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After the February 2017 incident that occurred at the University of California in Berkeley involving controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos and protestors, which resulted in Milo not being able to speak and protesters causing almost $100,000 in damage. One of the question that was brought up was if free speech should be limited to only those that are politically correct. But before we can answer that question, we need to ask ourselves, “if being politically correct is correct?”. We will exam both sides of the issue that many of our universities face on a day to day basis.
Supporters of “political correctness” argue that by being politically correct that it fosters a respectful and inclusive atmosphere on college campuses, creating a positive academic environment.
Opponents argue that “political correctness” stifles free speech and by shielding students from the real world, college campuses are a creating a generation of easily offended people. So, is it possible that by enforcing people to be politically correct that we are discouraging free speech on our campuses? Supporters of “political correctness” state that this country has a long history of mistreating and marginalizing members of minority groups by the use of offensive words and discriminatory actions.
With Yiannopoulos having a history of associating with hate groups such as the neo-nazi’s, making racist slurs and bigoted comments about homosexuality and his general lack of “political correctness”, many felt that the protest was justified.
With Yiannopoulus supporting such hate groups, many feel that he is encouraging bigotry and cultural insensitivity which have no place on college campuses or in society.
Students are right, supporters insist, to protest instances of prejudice, offense, or insensitivity in school settings. ‘Discrimination and safety are serious matters that actually do affect people’s ability to participate in public discussion,’ Vox writer Amanda Taub wrote. It is also being stated by supporters of political correctness that universities and colleges should adopt trigger warnings that might be appropriate for a creating a healthy learning environment. Supporters believe that trigger warnings should be used to notify their students that content that is being discussed could or may trigger flashbacks about previous traumatic events, such as an incident of sexual assault or violence.
‘The use of trigger warnings…is frequently mischaracterized as catering to delicate feelings, but being triggered does not mean being upset, angry or offended,’ Melissa McEwan, a feminist blogger, wrote in U.S. News and World Report in May 2014. ‘Being triggered has a very specific meaning related to evoking a physical or psychological response to a survived trauma or sustained systemic abuse. Speaking about trigger warnings as though they exist for the purposes of indulging fragile sensibilities fundamentally misses their purpose: To mitigate harm.’ Those opposed to “political correctness” to argue that “political correctness” and trigger warnings stifle intellectual freedom and threatens democracy. Opponents argue that students have taken political correctness too far, inhibiting free speech and curtailing intellectual diversity on campus.
Many students, critics contend, are too quick to call those they disagree with bigoted, fostering an atmosphere of intimidation and fear. By being politically correct opponents feel that universities and colleges are coddling students and not preparing them for life outside the university. Opponents feel that was is occurring, that “political correctness” is being used by supporters to thwart off anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint. By not allowing Yiannopoulos to speak, only undermines the freedom of expression, regardless of how people feel about him. Opponents also feel that students are being limited on their intellectual discourse and is restricting the students’ exposure to diverse viewpoints and ideas. By issuing trigger warnings, many feel that students are being treated like children and not like the adults that they are. ‘The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual.”
Both sides making very good arguments on why political correctness is necessary and why it is hindering the education systems. Without really get to know someone, you really do not know what that person has been through. If issuing a trigger warning prevents that person from experiencing some emotional distress, that really cannot be a bad thing. But it also has to be examined from the side of the opposition of what parameters are going to be set for trigger warnings. At the end of the day, you really do not know what will trigger an emotional response from a student and will only limit the joy or discomfort of discovery through knowledge for many students due to trigger warnings Bigotry and racism does not have a place in our society and does not belong on our campuses. But by limiting and denying controversial speakers the right to speak for the mere fact that they do not share the same ideologies or viewpoints as us, is a clear violation of their freedom of speech.
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