SCHOOLS: by Kevin DonnellyNews Weekly
Political correctness rules in the classroom
, July 19, 2008
Students, after years in politically correct classrooms, leave school cynical and suspicious, writes Kevin Donnelly.Has political correctness gone too far? We have all got examples: a fat person becomes a "person of substance", stupid people are described as "cerebrally challenged" and drunks and drug addicts are described as "substance abuse survivors".
The problem is not just restricted to language. According to the Australian Senate, our schools and universities are also at risk.
Last week, as a result of a motion moved by Victorian Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield, the Senate established a committee to investigate "the level of intellectual diversity and the impact of ideological, political and cultural prejudice in the teaching of senior secondary education and of courses at Australian universities".
It is feared that students, instead of being offered balanced and impartial teaching, are instead being brow-beaten into mouthing the correct party-line on issues such as feminism, multiculturalism, the environment and world affairs.
Students are also worried. Earlier this year, the NSW Young Liberals set up a webpage, Make Education Fair
, where students have volunteered examples of bias in the classroom and of instances when teachers have failed to be impartial and balanced.
One student complains of his secondary school allowing anti-John Howard and anti-WorkChoices posters around the school, with slogans such as "Not happy, John" and "Your rights at work".
Another student complains about his gender studies class in which the set readings mount a feminist attack on Christianity, illustrated by the quote, "We begin to develop a feminist interpretation because the Bible is part of the fabric of the oppression of battered women".
A third student says, "During the HSC, I experienced frequent incidents of teacher bias being projected onto students. In English, whilst studying the module 'Power play', my teacher would make frequent references to John Howard, comparing him to Big Brother and claiming [that] the Liberal policies were aimed at mind control."
A common complaint from students is that, if they want to stay on the right side of their tutor or lecturer and not jeopardise their grades, they must forget about defending what they believe and instead mimic what's judged politically correct.
School subjects have also fallen victim to PC. In Victoria and NSW, students are made to analyse literature from a Marxist and a feminist perspective. In Queensland, students are made to interpret Wordsworth's nature poetry from an eco-critical perspective.
In what is called Studies of Society and the Environment (SOSE), history and geography take second place to issues such as global warming and world poverty. Witness the popularity of Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth -
circulated to schools without acknowledging its misconceptions and untruths.
In primary level, school subjects are not the only things that suffer. Both here and overseas, the fun police ban super-hero costumes like those of Spiderman and Batman, and outlaw rough-and-tumble games like poison ball and British bulldog.
The fun and innocence of childhood disappear under an incessant message of gloom and doom represented by global warming, species extinction and environmental destruction.
Political correctness is not new and it is not restricted to education. For years now, husbands and wives have been called "partners", politicians have been banned from giving "maiden" speeches, and the description "chairman" has long since disappeared.
During the '70s and '80s, baby-boomer mothers refused to let their sons play with guns, and girls were not allowed to dress up dolls or play with their mothers' makeup. Men become sensitive new-age guys (SNAGs) and complimenting women became a minefield.
The law of unintended consequences proves that things often turn out the opposite to what was intended, and the PC movement is a perfect example. After years of feminists telling women to be more like men, cult shows like Sex and City
showcase Jimmy Choo shoes and designer bags.Sexual stereotypes
Magazines like Dolly
reinforce sexual stereotypes by telling women to pamper themselves and how they must be more feminine and alluring if they want to catch a man.
While the metrosexual male outwardly appears sensitive and caring, underneath the men still like to be with their mates, love footy and "chatting up the chicks" to see what might be on offer.
Students, after years in politically correct classrooms, leave school cynical and suspicious. Instead of mounting the barricades in a re-run of the cultural revolution of the '60s, today's generation seems more concerned with clubbing and the instant fame of You Tube and Facebook.- Dr Kevin Donnelly is director of Education Strategies and author of Dumbing Down (available for $24.95 from News Weekly Books).