As students living in the Bay-Area, many of us have grown up learning to be respectful of each other, and most of us have heard in the news and in our own lives ‘PC,’ or politically correct. Schools like UC Berkeley have appeared in the news boycotting conservative speakers in the name of being PC have led many to question PC culture as helpful or harmful. Currently, most conservative thought is grouped as ‘hate speech,’ which is extremely harmful to the free flow of opinions in society.
PC culture originated in the 1980’s and 90’s, and defended against minorities or otherwise disadvantaged groups in the world. Words and phrases then became ‘politically correct’ as to make sure no group is discriminated. This use of PC words and phrases has now led us to develop ‘PC culture,’ or a culture that effectively stops offensive speech.
Although PC culture was originally meant to protect minorities from offensive language, it has a modern day result of victimizing left-leaning thought and in effect condemning thought they disagree with. While originally meant to stop hostile speech, it has now become an idea limiting offensive thought and ideas with safe thought being more left-leaning and unsafe being right-leaning.
“There are so many people now that have positions of power who are PC and influencing people that might not be,” junior Matthew Zell said. “We’re kind of reshaping the way we see things just for the sake of being PC, and that's not good because it’s being disingenuous, trying to force PC culture on others.”
A major issue with PC culture is rooted in its separation of those who are politically correct as morally better as opposed to those who are politically incorrect. The result often ends with radicals on both sides arguing their viewpoints and endangering lives that should be protected. A prominent example in modern day is the militant leftist group Antifa fighting white supremacist groups on the right, causing violence and bloodshed.
Although some believe that at Burlingame we are unaffected by PC culture, school is oftentimes where we start to flesh out our political identities, and where many of us take a stand in politics.
To some students, PC culture is seen as an indoctrinator in school, limiting thought as a result of shielding sensitive students to facts.
“A lot of PC culture does not like to accept facts for what they are,” Zell said. “At the end of the day, facts don't care about your feelings, so the best way [to teach is] to stop indulging people on how they feel and instead teach facts.”
Oftentimes when we discuss how words can hurt others, we simply say, “well that guy needs to toughen up. It isn’t my fault that this is how the world works.” However, when we fail to empathize with others, oftentimes points that have justification are dismissed. For example, when discussing with someone living in the US without papers about immigration, if you call them an ‘illegal alien,’ regardless of anything you have previously said that person will denounce you as a racist.
As society and language evolves, we as fellow humans have a responsibility to adapt to those changes. A while ago, it was fine to call an African American a Negro, but if you try and call them that today, you would certainly be denounced as a racist, regardless of the topic presented.
But at the same time, to stop discussing serious issues simply because they aren’t ‘PC’ would be living a life of lies. It is completely possible to have a healthy discussion with an ‘illegal alien’ about the immigration issue and not sound racist-- if we use language intended for them.
School can be seen as a melting pot of different people and groups and part of being a respectful person is to treat them with kindness.
“Our job as teachers is to challenge discussion, but in a safe place,” government teacher Joshua Gnass said. “[We] try to have a lot of debates in [our] classes that allow different viewpoints as long as you're not being rude and obnoxious.”
In our society, PC culture can be a double-edged blade; it can be a useful tool to make others feel comfortable, but it can also prevent differing points of view and healthy discussion if used incorrectly.
As human beings, we must encourage both conservative and liberal thought in society, but use our language appropriately with different groups of people. PC culture shouldn’t limit perspectives, but instead allow us to converse freely with each other with a standard of respect. It’s a careful balance, with too much PC thought leading to an ignorant society, but not enough resulting in a disrespectful one.