Increasing sensitivity in academia

The laundry list of phrases and terms deemed insensitive or politically incorrect seems to be growing by the second. Particularly in academia, some might argue that because Americans are educated, they are made aware of the many hardships of groups of people and the derogatory connotations of words and are consequently sensitive to these people. I contend that the effort of becoming sensitive to others is inhibiting our ability to speak freely and openly about issues that need to be addressed such as racial discrimination, class consciousness and sexual orientation.

College campuses are frequently offering presentations on how a model citizen should not use certain phrases or terms; above all, the emphasis is on open-mindedness and acceptance. This is a reasonable ideal. However, I struggle to see how it is open-minded to tell others that they use immoral language even though it might align with their personal beliefs.

It is becoming nearly impossible to discuss controversial topics in classes. With the overwhelming number of phrases and terms now considered offensive, students are becoming frightened to voice their beliefs that may or may not oppose popular opinion for fear of being labeled as "racist," "close-minded," or "ignorant."

To validate this assertion, I will lay out what I believe to be a very realistic situation and I have no doubt some students on this campus have confronted this situation or one similar to it at some point in their academic careers.

If you are a devoted Christian, then you have been taught throughout your life that homosexuality is sinful, unnatural and that love is between a man and a woman. Imagine you are in a class debating the legality of gay marriage. The vast majority of the class is strongly stating that anyone should be able to marry and that homosexuality is biological and, therefore, a natural occurrence. Your professor just so happens to be homosexual, thus the reason for the debate.

I feel that it is relatively safe to say that a very small percentage of people put in this situation would speak up. Your religious beliefs are being challenged and dismissed, but if you were to defend your beliefs, there’s no question that you will be verbally bombarded shortly thereafter. That is not open-mindedness.

So why are people so sensitive about certain issues, and why do they react so aggressively? Although this might raise some eyebrows, I say it’s a fad. The more belligerently one responds to a contentious issue, the more he/she is defending democracy and individual rights. The shortcoming in this ideology is that the perhaps legitimate argument or general statement of those allegedly doing the offending is completely ignored, taken out of context, or misinterpreted due to one’s sometimes ignorant focus on being the "good" moral person who has stood up for humanity.

For this reason, the next time you feel offended about something, take a moment to re-evaluate the intended message of the speaker before callously chiding them for their comments.

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