Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Sparing 'n' Spoiling
Interesting NPR news item about Scott McConnell, in hot water with Syracuse's Le Moyne College for advocating corporal punishment in a paper he wrote as a student. The college dismissed him.
Others who covered it (and I trust there'll be more):
"Some professors and college officials were also concerned that Mr. McConnell wrote that he opposed multiculturalism, a teaching method that places emphasis on non-Western cultures."
This whole brouhaha coincides with my reading David Foster Wallace's riveting cover story, Host in April's Atlantic Monthly. (I hope that link works for non-subscribers alike).
Not only is the print version the first I've come across to mimic online links by having additional, color-boxed commentary alongside the main text, but one of those boxes is an expert description/assessment of a familiar character found across the globe:
" ... for what it's worth, John Ziegler does not appear to be a racist as "racist" is generally understood. What he is is more like very, very insensitive — although Mr. Z. himself would despise that description, if only because "insensitive" is now such a PC shibboleth.
Actually, though, it is in the very passion of his objection to terms like "insensitive," "racist," and "the N-word" that his real problem lies. Like many other post-Limbaugh hosts, John Ziegler seems unable to differentiate between (1) cowardly, hypocritical acquiescence to the tyranny of Political Correctness and (2) judicious, compassionate caution about using words that cause pain to large groups of human beings, especially when there are several less upsetting words that can be used.
Even though there is plenty of stuff for reasonable people to dislike about Political Correctness as a dogma, there is also something creepy about the brutal, self-righteous glee with which Mr. Z. and other conservative hosts defy all PC conventions. If it causes you real pain to hear or see something, and I make it a point to inflict that thing* on you merely because I object to your reasons for finding it painful, then there's something wrong with my sense of proportion, or my recognition of your basic humanity, or both."
*Wallace qualifies the reference to "that thing" by reminding us to be real:
"Spelling out a painful word is no improvement. In some ways, it's worse than using the word outright, since spelling it could easily be seen as implying that the people who are upset by the word are also too dumb to spell it. What's puzzling here is that Mr. Ziegler seems much too bright and self-aware not to understand this."
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