Bryan Caplan  

Your PC Experience

The Haidt Report... Confusion About Greenspan...

Two last questions on political correctness:

1. What's the worst PC experience you've ever personally had?

2. What's the worst PC experience anyone you personally know has ever had?

My answers:

1. My worst experience: Hearing second-hand that a student thought my lecture on IQ and economics was "racist."

2. Worst experience of someone I personally know: Having IQ-related research rejected because it would make some journal readers "uncomfortable."

In short, nothing to lose even one night's sleep over. Is my experience really atypical?

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (41 to date)
General Specific writes:

A non-responsive comment here, but I'm curious: do researchers often look at the IQs of, say, fat people versus skinny people? People with acne versus people with clear skin? People with blue eyes versus people with brown eyes? People who are double jointed?

Seems to me there is a bias on the part of IQ researchers to focus on race.

And of course socioeconomic status.

Maybe I'm wrong. If I'm right, then much of IQ research may demonstrate nothing more than a bias on the part of those performing it, a racial bias. Perhaps.

manon writes:

I work at a major midwest university, and PC is pretty rampant around here.

Personally, I've had people "correct" me when I say something non-PC.

I know on at least one occassion where a coworker was sent to a week of "diversity training" for one non-PC comment. I call it "diversity camp".

Rue Des Quatre Vents writes:

I dont' know if it's PC but I couldn't find any advisors in the Oxford philosphy department who would be willing to advise me on a libertarian inclined disseration. So I had to leave.

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Bob writes:


I believe that there is a "diversity camp" episode of South Park that you might enjoy.

General Specific writes:

manon wrote: "when I say something non-PC."

What are examples of non-PC comments that you and other people are making?

Specifics would be good. All I'm hearing so far are generalities. (General Specific likes generalities, but only when backed by concrete specifics.)

Also, a program to help a particular race may be offensive (I would be offended)--and unnecessary--but it's not political correctness. And it's not clear that an anti-libertarian bent is political correctness. A physics department that does or doesn't want to support a particular thesis, e.g. in string theory, is not PC. They're just selective, rightly or wrongly. They might not think string theory is worth the time. Academics is full of the ins-and-outs, not unlike pop culture. I do suspect there is a bias against libertarianism, just as I suspect that many libertarians are themselves biased to view data in ways that support their libertarian views.

Not trying to be overly argumentive here. It's clear that there are wrongs that occur in hiring and promotion and over-reactions to free speech.

broadly focused writes:

"A physics department that does or doesn't want to support a particular thesis, e.g. in string theory, is not PC. They're just selective, rightly or wrongly."

The key difference, I believe, is that this hypothetical physics department is not engaged in discussion or research on a particular topic through their own choosing. PC causes trouble when people avoid expressing and exploring ideas because of political pressures. A flag always goes up in my mind when I here "The debate on that is over", or "He just doesn't get it".

I would like to say that the Larry Summers case is a very specific example of a general problem, but that would be politically incorrect. Seriously, though, I have never felt comfortable discussing the Summers case in public on my campus. The closest I ever came was to ask a room full of 'angry' people how many had read the transcript. The answer was 'none' (excluding me), but I didn't win over any new friends in the process.

General Specific writes:

broadly focused: I agree that my example is hypothetical and different. An open discussion can take place on the merits of string theory.

But there are topics that are difficult to discuss-for good reason: many many years of racism and sexism. Bad science has been used in the past to argue in support of racist and sexist policies.

On that note: I think the authors of this articlemake several good point on the Summers case. The case Summer's made--or the speculation--was based on research that has many counter-examples, yet he chose to argue along a particular line--maybe women just aren't good at it--that seems to demonstrate bias on his part. At minimum, poor leadership.

What's funny is that, for a libertarian blog, I've not heard one word on Summer's overal job performance over his years at Harvard. Word has it he was trying to shake things up, but what does that really mean? I can take a glass sculpture and "shake it up," breaking it in the process. Some might argue: "Great, he really shook that up." But many others would point out "He's breaking it."

Was Summers operating effectively at Harvard?

John Thacker writes:

The case Summer's made--or the speculation--was based on research that has many counter-examples, yet he chose to argue along a particular line--maybe women just aren't good at it--that seems to demonstrate bias on his part.

