What better way to sign off on a tumultuous week than with this mainly humorous peek at Academia today? Earlier, the city of Berkeley passed an ordinance to promote “inclusive” language by removing gender references, but Colorado State University has upped the ante. Campus Reform reports that the state university published a new “Inclusive Language Guide” last fall that suggests dropping certain words and terms in order to make people feel more welcome.
And by people, the guide isn’t inclusive of “Americans,” although the context is a little less hostile than one might first think [see update below, old version]:
CSU’s online Inclusive Language Guide, compiled by the school’s Inclusive Communications Task Force, lists certain words and phrases to avoid while providing replacements in an effort to help “communicators practice inclusive language and [help] everyone on [its] campus feel welcomed, respected, and valued.” The school’s Women and Gender Collaborative website directly links to the document.
CSU lists both “American” and “America” as non-inclusive words “to avoid,” due to the fact that America encompasses more than just the U.S. By referring to the U.S. as America, the guide claims that one “erases other cultures and depicts the United States as the dominant American country.” The school suggests using “U.S. citizen” or “person from the U.S.” as substitutes.
Oooooo-kay. Does anyone believe there is any confusion over the term America or American? No one has ever suggested that the United States of America consists of both American continents, but the other nations on them usually refer to themselves by their own names. A “person from Canada” calls themselves “Canadian,” a Mexican is someone from Mexico, ditto for Brazilians coming from Brazil, and so on. The use of the term American likely springs from the fact that “America” is the only place name in the official name of the country. “United Statesian,” the only obvious alternative, would have been awkward and completely unnecessary, although on further reflection I’m surprised CSU didn’t suggest it.
As for using it as a name for the country itself, US or United States works too, even though again there’s nothing wrong with “America,” either. It’s been in use for so long that it’s hardly shocking. Perhaps CSU would prefer people chant “USA, USA”? Eh, probably not.
“Awkward and completely unnecessary” is a good way to describe the rest of the “suggestions” for “inclusiveness,” too:
“Male and female refers to biological sex and not gender,” says the guide. “In terms of communication methods (articles, social media, etc.), we very rarely need to identify or know a person’s biological sex and more often are referring to gender.”
“Straight” is another word to avoid, according to CSU. The guide explained that “when used to describe heterosexuals, the term straight implies that anyone LGBT is ‘crooked’ or not normal,” and says to use the word “heterosexual” instead.
Interestingly, though, the same guide frowns on the term “homosexual.”
“Normal person” was also listed as a phrase to avoid because it “implies that ‘other’ people… are not whole or regular people.” The guide offered no substitute word because it claimed that it is never appropriate to use the phrase to describe someone.
According to the list, the phrase “handicap parking” should also not be used because it can “minimize personhood” and offend disabled people. The guide recommends “accessible parking” as an alternative.
Please. My wife is blind and has health issues, and this kind of politically correct parsing drives her up the wall. There is nothing demeaning about the term “handicap parking” (she has a permit for it), nor is there anything less offensive about “people who are blind” rather than “the blind.” Also, CSU doesn’t want anyone using the biblical quote “an eye for an eye,” a phrase that has never once bothered the First Mate:
It’s a reference to public policy, for crying out loud, and an incredibly useful one. My wife laughed out loud when I described this to her, although she was incredulous enough about the idea that anyone took this seriously that she thought I was pulling her leg.
This one should get the New York Times’ attention:
As anyone who has read the Paper of Record knows, that contradicts their style guide. Why? Because it reads (a little) less respectfully to only use a last name. That’s why you’ll see “Mr. Trump” and not Trump, “Ms. Collins” when referring to Susan Collins, and so on. Instead, CSU wants students to use “Mx” if necessary, even though “Mx” is an abbreviation without any source word at all.
There is one with which I have a little sympathy, although not for CSU’s reasons:
This one is just a vastly overused cliché, but hardly uninclusive. One could see why English professors — sorry, class leaders who teach the Anglo-Saxon-Norman language — would mark students down for their use. In normal conversations, though, this concern is silly beyond belief. On top of which, this cycle never ends. Some of the discouraged terms on this list — including “handicapped,” “disabled,” and “Ms” — were once encouraged as more positive and inclusive terms than previous alternatives. In ten years, CSU will spend even more money moving terms from the right column to the left, and the same scolds will try to teach everyone the same dance all over again.
Languages acquire idioms and structure over centuries. People speak it to each other to communicate thoughts and information. That process gets impeded when authorities make everyone self-conscious over the use of well-established language and meanings outside of genuinely offensive terms. And even then, universities should be environments where everything’s open to discussion, even what might be offensive to some — and a place to learn that the world doesn’t have any obligation to provide you with an offense-free life. This guide doesn’t promote inclusiveness in any sense, but it does speak to the credibility of CSU and the stultified environment to which it aspires.
It’s not outrageous, except possibly to Colorado taxpayers and the people paying CSU’s tuitions. It’s just laughable, pointless, and ultimately disconnected from reality.
Update: The listing for “America/Americans” was in a previous proposed version but have been removed, The Right Scoop reports:
News broke earlier today that Colorado State has created an inclusive guide that bans the word “America” and “American”. But it turns out that’s not true, according to the chancellor … The draft guide that was reported on at The Blaze and Campus Reform was from last year, according to Frank.
Fair enough; as I noted above, this appeared to have been published last fall, which is apparently when it was first proposed. Campus Reform mistakenly reported on the proposal rather than the published final list; it happens. Here’s the current list, which contains the rest of the items above.