Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1996


Political Correctness, n., the avoidance of forms of expression or action that exclude, marginalise or insult racial and cultural minorities.
- Oxford English Dictionary (9th Edition)

All I want of you is a little seevility, and that of the commonest goddamnedest kind.
- Z. W. Pease, The History of New Bedford (1918)

Forgive us all our peccadilloes.

With the fullness of time, when all has been said and done in both the heat of the moment and the cooler perspective of experience, what has come to be called "Political Correctness" will be revealed as little more than passionate folly-merely another skirmish in the eternal battle for the minds, hearts, and souls of humankind.

"There is nothing new under the sun," said the wise King Solomon; life is full of futility. And, indeed, such have been the lessons of history. There is nothing new about PC, either, except perhaps the futility of defining it. Nor is it a passing fancy: like religion (and despite the dictionary), the modern-day manifestations of PC mean very different things to very different people.

Too often the call for sensitivity is in truth the pursuit of power, pure and simple-the high-minded rhetoric little more than camouflage. As the cases described above starkly demonstrate, subjective standards subjectively administered yield nothing but a stewpot of disputed facts, hard feelings, and bad law.

In the long run, tolerating offensive talk should be a small price to pay to ensure the ideals of academic freedom and the liberty of conscience. If the debate is about equality, the lesson for all of us, perhaps, is that allowing everyone to speak their minds-using whatever words they want-assures a healthy measure of common sense in response.

Listening carefully, when all is said and done, is still the best path toward reason.



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