Sorry, have you read the transcript of his talk? That's an incredibly inaccurate summary of what he said. First off, he did not even "choose to argue along a particular line," as he gave quite a few different explanations that had nothing to do with aptitude and discussed quite a bit of research, including the counter-examples. The authors of that op-ed seem to demonstrate bias by leaving out all the other research and theories that he discussed, making it seem as though he was biased.

That op-ed also completely fails to address or perhaps understand that the research that he discussed suggested that men, on average, have a larger variance in outcomes, which is part of why the vast majority of people very bad in IQ, school, or math are also men.

Faré writes:

My personal worst with PC was a several hours briefing on all the things not to say or do at work, when I joined a US company. i.e. do not be sexual at all. Poor oppressed americans.

Or was it being unable to find a philosophy department that wasn't relativist or somewhat marxist, back when I was in university? I admittedly didn't try hard enough - I was quickly discouraged. Philosophy departments had no Internet back then, not at all in France and not even in most of the US.

Or maybe it was attending one of these "citizen's university" that was actually marxist propaganda.

It certainly wasn't being told that having free market ideas meant I was part of a tiny sect (i.e. should be forbidden while I should be sent to deintoxication camp). Nor being told that the free-market candidate was a murderer and should be treated as such (because of the indirect consequences of people losing jobs and maybe committing suicide after his brief career as a minister of industry).

As a gifted child, I suffered a lot in the egalitarian schooling system. But at least, my few economics courses weren't overt socialist propaganda as they were for my younger sister.

Oh, and as a math teacher, I've had to give politically-mandated course on civil obedience to my class. This year, they had to celebrate a communist activist killed by the nazis (at the request of a "right-wing" government).

What interesting things happened to people I personally know? Well, let's take those two friends of mine who attended a many-hours anti-capitalist lecture at university. From their computer science professor in lieu of his course.

But perhaps the worst is the economics professor who was failed for having free-market ideas. The next year, he faked marxism during the written part of the exam and got one of the best grades -- but didn't have the guts to fake it at the oral exam and was flunked.

Then when for one year the national jury for economic professorships was given to free-marketeers, there was a national protest in all newspapers against such "partisan recruitment" (as if it wasn't worse the rest of the time), even though in the end there weren't so many free-marketeers being promoted (there weren't enough free-marketeer talent to promote in the French academic economist pool).

I also know people who've been successfully sued for daring to denounce the scam that was the al-Dura palestinian fake martyr scandal on french TV.

May I speak of how the high-school math program has seen all logical substance removed, and replaced with copycatting of bland stupid technical exercises? Or of the horrors of the "global method" for learning how to read? All in the name of PC teaching. Ah, the french teacher teaching institutes, I could tell a lot about them.

Yeah, right, I lived in France most of my life, where things are way worse than the US.

But you're right that there's self-selection. As Solzhenitzyn said, those who have seen the worst are not there to testify anymore. People who don't know how to avoid the PC assault are crushed by it. Most just bend their heads and tune off the noise (if they don't care enough to resist) or go to greener pastures (if they do) -- they go the few places where they can speak freely (like a few departments in a few universities).

Badger writes:

Despite having 39 students in a class of 40 supporting me even by writing appreciation letters to the administration, I was given the whole PC treatment up to Provost level due to a single student that took offense when I said in class that "the Jewish people chose to use the market of ideas instead of violent means to defend their points of view, and history showed that their option was much more effective." The fact that the administration felt that they should side up with one clearly unwieldy student against the sensible majority, and prefer to harass a faculty rather than to support responsible free speech in campus was for me proof enough that PC has got totally out of hand in academia. I believe in markets, so in year following this episode I went back to the market and got a better job in a better institution. When I left them, the grievance against me was yet running, on its way to the President's office...

Faré writes:

Of course, most of the time, you don't get the opportunity to not be PC. When a teacher speaks, there is no opportunity to reply (or quickly be hushed), and the rest of the time, discussions are off-topic.

Discussing race or gender? Unless you're part of a sociology department explaining how the white males are evil oppressors, you are not entitled to speak.

