Political correctness silences views and undermines American ideals

October 30, 2018 — by Kevin Sze

In 2015, the UC Santa Cruz apologized to students after serving Mexican food at an official school night party themed “intergalactic.”

Believing that the space theme correlated with the term “illegal alien,” students deemed the Mexican food served inappropriate and staged protests.

At UC Berkeley, speakers such as right wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos have induced violent protests on campus when they  come to present their conservative beliefs.

This culture of excessive political correctness has become all too prevalent in higher education, shutting down dissent and endangering free thinking.

For 50 years, researchers Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) surveyed incoming college freshmen on their worldviews, aiming to find trends in political opinion.

In 2016, the HERI published a study that stated that current college students have been characterized to be “most willing to shut down speech they find offensive” out of all college students in previous years.

Uncoincidentally, student protests in response to seemingly offensive statements have also been on the rise.

A FiveThirtyEight article found that many of these protests demand increasing diversity through sensitivity training, speech codes, public apologies or even resignations of people who have expressed an unpopular opinion.

Hand in hand with these protests is an increase in students who lean left on the political spectrum.

The study found that the highest share of students since 1973 now consider themselves left-wing in their views, and the highest share ever of college students now claim themselves to be far left.

For my part, I support students’ desire to make their campus a safe and friendly space. I do believe that every person, no matter their race, sexual orientation, age or religion, should be given a voice in their community and should not be harassed for their beliefs.

But often times, extreme political correctness takes it overboard.

For instance, the popular sitcom “Friends” was under fire in 2016 for being homophobic.

A video on YouTube titled “Homophobic Friends” is a montage of the six characters making jokes about their sexuality, being offended when they were called “gay,” which was regarded as funny in the time when the show aired.

Viewers complained that “Friends” should change some of the jokes in each show to be more inclusive.

The first episode of “Friends” aired in 1994 and the last episode aired in 2004. Standards were clearly different then, and people shouldn’t be angry at a sitcom that aired over a decade ago for having jokes that are deemed inappropriate now.

Even if people think the jokes were inappropriate, we should not be offended so easily. People are entitled to any opinion they want to have, whether we like it or not. We should be able to take a step back and understand both sides of an argument instead of leading with emotion.

Having differing opinions is what has made America into the melting pot of cultures and ideas that we pride ourselves in. Fear of reprisal stiffens debate, which shuts down different opinions. Debate is what drives our country forward because new and better ideas are born through earnest, truth-seeking conversations.

America practices freedom of speech, but the current trend of shutting down opposing and uncomfortable views — on both the left and the right — undermines those ideals.

Finding balance is key to creating a safe but open space for everybody. We should strive for a middle ground where people are able to say what’s on their mind and not be judged for it as long as it is appropriate and respectful, instead of trying to censor everyone who disagrees with our own views.

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