Aaron R. Hanlon, a writer for The New Republic, writes a provocative piece addressing the idea of political correctness which has spread across college campuses all over the United States. He analyzes both sides of the political correctness debate and highlights a number of rules we as a society can try to abide by. The issue at large is not so simple. It is very nuanced and there are not a lot of solutions but Hanlon gives us a few we should staunchly support.
Hanlon’s four magic rules to solving the political correctness debate are concise in what they hope to accomplish.
Colleges should promote the exercising of free speech by promoting discussion of how to solve the genuine problems of access, opportunity, safety, and inclusion on campus.
Besides advocating for proactive discussions as opposed to outright suppression of ideas one does not side with, Hanlon proposes that trigger warnings should neither be required or banned. I think this is important to note because it encourages an air of openness and neutrality on college campuses. Freeing the college atmosphere from bias can do this issue a world of good. Hanlon’s simplification of the term ‘safe space’ helps American society to explore options of a middle ground of sorts for its college campuses.
Classrooms, too, can be safe spaces in a specific and important sense: They are training grounds for civil and civic discourse, shaped inevitably by the political and cultural standards outside of the classroom. Classrooms need to be places where every student—regardless of political orientation, race, creed, and gender—feels like they can safely participate, interact, and learn. But if what passes as a “conservative” viewpoint is dehumanizing language about LGBTQ people, or if what passes as a “liberal” viewpoint is “white men are inherently evil,” then professors should indeed caution against such unproductive speech.(1)
Ultimately, safe zones should exist depending on the context. Within these safe zones, there must be a presence of constructive thought, as opposed to shooting down perspectives students may not agree with. Hanlon’s final rule is that both sides on the political correctness divide should have the freedom to articulate their opinions.
Colleges should not be places of censorship, but of “critical inquiry” (to use a University of Chicago term). Administrators, faculty, and students should all be in discussion about who gets a campus platform, and why. It’s also reasonable for that discussion to culminate sometimes in the decision not to invite—or even to disinvite—a speaker. An invitation to speak on a college campus doesn’t come with a promise of immunity from protest.(1)
Hanlon and I agree on several viewpoints. College campuses should not suppress either side of the political correctness debate. Instead, they should foster intellectual and productive discussions over issues at hand. Administrators, professors, and those who are in direct contact with groups of students should encourage critical inquiry of both sides of the argument and stimulate an understanding of one another as opposed to a harsh divide. It is biased and narrow-minded to suppress ideas that one opposes. College students in general should have the ability to feel safe at school and taking that into account, safe enough to talk about their views openly, without fear of ridicule and insults from their peers.