Discussing education? The role of school is to reduce inequalities. No debate needed.

And so on.

Outside of school, of course, there are funny things happening. Like, at the post office, people who fail to follow to bring the required documents and are denied a request (either legitimate or part of a scam, who knows) resorting to copiously insulting the bureaucrat and calling her a racist, making a fuss. I'm told that once in a while, it works (i.e. the post-office bureaucrat yields); and the rest of the time, it still sets the tone as to who's the master and who's the slave.

Also, any open criticism of Islam is racist and punishable by law (yes, Islam is a race, according to french law and french courts - after all, all descendants of muslims are muslims, or would have been killed as apostate, isn't it?).

What of all the "anti-racist" (i.e. anti-white) associations receiving copious state subsidies? Does that count as PC experience? I mean, my associations never asked for subsidies, and wouldn't have received any if they did. Is that being victim of PC discrimination? Or just "not being favored by affirmation action"?

And what about a friend being sued for holding a conference in English? (Happily, he received no subsidies, and didn't publish proceedings, so couldn't be caught on either count of violating the law.) The language police is at work. And it's made of a few associations entitled to sue, with copious government subsidies -- not being officially part of the administration, they are not accountable in any way.

Enough about France. Here's a US story courtesy of Unqualified Reservations.

General Specific writes:

John Thacker:

Just finished reading the whole transcript. Summer's tries hard to make it clear he's just speculating. I give him credit for that. But only so much. An extreme form of just speculating is the Faux/Cavuto mark (a question mark, e.g. "Is Hillary a lesbian?") to distance oneself from an opinion. "I'm just asking or speculating" they say. Yeah, right.

I don't think Summers is doing that. Here's what I see. Here's my rough summary: Summers has an opinion on why the underepresentation in science and engineering. He rank orders the reasons: (a) Willingness to work--the power thing (b) Intelligence/Aptitude and (c) Socializiation.

He then argues, in the face of comments from others that research argues otherwise that (a) everyone should keep an open mind, that research counter to his argument may not prove to be true and (b) his rank ordering is better.

I can provide the quotes if you want to try to substantiate my above summary. I think Summers likes his rank ordering and feels it is the answer, contrary research to the contrary. I believe he argues for an open mind but his mind is not totally open to the possibility that his rank ordering is wrong. He says he'd love to be proved wrong, but I'm not sure I buy it.

Again, I'm not anti-Summers. Did he have an agenda? Is he a bad person. I suspect not. The whole thing could very well have been overblown, but I'm not sure he was an effective leader.

As far as the variance issue with men, I'm not sure how it disproves the argument in the WP opinion. Maybe I'm just not looking closely enough.

His line that his daughters named the trucks mom and dad, and hence maybe that explains something, is a bit too much.

My experience: people who like to be controversial, and are effective at it, finally are retired to outer mongolia, because the general population who work with them tire of the game. "He's very controversial," "he says what he thinks" sounds impressive, it can be stimulating, but after a while it's tiring and tedious.

They aren't good leaders.

Anon writes:

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After reading these comments, I have to agree with Bryan. Oppression by PC meisters is overblown and hardly worth getting excited about; the foregoing examples certainly illustrate how irritating PC can be, but don't rise to the saddle of something ominous.

I attended notoriously liberal university and graduate schools and landed in very liberal part of the country, but have always been able to enjoy myself, to matriculate and to make friends among the more intellectual liberals around me; you can tune out the type of nonsense mentioned above.

wintercow20 writes:

I was at a small mid-Southern liberal arts college and was openly called "dangerous" by a philosopher and even one fellow economist for doing two things.

First, I presented a summary of the research on the economic impact of Walmart (in response to a school-sponsored viewing of The High Cost of Low Prices) and second, I was a panelist on a discussion post-showing of the End of Oil. I dared to discuss the history of Malthusian claims, and invoked the famous Julian Simon bet, and dared to say that there might still be lots of oil that is extractable, and dared even more to say that until I see energy prices quadruple, I would not worry about resources any time soon.

That was not pleasant for me.

And a colleague of mine was censured for daring to question why one of his students had two children by the time he was a sophomore; later that same week a beloved religion professor was tanked at a frat party and fraternizing with drunk underage students, - that incident was overlooked.

