- - Wednesday, March 20, 2013


U.S. colleges and universities are drowning in a sea of “political correctness,” and many of higher education’s “best and brightest” don’t recognize the danger.

Indeed, speech codes and groupthink are so prevalent on American campuses that we now take them for granted.

Instead of meekly accepting the edicts of the thought police, however, students and faculty should be fighting them. Consider the following examples of political correctness, starting with a classic:

Seeing only what they want to see: Sensitivity and tolerance are supposed to be hallmarks of today’s “diverse” universities. Yet sensitivity to America’s Sept. 11 survivors was missing when, soon after the terrorist attacks, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill freshmen were required to read Michael Sells’ rosy view of Islam, “Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations.”

As my colleague George Leef observed at the time, little of value is learned from a study of the “pleasant parts” of the Koran. What Americans really need to understand is why jihadists hate us and the source of that hate.

The truth is that the Koran is also a source of Islamic fundamentalist intolerance. The “religion of love and peace” isn’t always loving and peaceful. If we see only what we want to see, we don’t learn anything.

Where you came from still matters: The Rev. Martin Luther King’s dream of a colorblind society is long gone in academia. With higher education’s pervasive system of formal and informal preferences and quotas, ethnic origin matters as never before.

In the world of political correctness, diversity is the “Holy Grail.” To look good among their peers, colleges need to have appropriate percentages of minority students and faculty. This has led to all sorts of abuses.

Blond, blue-eyed Elizabeth Warren, a former college professor elected to the U.S. Senate last November, claimed when she served on the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University faculties that she was part American Indian. She denies using the designation to improve her chances of getting hired, but it’s clear that Harvard counted her as a “minority” in its federally mandated faculty profile. The trouble is, Ms. Warren’s American Indian blood, if she has any, is so diluted that many in her family deny it exists.

The now-deceased Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, Minnesota Democrat, once said he’d “eat [his] hat” if affirmative action ever turned into quotas. It did, but he didn’t.

Origins may matter, but the Constitution doesn’t: In 2007, the University of North Carolina held a student convention to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. The new preamble, written in Chapel Hill, not Havana, included this thought: “Working for collective rights will create a more harmonious society.”

While understanding the collectivist mentality is a worthwhile academic undertaking, a more constructive use of the University of North Carolina’s resources might have been to help students better appreciate why our Constitution — stressing individual rights — is the oldest written constitution still in effect. Besides, how harmonious are the collectivist “paradises” of China, Cuba, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Venezuela?

Life and sex: It may be true that many college students are preoccupied with sex. Do the adults on campus have to encourage it?

Yale University, for example, observes Sex Week every other year, presumably to enhance healthy sex. The lusty lineup in 2010 featured pornographic filmmakers and sex consultants, therapists and sex workers, including a “professional dominatrix.” One speaker’s goal was to “challenge gender norms through porn,” while another discussed sex with multiple partners.

What was the purpose: education, better health or pandering?

Global warming is no sweat: University faculty members will go on the warpath when anyone, especially politicians or administrators, attempts to interfere with the curriculum. Academic freedom is under attack, they will howl.

That doesn’t apply to the discipline of climate science, however. In this area, most faculty members are happy to accept the conventional wisdom, even if it’s forced down their throats. Accordingly, there was barely a peep from faculty when 665 college presidents signed a pledge to address climate change by “integrating sustainability into their curriculum.” That wasn’t interference, apparently.

Political correctness is breeding a mindless conformity that is the antithesis of the free thinking and free expression that academia is supposed to represent. The intellectual corruption infecting U.S. campuses might help explain the thought corruption that also plagues Washington.

Jane S. Shaw is the president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (popecenter.org) in Raleigh, N.C.

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