It’s a very exciting time for some kids. Many children have already begun to pack up to leave home for the first time and head off to college. In about three weeks or so, kids from all over will begin to move out of the house and into the dorms at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in Durham, New Hampshire.
Hopefully the children are ready for the change from home life to campus life, but I doubt it, unless they have already received and memorized from cover to cover the UNH Bias-Free Language Guide.
If the students have not already done this, they had better get to it, for things could get uncomfortable on campus for the unindoctrinated.
The guide’s indoctrination begins immediately, without even a welcoming message.
Under the heading, “Language as Leadership,” the guide says, “Language has been described as complicated, intriguing and beautiful. Benjamin Lee Whorf said, ‘Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.’ Some writers have commented on language as the biggest barrier to human progress…”
Right away, we can see where this is going. Language is, in fact, the way most people express thoughts, not the opposite, and it “determines what we can think about?” What?! Actually, it appears that the thought and language police will determine what students “think about.” And language isn’t a barrier to progress, but is the biggest barrier to the continuity of community and country. But I’m sure were not supposed to broach that topic on campus.
Now, little Johnny and Janey sure don’t wish to offend any of their new-found college friends, so they need to learn “Inclusive Language.”
But “What is Inclusive Language?” The guide claims that “Inclusive Language is communication that does not stereotype or demean people based on personal characteristics including gender, gender expression, race, ethnicity, economic background, ability/disability status, religion, sexual orientation, etc.”
Can someone please explain the difference between gender, gender expression, and sexual orientation? And I’d love to know (or maybe not) just what the “etc.” is.
But I guess students won’t really have to instinctively know, as long as they study the guide, for, “It is important to realize that each person will define their own identity…and please remember that identity terms are meant for individuals to use to identify themselves and not for us to identify them.”
Can you believe someone actually got paid to craft this document?!
So what if, as a new student, this is all foreign to you—you didn’t grow up in San Francisco or in the Village in Manhattan. Then what?
Well, fear not, for the UNH Language Guide has provided guidelines on what is and is not appropriate and even examples to make it easier.
For example: if a student is from a country in Africa, you shouldn’t call them African. That’s too broad a term. See, the guide states that Africa is a continent, you idiot—I added the “you idiot” part. You could ask them from which country they hail, but you’re not allowed to because the previous paragraph said they must “identify themselves” – it’s not for us to identify them. Remember? You had better.
So what if one is just a red-blooded American? Surely that’s okay. Not so fast. According to the guide the term “American” is also “problematic.” Didn’t see that one coming, eh? See, “American: assumes the U.S. is the only country inside these two continents,” despite the fact that we are the only nation in the Western Hemisphere (or the planet) to call ourselves Americans. Just know American and thus, by extension, America is just plain problematic, and you’ll get along fine.
Okay, I have a question. Suppose a young white man is speaking to a black girl and asks her a question. Her answer begins with: “Well, as an African-American…” Are you supposed to stop her in midsentence and tell her that those terms are “problematic?” According to the guide, they are on both fronts. What do you do? She can’t use the term American, and Africa is a continent.
But, then again, the guide says you’re not allowed to ask her to further identify herself, so it appears you’re stuck.
So I have a suggestion: ask your parents if they can swing getting you a private room on campus. Then just go to class and come back to your room—every day. Do not speak to anyone, ever, and if you can help it, don’t even look at anyone.
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