Barkley Rosser writes:

Oh, I have observed some annoying PC stuff, but I guess I feel more inclined to raise some questions about one of the commenters here who has gone on at great length, namely Fare about France.

Now, I fully expect that Fare has encountered more and worse unreasonable PC stuff than one encounters in the US, but on at least one point I think he (assuming a him) is probably exaggerating.

I have been at lots of conferences in France, pretty much all of them in English, with no problems or issues about this. For Fare to complain about language police and how somebody just barely was able to pull off a conference in English is just misleading horse pucky.

I was in France in 1994 when the law on language was passed. I was scheduled to present a lecture at the Fourgeaud seminar on economic theory. I asked the guy running it if I should translate my talk into French, making it clear I was willing to do so, if this was necessary. He replied, "It is the duty of all good citizens to violate the law." Then he replied more seriously that a convention had evolved that was in place, and based on my numerous subsequent visits and participation in both conferences and seminars in many French think tanks, that if the title is in French, the talk will be in French, and if the title is in English, the talk will be in English. I have never heard of any of these being policed by "language police" or there being any problems with this convention (although I did once see Edmond Malinvaud demand that Jean Tirole give a talk in French that he was delivering in English, what would later be his famous Econometrica paper on incomplete contracts), but then the problem was that he was violating the convention: the talk had been advertised with a French title, even though it had been written in English.

Anyway, either Fare does not know what he is talking about or is pulling the collective legs of the readers of this blog with his comments about "language police."

(I am also reminded of an old joke. In England, what is not forbidden is allowed. In France, what is forbidden is allowed. In Germany, what is not allowed is forbidden. In Russia, what is allowed is forbidden.)

Bob Hawkins writes:

If they do it right, you're not aware of it. You don't know about the question that didn't occur to anyone, the descussion that never happened. To a university, which supposedly thrives on free inquiry and unfettered minds, this would seem to be lead poisoning.

For example, I once got a paper in an anthropology class back with the notation, "I agree, but don't take it any farther." Kind of a chilling effect, you know? And the rest of the class would never miss the points I knew better than to bring up.

Stephen W. Stanton writes:

In a very old post, you hit the nail on the head.... You tend not to do things (or even want to do things) that are forbidden or taboo.

How often do you attempt to discuss potential root causes of minority underperformance in school, business, criminal justice? How often do you try to investigate gender differences that may lead to different outcomes?

How often do you engage in a substantive policy issue in a typical Manhattan or San Fransisco social gathering?

Have you tried to have your (white) child apply for scholarships or admission when his/her grades were on the fence?

Do you work at a large company that has "diversity" programs that treat blacks and whites differently? (New "diverse" analysts have extra exposure to Sr. Management, a less rigorous interview process, more sponsored events, and swag not available to white ones.)

Does your small business contract with a government agency? How much better would your terms be if you were female, black, or both.

Bottom line: You're fairly isolated from PC. You study reasonably safe subjects in a reasonably fair department of a reasonably tolerant university.

Constant writes:

It depends on what "political correctness" is supposed to include. If it includes cases where a male employee is fired for speech directed towards female employees that he would not have been fired for fifty years ago, then yes, I have seen that happen in my office.

I have not personally had any PC experiences because I am careful not to create them for myself. This does not mean that I am affected by political correctness. Similarly, many people in the Soviet Union probably lived their whole lives without going to jail. This does not mean that they were not affected by the totalitarianism of the USSR.

8 writes:

Making it's way around the blogosphere now is: Larry Summers, unfit for the California Regents. Ahmadinejad, honored guest of Columbia University.

You can't make this stuff up. Is that PC? Am I suffering? Nope. But I feel sorry for the 22 year old student who graduates from college with less of an understanding of the world than they entered with, plus $50,000 in debt. It's quite shocking to meet a college graduate who, after hearing an articulate argument for a conservative position says, "Wow. I've never heard that argument before. I thought only construction workers thought that way."

8 writes:

I don't know if this qualifies as PC (didn't Mao invent the term?), but in China I would always avoid referring to Taiwan as a country to avoid trouble. Even a passing reference once in a class on trade, about the conditions for stamping a product Made in XXXX, led a student to object, "But teacher, Taiwan is not a country."

