BUT there is an opposite extreme, where the word police themselves become the oppressors. A colleague of mine drew our attention to this piece in The Atlantic yesterday. Like I said, the problem at hand seems to apply especially right now to "liberal" institutions.
Employees at IWU went through various training sessions this past summer. I was glad to see that we were following the "reasonable person" standard mentioned in this piece. We want diversity. We want to be loving in all our words and policies. But it would be just as wrong to create an environment where overly sensitive people set the standard.
Here are two quotes that most stood out to me:
- "According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided."
- "Congress should define peer-on-peer harassment according to the Supreme Court’s definition in the 1999 case Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. The Davis standard holds that a single comment or thoughtless remark by a student does not equal harassment; harassment requires a pattern of objectively offensive behavior by one student that interferes with another student’s access to education. Establishing the Davis standard would help eliminate universities’ impulse to police their students’ speech so carefully."
Even more the need for us to return to a sense of truth that is not primarily oriented around the subjective. We have lost any sense of objective truth. "Emotional reasoning" is one of the very first fallacies we cover in philosophy--something isn't true just because it feels that way to you. Yes, it means it may be real for you (if you are truly in touch with your feelings), but that doesn't make it true for anyone else. And it certainly does not make it a public truth.
Some people are just over-sensitive. And if we make them the standard for our words and behavior, then society is about to become something akin to living with the Gestapo. There will be no more laughing.