There is a world of difference between civility and political correctness (PC). Civility is thoughtful behavior towards everyone. PC is prescribed, agenda-driven speech and action that applies to some but not to others. Civility comes from the inside, while PC is prompted from the outside.
Increasingly, PC is taking the place of civility. PC harshly censors our speech, actions, and even thoughts. Dare to call for discipline in a classroom, and the label of “privileged” soon follows. Dare to criticize the work of a self-identified-female employee, the label of “sexist” immediately arises. Oh, and calling anyone female or male without the qualifying “self-identified” borders on the self destructive.
Advocates of PC say they want to level the playing field, promote equality of outcomes, compensate for privilege. At first blush, such objectives might even sound laudable. But the problem is political correctness does not recognize limits.
Kurt Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron (1961) paints a world towards which PC advocates might be takings us all, a world in which the new and improved American Constitution prescribes complete equality for all.
In Vonnegut’s dystopian world nobody can be smarter, more talented or prettier than the rest. Laws force people to wear “handicaps,” such as masks for the beautiful, sound to disrupt thought for the intelligent, and bags filled with lead balls for the strong and/or agile.
Here is Vonnegut’s idea of a domestic dialogue in the age of complete fairness:
“You been so tired lately — kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there were just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”
“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”…
“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it — and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else…”
And here is a concern related in an article on U.S. News.com about the downward trends of math and English scores as measured by college-readiness tests:
“Much more concerning, however, were readiness levels in math and English, which continued a downward slide dating to 2014. This year , math scores dropped to a 20-year low.”
“The news reignited concerns over whether there is a mismatch between what students learn in school and what college entrance exams ask of them, whether tests are an accurate barometer of college readiness, and — from an equity standpoint — whether the tests present an advantage to those with more means.”
Hopefully colleges will not further waste parents and/or taxpayers’ money carrying out studies on whether “those with more means” have advantages over those without, since we all know that to be the case already. Such advantages will always exist … that is unless legislators decide to really level the playing field by creating the position of “Handicapper General” as those in Kurt Vonnegut’s story did.