I now know that if you cannot speak an idea, you stop thinking that idea, because I noticed a difference in my thinking on Taiwan. Speech control is thought control.

Stan Tsirulnikov writes:

I don't think this qualifies as a PC experience, but my high school economics teacher put capitalism on trial....for crimes against humanity. Capitalism lost, of course.

Jody writes:

For real damage from PC run amok, see Duke Lacrosse.

Anonymous writes:

I didn't take complaints about PC very seriously until I taught at Antioch College. It was like a combination of Lord of the Flies and the Cultural Revolution (and I'm a socially lefty individualist anarchist, not even remotely conservative). Unless you saw it for yourself you'd never believe it. Three examples:
1) A student shouting obscenities at and demanding the resignation of the (female) college prez (at a public meeting) because the prez said "We need to look at the big picture." You see, the phrase is offensive to the blind.
2) A student gave me a low evaluation because my class "should have been about racism." (It was intro to philosophy)
3) A student complaining to the administration that evaluating grammar on writing assignments was "classist" (as was requiring students to actually purchase the texts).

I could go on . . .

General Specific writes:

"Making it's way around the blogosphere now is: Larry Summers, unfit for the California Regents. Ahmadinejad, honored guest of Columbia University."

I'm not familiar with the specifics, but I don't think it fare to take two different issues and compare them like this. Larry Summers may not be appropriate as a regent of the UC System. Ahmadinejad has supported anti-semitic views, so I would not want to honor him in any way, though I would love to see him face an audience that could ask candid questions.

And on the topic of PC, I seem to remember that Andrew Kling accused Mearshimer and Walt of throwing jews under the bus becaused they dared to look at the influence of Israel on US policy. (Maybe I'm misrepresenting his position). The hysteria surrounding that paper might be a casestudy on the difficulty people face in considering what are considered sacrosanct issues.

And just recently we saw a liberal suffer what could be called more conservative political correctness at UC Irvine's law school.

8 writes:

Except conservatives defended the liberal, who was fired by liberals.

General Specific writes:

"Except conservatives defended the liberal, who was fired by liberals."

Very true. It was nice to see supporters from both sides of the political divide criticize Irvine.

And the phrase I used, "could be called conservative political correctness", meant that I'm not sure what happened at Irvine is PC.

Perhaps political correctness as a term should center on issues of race, sex, gender, and religion. Though I suppose political affiliation runs fairly close hehind, since political affiliation may express attachment or affinity to particular issues in race, sex, gender, and religion.

tim writes:

Observation: most (if not all but one or two) of the comments are from those that work in academic settings. Do you think PC "issues" are more of a problem in the academic environment than in a corporate environment? I really don't know I skipped college.

I'm also from minnesota and we go out of our way to avoid insulting someone (my favorite phrase: "I am sorry that you had to notice me") unless of course they don't know about it [grin]. But I am also a veteran of several startups where anti-PC is the rule. If you don't get insulted at least once a day you are not doing a good job. Things always go downhill after the first HR director is hired.

As for an example - the only time I run into a PC related issue is when I am in a setting with people that describe themselves as "liberal." I've had my throat almost ripped out for using the relatively benign word "gay" instead of "GLBT" (or ugh "LGBT"). Which I personally find insulting since I am gay.

PurpleSlog writes:

Back in college along time ago, I spoke against buying more typewriters (circa 1988) for the Student Center at a Student Government meeting (I was a student). I had run the center the year before and pretty much they were unused. There were Macs and PCs around the campus for free that people used instead.

I was denounced as a racist (a black leftist had made the proposal and I am not black) by multiple speakers.

The typewriters were not purchased however.

Daublin writes:


I have had a coworker completely change their attitudes toward me when deciding I am one of the bad guys. Once they found out, they became committed to discrediting me, to showing I am uneducated or unintelligent. I'll survive the one particular person I am thinking of, but it would have been nicer to have an ally.

I now try to keep my mouth shut until I have felt out the political ramifications. A more career-oriented person would keep their mouth shut, period.

