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How Political Correctness Is Negatively Affecting Education

If you chose to read this article anticipating yet another rant bashing millennials and political correctness, you are going to be disappointed. I do not seek to reject millennials or condemn politically correct (PC) culture. I am, in fact, a proud member of the millennial generation and am always striving to remain PC. However, I recognize every movement or political viewpoint is often taken to an extreme and can become radical or ridiculous when taken too far. This has happened to PC culture and this is why so many people are quick to dismiss it. Too often, the extremists represent the movement, thus leading those on the outside to disregard it due to misinformation on the true nature of the movement.

The issues of PC culture lie in its extremism, not its true purpose. Simply defined, political correctness is the attempt to avoid using language that is hurtful, harmful or offensive to marginalized groups of people. For example, many people have been calling for the football team, the Redskins, to change their name as it is a racial slur and unnecessarily disrespects a large group of people. Similarly, political correctness would call for words like “gay” and “retarded” to not be used in the derogatory manner they so often are used for. Political correctness is not a difficult or radical concept: simply find other words that do not harm or offend an entire group of people.

However, when this concept is taken too far, PC culture impedes on education. Too often, there is such a focus on avoiding offending someone or making someone uncomfortable that the opportunity to learn, expand and form one’s own opinion is missed. For example, classic and impactful books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” are banned from schools due to racist themes. This almost ignores that history instead of acknowledging it and learning from it and teaching against racism. Likewise, many colleges only welcome speakers of a certain political or religious mindset instead of allowing for a discourse and varying opinions. College is a time for students to be exposed to varying viewpoints and life styles so that they can learn about themselves and form opinions. The way to create thoughtful and educated people is not by only exposing them to one side of a topic but by introducing varying schools of thought after teaching them how to evaluate arguments.

This is not to take away from the importance of a safe space. Students should never be made to feel unsafe or unwanted where they are. There should always be spaces (like living accommodations and advising offices) where students are safe and accepted. However, the classroom may not always be that place in that classes may need to cover subjects that are uncomfortable or even painful in order to authentically educate. These are the moments a teacher could implement a trigger warning to inform students of a sensitive subject without having to completely disregard the topic.

Education cannot be sacrificed for political correctness. The world is not a PC place and no school should educate as if it is. To do so would ignore real life and do more harm than good. How can this generation improve the world without knowing and understanding it?  

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Katie, a Senior at VCU, is majoring in International Studies focused in European studies and is minoring in both Spanish and Writing. She credits all success and sanity to dry shampoo, The Arctic Monkeys, and chocolate. Her favorite things include argumentative essays, pitbull puppies (or really any puppy), and spring. Katie hopes to one day get paid to travel the world and write.
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