An article of faith, that apparently defies rational discussion because those who back it refuse to acknowledge that it comes not from any legitimate reason, but to assuage the feelings of a small group of emotional cripples, is that the cost of debasing communication is trivial compared to the value of making people feel good about themselves.
The suggestion is that this is “bound to happen” regardless of reason, Orwell or Calvin and Hobbes, as those who pray to progressive gods just don’t give a damn about the consequences of their feelz-based demands. Ego, ergo sum. They insist they’re right, which is the great equalizer between thought and feelings.
In response, some will fight against the tide of dumbing down of language. But many people aren’t up for the conflict, whether because they can’t see the damage of a language where words convey no meaning, or don’t care enough to take on the ire of the ignorant.
At Harvard, the housemasters are in the throes of agony trying to shed the word “master” because it is reminiscent, to some students, of the word’s use as a title for slave owners. They unanimously agreed to eliminate the title, but struggle to come up with an alternative.
While there is no connection whatsoever between “master” in housemaster and slavery, no matter. The word offends their ears, and that’s enough to demand the word be eradicated. Whether that will filter down to master plumber or master lock has yet to be seen, but if it makes sense in one context wholly unrelated to anything offensive, then it makes sense in all contexts. When you hop on the slippery slope of irrationality, it’s hard to find any ledge on which to rest.
Just down the road apiece at MIT, the word housemaster is also used. The placeholders in that post didn’t want to be left out of the pity-party surrounding the offense at the misused complaint over the word, so despite no one complaining, they too decided to fix something that wasn’t a problem.
Simmons Housemaster John Essigmann first introduced the idea last month. “We were all aware of the confusion and feelings of offense that the title has caused outside our community,” Essigmann said in an email to all housemasters.
But MIT students tend to favor logic, unlike the liberal arts majors down Mass Ave. They are also well-known for having a much better sense of humor.
East Campus Housemaster Rob Miller ’95 sent a survey to residents polling them on possible alternatives. The survey included “House Parent” (which some students considered infantilizing) and “House Maven” (which some students considered silly and subtly feminine). “Dumbledore” stood out as a popular write-in among responses that ranged from serious to absurd, and included “Dorm Pope,” “Big Cheese,” and “Mufasa.”
Ask an absurd question, get an absurd answer. It would appear the MIT housemasters are deaf to their own students, who are trying to tell them that while the use of the word “master” may bring sad tears to their neighbors to the north, they don’t give a damn. Why do you not respect their views, Big Cheese?
But lest it appear that there are pockets of intelligence and rationality in academia that will stem the tide of this inane devotion to feelz, the fix isn’t just coming from the bottom up, but from the top down. And at the end of a metaphorical gun:
In just the latest instance of taxpayer-funded censorship, students in one University of Florida course have been banned from using words such as “husband,” “wife,” “mom,” or dad” in the classroom and risk losing points off their grade if they don’t comply.
In the syllabus for her “Creativity In Context” class — a required course for any student pursuing a minor in Innovation — UF professor Jennifer Lee informs students of her four paragraph long classroom “communications policy” that she says will enforce “ethical conduct” in the classroom.
Jenny Lee teaches graduate level classes as a “Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist,” which somehow leads to her being qualified to indoctrinate students to, well, other stuff.
In her community practice, Ms Lee facilitates theatre for comprehensive sex education among middle school and high school students in rural Florida and provides workshops in juvenile justice, domestic violence, and other community outreach settings.
Where the nexus between dance therapy and juvenile justice arises isn’t at all clear, but then, she has a mission to fulfill, and she’s going to ram it down people’s throats no matter what.
“The following policies and guidelines will be followed in this course,” the policy begins, followed by a bullet point instructing students to “Use inclusive language.” The policy mandates that students “[s]peak in a way that does not make assumptions about others based on “norms”, stereotypes, or one’s own identity or experience.”
The syllabus explains that this means replacing the words “boyfriend”/”girlfriend” with the more inclusive “partner” or “significant other.” The rule applies to conversations about married couples too: saying “husband” or “wife” is forbidden. Even the words “mom” and “dad” have a more “inclusive” alternative — students are told to use the word ‘family” instead.
The problem isn’t merely that Lee favors the amorphous feel-good words, but that students’ grades are being held for ransom if they don’t acquiesce to her word choice. Ari Cohen from FIRE contends that this inhibits free discussion, as students are forced to navigate a “veritable minefield” of language.
Cohn noted, “Generally, professors have the discretion, and the right—consistent with principles of academic freedom—to conduct their classrooms as they see fit. However, faculty members must be careful not to infringe on the rights of their students to freedom of expression, and freedom of conscience.”
While generally true, academic freedom safeguards the professor from sanction for her ideas; it’s not a hammer with which to beat students into submission to her ideas upon pain of failing the class. It’s not merely a problem of free expression, but the indoctrination of students to the religion of vagaries in the name of feelings.
Students emerge from college incapable of clear expression, and hence clear thought, because they’re being compelled to reduce their language to the absurd upon pain of failing or censure. It’s not that the forces of dumbing down language are “bound to win,” as they reflect only a small slice of society, the vast majority laughing their asses off at the ridiculousness of the concerns.
But is it not worth the fight to save the children from growing into adulthood without the capacity to express ideas, the ability to use all the words the language has to offer, to use real words rather than the gibberish being foisted upon them by dance therapists who conflate their deeply held feelings with competency in juvenile justice?
Save the language. Do it for the children. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and we would be remiss in out duty to the next generation to leave them to the mercy of the Big Cheese. Sadly, there appear to be few in academia with the guts to put their responsibility to their students ahead of their religion, and there is no depth of absurdity to which they won’t descend, so it’s left to the grown-ups to call bullshit.