I hope things are as good for you as you describe, Bryan. However, have you considered the career impact of being outted as un-PC? Have you considered what people think of your un-PC-ness in: tenure decisions? choice of invited speakers? award committees? You talk about politically impotent students, but is it only the politically impotent who equate PC with moral ?

Faré writes:

@Barkley Rosser:
I can give you names -- contact me in private through my website. The police came to my friend's house investigating a complaint from one of the state-funded "associations" on the short list entitled to sue (by law). My friend had good standing in his village and the police (really gendarmerie) did not give suit to the complaint (their case was slim).

Certainly, the law is not universally enforced, and happily so. It is enforced in a targeted way by specific associations against their specific political enemies only. (In this case, a free-marketeer convention.) And they will sue at the margin to get cumulative marginal effects. Just like you can probably say a lot of things and not be sued, but just don't you be the most visible person saying them -- and when no one dares be the most visible person, it reduces the forbidden behaviour a lot for relatively little actual enforcement.

In my friend's case, he managed to get his convention announced in a national weekly magazine, which announcement was followed by a public denounciation by a journalist, and threats of prosecution that were ultimately acted upon (though happily without legal consequences).

Of course, the language police is not quite as bad in France as it is in Quebec. Here in France, the language police is the least of our problems.

Our main problem would be socialism at school is omnipresent, where 75% of high-school teachers vote left-wing (by which I mean socialist french left-wing, not the quite moderate american left-wing). And the official national programs are in accordance.

liberty writes:

I have been lucky enough to only see intimidation regarding PC proper at a distance, and I don't recall the details. At the liberal arts college I attended (Eugene Lang college of the New School for Social Research) everyone was uber-PC before uber-PC was cool - so nobody got in trouble. (There were many classes on Urban Transsexual Gender Studies and African American Lesbian Literature and all that, way before those became regular college majors) and you could get in trouble for saying "black" instead of "African American" but you could also get kudos for defending the idea that "blacks prefer to be called 'black' because it speaks to their psychology of alienation and until they are no longer oppressed, the privileged white must connect via our ironic use of corporatizing classist language, while simultaneously coming together in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from the ghetto to unite against the war machine..."

It was such an easy-A college...

Also, I know that I have come across the issue at the state university which I attended (University of New Mexico) but not any specifics. However, I do recall the hard-left slant of most professors, and getting an anti-Bush rant during biochemistry class, among other fun tidbits. I was leftist when I attended the liberal arts college, and libertarian at the state university, so I had slightly different perspectives (we were probably ranted at much worse at Lang, but I don't really remember that part, since I agreed with it).

liberty writes:

in related news, you might also enjoy the Facebook group "Anarcho-Transexual Afro-Chicano American Feminist Studies Majors"

if you enjoy humor.

Where's the political correctness in elite universities and professional schools? I didn't see any version of it that would make rich white-looking heterosexual people uncomfortable. Not in Princeton's eating clubs. Not in Harvard's finals clubs. Not in Yale's secret societies. Not in M.I.T.'s fraternities. Not during job interviewing for law firm and investment banking jobs at the elite law and business schools.

These spaces all seemed very white-looking and very rich. If one didn't fit that archetype, there certainly seemed to be a strong sense of having to perform a political correctness so as not to be shunned by those rich white folks.

But I don't think that's what you meant?

PrestoPundit writes:

Worst PC experience?

As a TA it was urged by the leftist professor teaching a Business Ethics class that it would be appropriate to grade essays on a political scale, left = good and right = not good. We weren't required to do it, but then I'm the only TA who wasn't comfortable doing it.

My own sense is that Political Correctness has its largest impact in everyday teaching, every day class discussion, and everyday grading. It the atmosphere that matters, and the PC atmosphere at the places I've been has significantly shaped the teaching environment and the student culture.

I won't go into the personal cases where I or folks I've known have run into the PC grading problem -- but it's real and I've experienced it and folks I've known have experienced it.

General Specific writes:

So let's see where we are in this debate: 50 years ago, white people ruled. Jews and blacks and hispanics could live in their ghettos. Men made jokes about women's breasts in front of them, grabbed their butts at work, and had a glass ceiling so low it required women to crawl through the workplace.

