Speaking of the University of New Hampshire’s “Bias-Free Language Guide”, Robby Soave of The Daily Beast notes:
The Bias-Free Language Guide is a massive wall of text that explains why common word choices, phrases, and modifiers are unwelcome in polite discourse. Its purpose is to assist in the creation of “an inclusive learning community” by raising awareness of trivial slights in everyday language that, “for some, feels like a form of violence.”
Its authors, UNH Coordinator of Community Equity and Diversity Sylvia Foster among them, intended the guide as tool for molding a more feelings-conscious campus. But if their advice had ever been followed by a significant number of students and faculty members, everyone would have soon found themselves walking on eggshells 100 percent of the time.
So, the guide is contradictory. It’s also mostly terrible. While it’s never a bad idea to familiarize oneself with the shifting standards of acceptable parlance, everybody who took this guide seriously would be tripping over their tongues just trying to say hello to a stranger—sorry, a “person of non-familiar circumstance” (OK, I made that one up).
For one thing, most of the suggested terms are significantly wordier than the old-fashioned, problematic terms. This is a significant flaw: The point of language is to communicate ideas as effectively and quickly as possible. A critical component of successful expression—particularly written expression—is brevity. This is especially true in our age of text messages, blurbs, and listicles: the shorter, the sweeter. Some generalizing—i.e., referring to a group of people as “you guys” and not “you guys and girls and… others” saves critical time.
UNH is sadly, far from the only school attempting to introduce speech codes designed to keep anyone who is not a straight, Caucasian male [I’m sure I violated said codes right there] from getting the emotional vapors. The University of California system wants not only to tell you how to speak….but to tell you what you mean when you speak.
The first step in addressing microaggressions is to recognize when a microaggression has occurred and what message it may be sending. The context of the relationship and situation is critical.
What was once the forum for the free exchange of ideas and debate….Academia has become the laboratory for pogroms of inculcated groupthink.