What’s so bad about speaking an educated, responsible truth?
Donald Trump touts his opposition to so-called “political correctness,” and he very consciously insults and scapegoats undocumented immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, women, and other groups while figuratively using their bodies as stepping stones toward his takeover of the White House.
Nicolle Wallace, a former spokesperson in the George W. Bush administration, heartedly supports the Bush era CIA agency’s “enhanced interrogation” (a.k.a. torture) techniques on suspected Al-Quaeda operatives. Wallace, a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” defended the policy on the show in fiery language.
“The notion that somehow this makes America less great is asinine and dangerous…. But the notion that what we do affects terrorists is a lie. It’s a lie perpetrated by political correctness and liberals, and it’s dangerous.”
Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas has organized a movement to call the fall holiday season what he believes it really is, the “Christmas Season,” and he asserts that businesses who display “Happy Holidays” greetings are simply stooping to “political correctness.”
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh argues that “Feminism is one of those issues which has established itself in the political correctness hall of fame. As such, it is not fashionable to take issue with or poke fun at the philosophy, which underlies the movement.” He characterizes women’s rights activists as “feminazis.” In addition, he asserted that “Political Correctness, PC, is literally the law of the land on many campuses.” And Iowa Republican U.S. Representative Steve King refers to “political correctness” as “intellectual fascism.”
The political Right coined the terms “political correctness,” “politically correct,” and “PC” as pejorative rhetorical ploys to intimidate, discredit, and outright dismiss the statements, policies, and actions of the progressive Left generally, and more specifically, to inhibit anyone from thinking critically and challenging societal inequalities. They did this not only to maintain their own privileged status quo, but more importantly, to roll back advancements progressives have made to ensure that our nation actually lives up to its promise and potential of becoming “a more perfect union.”
Conservatives originally deployed the terms in the 1990s as a reactionary backlash to the critical multicultural and social justice educational movements in our schools, and against attempts to promote sensitivity of the numerous cultural traditions that make up the fabric of our nation. These educational movements, with a foundation build on developing and enhancing critical consciousness of self and society, stood and continues to stand as a contradiction to the so-called “neoliberal” era of standardization, corporatization, globalization, privatization, and deregulation of the business, banking, and corporate sectors.
Jenkinson investigated instances of censorship and book banning across the U.S., and he found a number of reasons individuals and organizations cited when challenging school- and public library-based books and other curricular materials. Among the most-often used justification included: “Any assignments that encourage or teach critical thinking skills.”
A basic tenet in critical multiculturalism and social justice education is social reconstructionist or transformational education in which the educator’s role is to help prepare future citizens to reconstruct society to better serve the interests of all groups of people, and to transform society toward greater equity for all.
In my teaching, I require students to justify and backup all of their thoughts and “opinions.” Opinions without justification are just that—opinions. Stephen Brookfield discusses three inter-related phases in the process of critical thinking: discovering the assumptions that guide our decisions, actions, and choices (What do I think and why do I think of it the way I do?); checking the accuracy of these assumptions by exploring as many different perspectives, viewpoints, and sources as possible (Talking with others, taking courses, reading, researching, etc.); and taking informed decisions based on these researched assumptions (Informed decisions are based on evidence we can trust, can be explained to others, and have a good chance of achieving the effects we want).
Those who automatically throw “political correctness” into the debate, however, often do so because they lack the facts, the specificities, or the nuances of any given topic under discussion. I proudly embrace the acronym “PC,” and I hope that I practice the skill of treating all people with Proper Courtesy. Other than that, I realize that when people use the terms “political correctness” or “politically correct” in their arguments, they have lost the debate because they do not have the facts. Therefore, no person can intimidate me when they toss these epithets in my face.
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