Now we've got the horrific crime that a rude and egotistical head of Harvard lost his butt when he told everyone to kep an open mind, which allowed him to marginalize research that countered his rank order list or why women aren't in science and engineering. And we've got limits on what can be said about the IQ of this or that race and why they aren't doing as well as everyone else. And we've got language police in the workplace who do their best to keep the workplace chatter on something other than breasts--and free from calendars of naked women. And we've got lots of men griping about how they feel like second class citizens because someone didn't like what they said.

Like Bryan said. PC is no big deal. We're way ahead compared to fifty years ago. Way ahead.

Xmas writes:

Back on the Larry Summers thing, I think the big PC problem with his speech was the his economist's question that prompted the premise of his speech.

His question, to paraphrase: Why wasn't some college scooping up all of these disenfranchised female science students and professors and creating a superb science department with the best female minds?

It is a question that needs to be answered and a challenge to the audience of the speech to create such a place on their own.

RobbL writes:

I am glad to see you taking on the overblown scare talk about PC fears. Most of the stories have an "urban myth" characteristic. Or sometimes fall into just political disagreements such as someone thinking that it is an issue of PC when they can't get an advisor for a particular politically based dissertation.

I would like to mention one source of conflict. You tend to see more complaints about this when someone moves into a different cultural environment. For example, I am in the tech business and often have to attend industry trade shows where I inevitably end up in some bar drinking with a bunch of sales guys.

Talk about politically incorrect! Much of the "humor" revolves around homosexual rape and chloroform. Hardly any sentence is possible without extreme obscenities. After a few days this starts to seem "normal".

Then I go back home and hang out with people who are my wifes friends who all work in and around education for young children. Inevitably I say something involving maternal parents and copulating and realize that I am getting a funny vibe and my wife is looking daggers. I have to recalibrate and adjust.

I think that people who go from industry to academy tend to have a problem with this...particularly if they are a bit insensitive to the mores of the people around them

General Specific writes:

RobbL: Hillarious story. And so true. I was working on a project once, with major problems, sitting in a guy's office, discussing solutions. A woman in the office next door, a friend of ours, comes to the door: "You guys realize that every other word is the f-word: f-this and f-that?"

She wasn't complaining--too much. I think she found it humorous. But our mouths were foul.

PC can be a problem, but many complaints about PC are probably people who are unable or unwilling to adapt to the different social norms that exist amongst different groups of people. And those who can't adapt often suffer because of it.

I think there are some hot buttons that are difficult to dance around without getting burned. Religion. Sex. Race. And to a degree-politics. The traditional dinner-party verboten topics--which makes dinner parties often so boring.

If someone looks at the role of Israel, they're an anti-semite. If they look at race and IQ, they're racists. And if they compare abilities of the sexes, they're misogynists.

I think it takes a certain caliber of person to deal with these issues productively. Others should focus their attention elsewhere.

Carla Smith writes:

Let's see. Where do I begin? There are so many PC experiences I've had, but I'll go ahead and narrow it down to one major issue for myself and my husband:

1.) The worst PC experience I've ever personally had was on board the Naval vessel I was stationed on while in Guam, in which I had several occasions, thanks to the wonderful feminists on board, that even if I were carrying a huge or heavy object, the men on board would see me coming, yet not even attempt to hold the door open for me. And this was no easy to open door. No, this was a heavy steel water tight hatch! But why, you ask? Doesn't it seem like the polite and courteous thing to do? Well, apparently so, but these men had been shunned, even yelled at by the "women" on board after opening doors for them that over time, they became reluctant to do it at all. I even noticed hurt from one guy when he saw my shock after not opening the door for me. But I definitely empathized with them after my husband told me his story:

2.) The worst PC experience he ever had was on his way in to a local mall here in NC, he saw a woman coming up behind him and rushed to the door to hold it open for her. As he was, she said, oh so politely, I'm sure, "I don't need you to hold the f-ing door open for me!" Perhaps this is a perfect example of the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility in which consumers, over time, lose the level of utility or satisfaction they had when they consumed the first amount of the good. Perhaps men, especially after consistently bashed for holding doors open for women, finally diminish in their satisfaction in doing so. Shame on you, feminists, for making this a reality.

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