10 Examples of Political Correctness Gone Wild

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Many people feel political correctness has run out of control on college campuses across the U.S. Unfortunately, some of this behavior has crept into other institutions, from police departments to high schools. A Pew Research Center survey in 2016 found that 59 percent of Americans say “too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use.” While people outside the bigotsphere try to avoid language or actions that offend others, at the same time, some attempts at politically correct behavior can go too far. These PC terms can devalue the English language and cause confusion.

More and more campuses and institutions are adopting politically correct policies that offend the majority of Americans. © Sam Graham via Flickr

10. Washington State Prisons Refer to Inmates as ‘Students’

There’s no question the words “prisoner” and “inmate” have negative connotations; that’s one incentive for people to avoid breaking the law, so they don’t end up with those labels. But the Washington State Department of Corrections has taken things to an absurd level, by now referring to inmates as “students.” KIRO 7 in Seattle reported the change in policy last fall, noting that it now applies to all inmates, including the so-called Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway. The most prolific serial killer in U.S. history — he may have killed more than 90 people — Ridgway is now a “student” at Walla Walla’s Washington State Penitentiary.


9. Students Debate Removing Famous MLK Quote Because it Isn’t Gender Inclusive

Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington in 1963 has been hailed as one of the greatest speeches in American history, featuring the line, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” But according to National Review, student leaders at the University of Oregon considered removing that quote, which has been displayed on a wall at a student center since 1985, because it does not address discrimination based on gender identity. According to the campus newspaper, the student leaders eventually decided not to remove the quote after some “hard thought.”


8. Air Force Officer Warns Use of ‘Boy,’ ‘Girl’ is Offensive

A senior officer at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio sent an email to base personnel warning against the use of many words or terms that “may be construed offensive.” According to a Fox News report, among the banned words were “Boy” and “Girl.” “Please be cognizant that such conduct is 100 percent zero tolerance in or outside of the work climate,” the email read. Several school districts around the U.S. have discouraged or banned the use of the “B” and “G” words in recent years.


7. College Bans Term ‘Freshman,’ Claiming it Promotes Rape

North Carolina’s Elon University banned the term “freshman,” saying it is sexist and might promote sexual violence. The preferred term used in new student orientations and on the college’s website is “first-year.”


6. Seattle Police Can’t Use Word ‘Suspects’ in Reports

Seattle Police Department officers who fill out reports can no longer use the word “suspect.” Instead, they must use the term “community member.” The change, first reported by Seattle media in early 2017, has upset many police officers, who must use the term even in “use of force” reports. After three officers were shot responding to an armed robbery in April, they were required to refer to the shooter as a “community member.” “I think this is all in an effort to make sure our report writing sounds politically correct,” Seattle Police Officers’ Guild Kevin Stuckey told KIRO 7 TV.


5. Princeton University Bans Use of ‘Man’

Many people would agree that there are certain words and phrases where “man” might not be the best fit. For example, terms such as businessman, fireman, policeman and spokesman can easily be replaced by businessperson, firefighter, police officer and spokesperson to reflect the fact that women also perform those roles. These words have become an accepted part of our culture. But Princeton University is taking the “man” removal mission to another level. According to thecollegefix.com, Princeton’s HR department in 2016 issued a four-page memo banning the use of “man.” So instead of the phrase, “man and wife,” faculty members are expected to use “spouses” or “partners.” “Manmade” becomes “artificial,” “workmanlike” becomes “skillful,” and “layman” should be replaced by “non-specialist.”


4. Doctors’ Group Discourages Use of Term ‘Expectant Mother’

The U.S. isn’t the only country where political correctness has spiraled out of control. The British Medical Association told its members in 2017 that the term “expectant mother” should be avoided because it might offend transgender people. Instead, the preferred term is “pregnant people.” But women’s rights activist Laura Perrins told the Daily Mail the action is ”anti-science, anti-women and anti-mother … This will offend women up and down the country, and is an example of the majority of women being insulted for a tiny minority of people.”


3. University Bans Use of Phrase ‘Politically Incorrect’

In 2015, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee declared the phase “politically incorrect” as taboo. “Over time PC has become a way to deflect, say that people are being too ‘sensitive,’ and police language,” reads a poster created by the university’s Inclusive Excellence Center. “It is disconnected from authentic understanding of impact.” Use of the PC term is considered a microaggression at the university.


2. Teacher’s Course Claims Math is a ‘Dehumanizing Tool’

In the summer of 2017, middle-school math teachers can take an online course entitled “Teaching Social Justice through Secondary Mathematics.” According to CampusReform.org, the concepts include recognizing that, “For centuries, mathematics has been used as a dehumanizing tool,” and “math is a powerful tool for advocacy or oppression.” The six-week course, developed by Teach for America and offered through EdX, also explores “Mathematical Identity,” which “raises the issue that when we think of renowned mathematicians, many of us reference educated Western white males.”


1. Rise in the Use of Gender Neutral Subjects and Pronouns

This trend has been around for a couple of years now. To avoid offending transgender students by referring to them as he/him/his or she/her/hers, students and teachers at some schools are expected to use gender-neutral terms: ze/zirs/zirs, ze/zir/zirs, and xe/xem/xyrs. When the University of Tennessee adopted this policy in 2015, it recommended that instructors ask students which pronoun they preferred.

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The author is a longtime professional journalist who has interviewed everyone from presidential contenders to hall of fame athletes to rock 'n' roll legends while covering politics, sports, and other topics for both local and national publications and websites. His latest passions are history, geography and travel. He's traveled extensively around the United States seeking out the hidden wonders of the country.