Conclusion: Beyond Political Correctness
The attacks on feminism, affirmative action, and multiculturalism are linked
by the fear
of a changing culture. Traditional ideas are no longer merely ac-
cepted as the eternal truth but instead are challenged by new perspectives
of the status quo. None of these new perspectives and controversial issues is
immune from criticism. There are flaws in affirmative action, there are ex-
treme forms of multiculturalism and feminism that invite ridicule, and there
are legitimate dangers to freedom of expression to be found in speech codes.
The backlash against
PC
is part of the resentment against the many changes
- institutional and intellectual-in American universities since the 1960s.
Affirmative action programs, multicultural curricula, new research in the hu-
manities and social sciences, and the "politicization" of the academy are all
among its targets. Conservative critics say that a return to the good old days-
when few people went to college, feminism and multiculturalism did not exist,
and nobody caused trouble - will restore liberal education to its former glory.
Moving beyond political correctness means raising the level of debate above
the misleading attacks, the exaggerated portrayals of campus life, and the
angry dismissal of new ideas. Moving beyond
PC
also means paying attention
to issues that have been obscured by the culture wars, such as the problem of
unequal education in high schools and the tremendous disparities in funding
between elite universities and less prestigious colleges. Above all else, moving
beyond political correctness means recognizing that excellence and diversity
are not at cross-purposes. There is no reason why affirmative action should
lower academic standards, no reason why multiculturalism and feminism can-
not expand our intellectual challenges, and no reason why freedom of speech
must be sacrificed for the sake of equality.
My own experiences as a student and journalist at the University of Chicago
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