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Jewish World Review June 16, 2000 /13 Sivan, 5760

Tony Snow

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These days in the groves of academe -- STOCKPORT COLLEGE in England has decided to teach tolerance by expelling students who utter such terms as "lady," "gentleman," "chairman," "manmade," "Mrs.," "postman" and "normal couple." Also banned: "queer," "bird," "man on the street," "cripple," "crazy," "mad," "manic" and, most deliciously, "history."

One wonders, upon reading the list, why the college didn't similarly smite "hiss," "histology," "hispid," "Hispanic" or "histrionic," but further investigation suggests a simple explanation: Nobody there knows such words exist.

Stockport College specializes, you see, in such disciplines as tourism, child care and "complementary therapies, hairdressing and floristry." Like most modern colleges and universities, it apparently encourages its students to sample sex in all its varieties, so long as a rutting male doesn't refer to his female companion as "Ma'am." (An on-campus bar is called "The 4Play Zone.")

That's hardly unusual. These days in the groves of academe, sex is treated as an inalienable right. The occasional experiment in bestiality is punishable by sensitivity training, while chivalry draws the educational equivalent of capital punishment.

College spokesbeing Richard Tuson (whose last name features a highly suspect syllable) explains the philosophy behind the speech code, "We vigorously pursue an equal-opportunities policy, and we try to be as politically correct as possible without being tedious." (Tell that to aspiring floristers who make the mistake of singing "Mad about you" to newfound flames.)

The controversy demonstrates that no matter what else Stockport teaches, it teaches docility, for the ardent student is likely to spend more time fretting about uttering something offensive than learning something interesting.

The rules all but stipulate an end to liberal arts. Shakespeare: Out! The Bible: Out! The Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and American Constitution: Out! Chaucer, Milton, Blake, Dickens, Elliot and Eliot:

Banned! All would be exiled, like old Confederate flags, to the boneyard of retroactive censure. The school library, if constructed along lines suggested by the speech code, would be reduced to tomes devoted to flowers, beasts and hair-trimming equipment.

Stockport is not alone, of course. Several years ago, the Los Angeles Times distributed a 22-page roster of forbidden terms, and just last week Britain's National Employment Service pulled an advertisement that contained adjectives deemed potentially offensive to disabled persons. The words: "hard-working," "enthusiastic" and "reliable." (The service reversed the ban after a quick explosion of laughter from British citizens.) Each day brings news of fresh spasms: The Directors Guild of America abandons the D.W. Griffith award for reasons of political correctness.

Colleges defund Christian organizations for taking the Christian Bible seriously.

This is what has become of latter-day liberalism. The political left has abandoned traditional standards on grounds that they're "intolerant" and "harsh." Votaries of political correctness have replaced customary norms with a code of etiquette that punishes wayward speech savagely, while trying to ease the penalties assessed to such crimes as murder.

To take a recent example: New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was roundly excoriated for showing insufficient tenderness for Patrick Dorismund, a young man killed by New York City Police. Now, not surprisingly, New York cops are pulling their punches -- for fear of getting hammered in the press -- and violent crime again has begun to rise. It's not clear whether Bruce Springsteen intends to pen a song to honor those maimed and murdered in the latest spree.

If you want the perfect metaphor for political correctness, think of the Wizard of Oz, commanding Dorothy and her comrades to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It is an ideology of enforced blindness. It tries to banish hurt feelings among certain privileged groups, thus nudging society ineluctably toward one result: ruthlessly enforced silence.

Look at it from another angle. You can't have liberty if you don't have rules -- dos and don'ts; rights and wrongs; boundaries that define rights and suggest ways of protecting them.

Yet, the instant you establish limits, you offend somebody who wants to act with license. So you have to make a choice: Stick with standards or pacify the malcontents. PC's high priests choose the latter. They insist that society as a whole pay homage to the predilections and peculiarities of the loud few.

This brings us back to Stockport. That institution's scholars and tutors now must tiptoe carefully through the minefield the English language has laid before them. They must watch their words carefully not merely in addressing one another, but even in answering the simple question: Where is the college?

That's because the school rests on the outskirts of ... Manchester.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate