Washington State Blocks Teachers From Banning Words Like “Man” And “Woman”

A new twist in the political-correctness-in-higher-education fracas! Washington State University announced on Monday that it wouldn’t allow professors to put blanket bans on particular words in their classes, on threat of lower grades or class failure.

Specifically, one women’s studies course syllabus said the following:

“Gross generalizations, stereotypes and derogatory/oppressive language are not acceptable. Use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated. (This includes ‘The Man,’ ‘Colored People,’ ‘Illegals/Illegal Aliens,’ ‘Tranny’ and so on — or referring to women/men as females or males.) If I see it or hear it, I will correct it in class since it can be a learning moment for many students. Repeated use of oppressive and hateful language will be handled accordingly — including but not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and — in extreme cases — failure for the semester.”

And then, if anyone had questions about her syllabus, the professor passed the buck to Washington State’s public relations office instead of offering to answer them herself.

These people! It’s these people who give progressives a bad name. I mean, let’s be well-intentioned, intersectionally-minded people and consider the fact that a lot of the phrases this professor wants to ban are colloquialisms that her students picked up from their own cultures. Telling them they’ll be punished for acting from their experience when the professor is trying to force the students into respecting other people’s experiences is hypocritical on top of being, like, farcically heavy-handed.

And besides, is this the way you teach people to be respectful? The handful of women’s studies teachers that I had got the message across by allowing students to make faux-pas statements and gently redirecting them to language that would honor their classmates better. It seemed pretty effective, but hey, what do I know? Maybe threatening people ever works.

Washington State’s announcement on the issue said that they were working with the professor to retool the syllabus, and added the following: “Blanket restriction of the use of certain terms is not consistent with the values upon which this university is founded. Free speech and a constructive climate for learning are not incompatible.” Amen to that. Maybe now the students can just get to, you know, learning.

[Inside Higher Ed]

[Image via Shutterstock]

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