be the local florist or undertaker or, sometimes, lawyers and doctors. At a board meeting they freely discuss issues, usually business matters.
At the board meetings at Orange, a secretary takes notes of the meetings in shorthand. They become publicly available minutes, which is where I got the following information.
"Professor Styles, said one of the members, to the professor, who came to the meeting with several of his colleagues in his department, "Do you really think Greeks superior to Americans?"
Styles, responded, "I don't know what to say, Mr. Appleright, why should I answer such a question? Obviously you're interfering with academic freedom. Read your policy statement. It says something like 'The common good of the institution depends upon the free search for truth and its exposition.' You're meddling in something you don't know anything about," said the professor. You can't inhibit my freedom of expression. "
I 'm not doing that said Appleright, I just want to know what your opinion is.
Styles, a tenured professor, literally had to have intercourse with the college president's wife on the stairs of the administration building to have his job in jeopardy, such is the powerful protection afforded by academic freedom in California's community colleges.
"It's none of your damn business," he told the board member. "Freedom of inquiry involves objective criticism in an effort to obtain the truth."
"But you're not showing respect for the opinions of your students, are you?" asked Board President Shirley Piedmont.
"And just how do I do that Ms. Piedmont," queried Styles.
"Be considerate of their feelings Professor."
"What in hell are you talking about? I'm dealing with thoughts and ideas, not feelings. If the students want to deal with emotional problems they should see a psychoanalyst."
The college president, Louis A. Ungermiester, interjected, "Professor Styles, the reputation of this college as a welcoming place seems to be at stake here."
The Board minutes report Styles as retorting, "If your primary interest is in public relations, why don't you join a PR firm?"
Styles, who was the chief negotiator for his union, had often clashed with Ungermeister in matters of salaries and working conditions at the college.
"See how he is, he doesn't respect anybody, " said student Carleson, "and he can out argue anyone, even you guys. How would you feel if he had authority over you in the classroom?"
"Just because he's so smart doesn't mean he should be teaching here. You should fire him," said Sally Cartwright.
Allegedly, at that point the 3 students and others who had a gripe with Styles, because he had flunked them out of his very difficult symbolic logic class, surrounded him, one of them saying, "Be quiet you, we all need a safe space from you and we're providing it now. Stop threatening our identity as students who need a serene environment where we can learn."
From a colleague, who requested anonymity, for fearing a demotion like the one suffered by Styles, I learned that, that even though he couldn't be fired. his Department Chair had great power over him. Fearful of losing his position, the Chair changed his teaching schedule from Style's Introductory courses in Philosophy, Ethics, Logic, and Political Philosophy to all classes in introduction to U.S. Government, a course that students had studied in both the 8th and 12th grades, and whose repetitive content, most of which the majority of the students had never grasped, put them to sleep and drove them to texting in class even more than usual.
The chair could give him the dismal new schedule because Styles had a double major in college, which included political science, and gave him the expertise to teach the class.
The anonymous source said that worse, for Styles, his wife, who later said that he spent the majority of time lecturing her about various matters that never interested her, divorced him after the Professor because increasingly grumpy because of his terrible classroom assignments and also his becoming persona non grata among former department faculty friends. That was because of his unpopularity with the Department Chair, Board, and administration made them fearful.
Styles resigned from Orange College, got a job at Wendy's flipping hamburgers and became a recluse who tweeted hate-filled messages on the Internet using abstract concepts that no one understood.
I went to Wendy's to interview Styles who refused to talk to me. His eyes were drooping and his bead stubble matched his food stained apron. At the window ordering food was student Sally Cartwright who yelled at the former Professor, "I guess we showed you!"