The All-Inclusive “Big Cheese” Solution

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.

39 thoughts on “The All-Inclusive “Big Cheese” Solution

  1. Turk

    These new arbiters of inclusive language are microagressing others as they refuse to include those with common sense.

    Will they provide me with a safe space?

    1. SHG Post author

      After your binary comment the other day, I was thinking that we’re pretty much old-school New York liberals. And yet, under the current progressive regime, we’re perceived as conservatives because we’re constrained by logic and reason. The pendulum keeps swinging, but it never seems to spend enough time in the middle to stop the damage done at the extremes.

  2. Turk

    One other comment: Not all efforts to force students to use different language should automatically be considered bad. I’d love to see some millenials forced to speak without using the word “like.”

      1. Marc not-R

        Or “the fact of the matter is”, which automatically makes me tune out. That is politicians, but they learn it somewhere.

  3. REvers

    My part of the country has a rich tradition of using inclusive language. “Y’all” is pretty damned inclusive.

    1. Patrick Maupin

      “Y‘all” can also be pretty damn funny sometimes when non-natives try to use it.

      S/h/it: “How y’all doin’?”

      Me (quickly scanning behind me to ascertain I’m still alone except for the singular interloper now hailing… whom?): “Fine, fine. How ’bout youse guys?”

      1. REvers

        Y’all is singular. And plural. And cis-trans-hetero-LS/MFT-black-white-yellow-brown-plaid-corduroy. And everything else.

        Inclusive, I tell you.

        1. Patrick Maupin

          I’ll grant you its inclusiveness, but the only people I have ever heard using it as a singular didn’t have accents from ’round here.

  4. PDB

    I wonder if this ‘master’ aversion will affect the word masturbation*. Will we now have parent-bation or maven-bation? Or just good ol’-fashioned bation?

    *Yes, I realize it’s spelled mastur and not master, but it sounds the same — isn’t that enough?

    1. SHG Post author

      Ponder the potential of cheesebation, but the mere thought of it is more than I can take. And no worries as to the “u.” It’s not like they can spell without spellcheck anyway.

  5. Raccoon Strait

    Is it possible that these ‘saviors of feelz’ don’t understand that their efforts will make communication LESS clear? One would think that academics learned to think, but recent behavior indicates that ‘being cool’ and joining the newest, latest ‘movement’ to be seen as with rather than against whatever that ‘fad’ is, is more important to them. The shame is that the upcoming generations will know less about thinking for themselves than the current crop of ‘fold on demand’ mentors do.

    1. SHG Post author

      From what I’m told by academics who do not subscribe to the feelz is that they represent a surprisingly small percentage of the professoriate, and that the majority, though generally a smart bunch (within limits), believe in this as one would in religion. Do they not understand? Beliefs are not rational; they believe it’s right, and so they refuse to consider, no less understand, anything inconsistent with their belief.

      And yes, it’s a fad. We’ve been through them many times before, and they will react with the same empty rhetoric to the next one after this one falls out of favor. Shake their heads at the silliness as if they were bell bottoms, ignore the harm they did to the minds of students that came to them for the purpose of being educated, and were instead left muddled and incapable of critical thought, and then repeat the process with the next fad.

      The hardest part for me is knowing that there are academics who understand, but who refuse to speak out because of self-interest and self-perseveration.

  6. drouse

    Or was it originally Master Locke?

    What you have here is a chance to have your very own urban legend and/or new chapter in Tales from the Illuminati.

  7. Timothy Gabel

    The next step is to find a less offensive label for the “master’s” degrees the school awards.

      1. Turk

        Dean: Congratulations, here is your diploma.
        Grad: But it doesn’t say what degree I received. It’s worthless like this.
        Dean: I didn’t want to offend.
        Grad: But…I…
        Dean: Best wishes in your career.

  8. Jim Tyre

    When you hop on the slippery slope of irrationality, it’s hard to find any ledge on which to rest.

    I’m less worried about hopping on the slippery slope than I am about hopping on my Stairmaster.

  9. Troutwaxer

    In my world, where we deal with computing, the big issue a few years back was over the offensiveness of “master and slave” hard drives, completely leaving aside the fact that in a “master and slave” hard drive condition the “slave” drive is actually under the control of the “master” drive’s electronics.

    Sigh. Deep sigh.

    1. Patrick Maupin

      Technical people, apparently not versed in Matthew or Luke, also routinely use abominations like “multi-master bus”. It’s all just role-playing, though, as evidenced by the fact that some nodes can be slaves one transaction and then masters the next transaction.

      I suppose “master/slave” has the advantage of being much shorter to say than “initiator/target”, but then that line of thinking doesn’t explain why we use “hermaphroditic” instead of “queer” to describe a connector that can mate with itself.

      1. Mark Draughn

        I’m always surprised the computer industry didn’t get into more trouble for designating cable ends as “male” and “female,” ’cause, you know, the male end goes into the female. (If you had to connect male-male or female-female, you needed a “gender changer.” And then there was the perversion of “crossover” cables…) It sounds like the sort of thing that would get cast as some sort of oppressive cis-hetero-normative hostile workplace issue, but I don’t recall it ever being a problem. There was this one time, though, when I called a company to order audio cables and specified the various male and female ends I needed, only to have the women on the phone ask what the heck I was talking about. It seems they used “plug” and “jack” terminology, although I had to give an awkward explanation of what I meant by “male” and “female” to get the translation.

  10. OEH

    When commenting on this blog, I sometimes wonder whether I will write a comment so dumb that it will require an entire post just to explain how dumb it was. That question has now been answered.

    1. SHG Post author

      This post was borne of the MIT housemaster article. You just happened to leave a comment that lent itself to a piece of the post, a question that was part of the issue. While I disagreed with the premise, that didn’t make it dumb.

      1. OEH

        Don’t worry; I’m just making fun of myself.

        I still tend to believe that both the Jenny Lees and the SHGs of the world will have a hard time exerting much influence on the language. English is a creature of its own. Like Miley Cyrus, it can’t be tamed.

        What interests me though is that descriptivism is very much in fashion right now. Yet, so are ideas like Jenny Lee’s, which are pretty much the epitome of presciptivism, even more so because her rules don’t have a basis in historical usage. The best way I can fit my mind around that tension is to assume that what people really like about descriptivism isn’t that it has scientific value but just that it’s a way to stick-it to old curmudgeons; the same is true of new prescriptions that are neither traditional nor common.

  11. Mike G.

    Well sh!t. I guess I’m not a Master Carpenter anymore. Reckon I’ll have to settle for Super Duper Carpenter.

    And to Mark’s point about ‘male’ and female’ connectors, in the military, at least when I was in back in the 70’s, they always used ‘Plug’ and ‘Jack’ to signify which part went where.

    Whoever controls the language controls the culture. That is why political correctness is such a scourge on Americans today.

    1. Dragoness Eclectic

      Hmm. Back in the 80s, I remember helping a Navy ET inventory his toolbox, and we used “male” and “female” connectors. Either practice changed between the 70s and 80s (since when does the military change that fast?), or you were in a different branch with different practices.

  12. Dan Gray

    The most disappointing thing about this article is that “Grand Poobah” wasn’t one of the terms suggested to replace “Housemaster”. They could’ve even worn big furry horned hats!

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