According to the syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ “Women & Popular Culture” class, students risk a failing grade if they use any common descriptors that Breikss considers “oppressive and hateful language.”
"Students will come to recognize how white privilege functions in everyday social structures and institutions.”
The punishment for repeatedly using the banned words, Breikss warns, includes “but [is] not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and— in extreme cases— failure for the semester.”
Breikss is not the only WSU faculty member implementing such policies.
This sounds silly to me. How are male and female offensive words?ReplyDelete
Maybe because in English, the same words are used for humans and for animals as opposed to, for example, "masculine" and "feminine" for humans and "male" and "female" for animals (or for the reproductive system and its elements and functioning, even in humans). Depending on the exact phrasing, it may also be possible to say "woman" or "man" instead.Delete
But, Monica, humans ARE animals.Delete
In some languages, for some reason, human animals are described in different terms. I can see why, due to usage, the difference between the feminine gender of a woman and the female gender of a cow, for example, does not really exist in English whereas other languages make that difference. However, as a noun, "male" and "female" could be seen as disrespectful. Again, it is less obvious in English whereas in French, for example, "woman" is "femme" and "femelle" is a non-human female animal. One does not call a woman "une femelle" in French.Delete
However, even in English, I can see how some people may object to being called males and females (as nouns) instead of being called men and women. In English, it is done, but isn't it nicer not to do it? If you can call someone a woman or a lady, why would you just call her a female?
It's also exclusionary to only say "male" or "female" but not include those who classify themselves as "trans" or "intersex," or so our HR people told me when I ran this article by them. At least my HR director did not agree with mandating this in a syllabus. I just forwarded it to her to see her reaction and to ask about the "male" and "female" "problem."Delete
While I'm willing to believe there may be a few WSU professors who have gotten over-enthusiastic in their efforts to educate privileged students about privilege, and create safe spaces for less-privileged students, I'm also seeing some red flags that there might be some sloppiness in this report. Let's start with the fact that the "Texas Campus Correspondent" is covering Washington State (okay, quite possible, given that many sources are virtual these days). I'm also seeing some evidence of sloppy/misleading quotation, even within the article itself: losing a point for using "illegals" or "illegal aliens" (choices with somewhat different connotations, at least to my ear) at the top of the story turns into losing a point for such terminology in written work below, "deferring" to students of color turns into deferring to their experiences, and so on. These may be syllabi written by professors who've gone way too far down the path of advocating/enforcing a particular political point of view in the classroom, but we all know the value of a strong syllabus in dealing with extreme situations, and I have to wonder whether some of these policies result from past experiences with seriously disruptive students whose ideas generally fall at the other end of the political spectrum. There's definitely a problem in this country with people of differing political views shouting past/at each other rather than talking to each other, and I'm quite ready to believe that that problem more than occasionally spills over into the classroom, but I fear that articles like this one (as well as more-correct-than-thou syllabus policies and lists of micro-agressions and such) just exacerbate the problem by exacerbating the polarization and the insistence, from both sides, that the sky is falling.ReplyDelete
This sounds right to me. Too many single words in quotation marks, like "illegal" or "defer" sounds rife for out-of-context quoting. Add in a small dash of right-wing political-correctness-hating, and this is the article you might get.Delete
The 'illegal immigrants' thing is a good example: it really IS incorrect, since it is not actually illegal to live in the US without a visa or permit - you've broken no law and cannot be jailed for it. That distinction is probably lost on many, but I can see it as being an important fact students are supposed to understand, and yes, I would fail a student for failing to use relevant terminology correctly, assuming that immigration was a topic relevant to the course.
Totally agree. Why is no one analyzing the source?Delete
I encountered something like this while I was in senior high more than 40 years ago.ReplyDelete
My Grade 11 English teacher was an ardent Marxist-Leninist and he taught his course accordingly. He was always looking for ways to indoctrinate us in the evils of capitalism and the virtues and blessings of communism through such methods as frequently playing comedy recordings which poking fun at certain politicians, such as Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
Any deviation from that or the expression of an independent opinion was severely penalized. So much for objectivity and neutrality in education.
The students didn't like him very much because of that. As it turned out, his colleagues didn't think much of him, either, and he soon became a laughingstock throughout the school.
I passed the course, though it was a frustrating struggle to do so. The following year, I graduated but, it turned out, he was leaving the school as well. (To this day, I have no idea whether he jumped or was pushed.) The last I heard, he went back to his home province and took up farming, presumably along collectivist lines.
I taught the article "The Coddling of the American Mind" in my critical thinking class last week. My students overwhelmingly stated during our discussion that they thought the classroom was a place where anything could be discussed, even those things that might upset them or make them angry. The one thing they all said that they did NOT want to happen in the classroom was to have an ideology forced upon them. They'd obviously dislike the classroom policies outlined in the linked article as much as I do.ReplyDelete
I investigated the subjects of white privilege and racial colorblindness during grad school and those investigations transformed the way that I think and the way that I teach. An important context to those transformations was that I was able to make them on my own terms and not have them forced upon me. The least I can do is to extend to my students the same academic courtesy - or opportunity - that was extended to me.
Your second paragraph is key, I think. Forced "transformations" rarely stick (and they're definitely not conducive to critical thinking et al., since privilege and the American color/race system are pretty complicated constructs, with complex and sometimes contradictory components that cannot be described, or dealt with, via absolute statements).Delete
I read "The Coddling," and found myself mostly agreeing with the arguments about what constitutes a solid education. I'm less certain that the practices the authors describe, and which I agree are counterproductive to actual learning/maturation, are anywhere near as common as the authors suggest. Maybe I just spend too much time teaching students who are way too busy trying to work and get through school to protest anything less than truly egregious discrimination, but I'm just not seeing the extreme level of sensitivity, and definitely not the level of policing, described.
I agree with what everyone has said about the suspicious nature of this source. Furthermore, I'd like to know why a biology professor could legitimately dock point for students referring to "women frogs" (obviously incorrect) but a sociology prof could not for referring to human women as "females" (also incorrect.)ReplyDelete