Political correctness: harmless, well-meaning nonsense or harmful, wrongheaded ideas with potentially damaging consequences? Columnist Andrew Sullivan seems to suggest the latter in his critique of the New York Times' scandal over the fraudulent reporting of Jayson Blair.
The Times reported that the 27-year old Blair "committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud" that involved making up quotes and stealing material from other publications. The Times' belated investigation of Blair's work revealed problems in 36 of his 73 articles between late October and May 1. The paper described these events as "a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper."
In analyzing why Blair's "enablers" didn't restrain, fire or discipline Blair -- a black man -- earlier, Sullivan said, "Offending minority journalists is more of a no-no than allowing the paper's reputation to hit a 152-year low."
Regardless of whether Sullivan is correct in this particular case -- and I believe he probably is -- we can't ignore that political correctness can have real-life ramifications. Which is why it is appalling that many of our college and high school campuses have become incubation centers for politically correct dogma. Consider a few recent examples.
Indiana University's Commission on Multicultural Understanding gave an award to graduate student B. Afena Cobham, in part for calling on a student newspaper, the "Indiana Daily Student," to terminate editor John Paul Benitez for publishing an editorial cartoon critical of affirmative action. Cobham's demand letter said, "we call upon John Paul Benitez to resign from his position with the IDS immediately. If he refuses, then he should be removed. His action is not protected free speech and has no place on a college campus."
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts officials refused to grant two student groups permission to have a pig roast in the college quadrangle, claiming it might offend vegetarians. Brian Harcourt, a member of both clubs, said, "The campus allows many other different types of cookouts, and they never seem to have a problem with them." One university spokeswoman claimed that the issue went beyond just offending vegetarians. But she admitted, "I'm not a vegetarian, but I personally don't want to look out my window at a pig roasting on a spit … An ice cream social would be nice."
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