Dan Hart wrote: **** >2) You've also used the term "PC." I honestly don't know what people mean >when they speak of "political correctness." Could you please clarify?
I'd like to think about this awhile, but off hand I think it's the tendency to over compensate for injustices real and imagined. It usually involves the overemphasis of the exception and sometimes involves intellectual dishonesty and sometimes downright fraud. ****
I feel I must say something here. I apologize that it's a little long. I've tried to keep my comments short, but this is an important issue that permeates more than the world of mathematics education. A quick and glib answer would be a disservice to the intellect of everyone on this list.
First, the "good intent" of what is called "political correctness" is to alter the misconception that the world revolves around white anglo-saxon protestant men. In the past, many textbooks heavily promoted men in mathematics and other fields (often in subtle ways that the authors probably did not intend and which makes them even more insidious because you may not realize you are influenced by them over the years). Most names used in examples and exercises were John, Peter, Mary, Sally, etc. (not that these aren't good names or can't belong to people of other ethnicities! :)
It's difficult to avoid this: because of the prejudices against women, non-whites, and other cultures by those who were in power in the West (mainly white males), many women, non-whites, etc. did not have the same opportunities that white males had and so many discoveries, theories, etc. of Western culture are attributed to the men who were allowed to study (and publish!)
Now that we are trying to correct that, we have experienced many people trying to include everyone. As you can imagine, it's not easy. The result is the phenomenon that often is attacked as "politically correct". I guess that the term comes from the politics of trying not to offend anyone.
Personally, I agree that SOMETIMES things go too far. People seem to be too quick to be offended in some cases.
At the same time, however, there IS discrimination in this world, and in this country, and quite a bit of it if you know where to look. Some of it is very subtle. Some of it is very blatant. And some of it, in many places, actually is encouraged. I hardly think that it is fair to say "It usually involves the overemphasis of the exception...." SOMETIMES the exceptions may be overemphasized, yes, but "usually" is a stretch--unless Mr. Hart is referring to a subset of "PC" practices.
As for intellectual dishonesty, Mr. Hart hit a sore point, for me at least. I believe it is dishonest to pretend, for example, that the slaughter of Jews didn't happen; that women have not been ignored in many fields, especially the hard sciences; that EVERYONE in the country (much less the world) is a Christian and/or accepts the Bible as a true authority; that what was tantamount to the stealing of lands from the Native Americans didn't happen; and that we can't learn from the consequences we see today of the prejudices and dishonesties of the past, not to mention those of the present. Things are always more complicated than those who prefer their status quo care to admit.
I can imagine what some people will want to respond: 1)"but those things aren't what he was talking about," or 2)"aren't you being hypersensitive?" 1)on one level he was. These things are also considered part of the PC movement. If one wants to be selective about what parts one is talking about, one should be more specific. and 2) You might think so--if you're white, anglo-saxon, protestant, and/or male. But what if you're none, or only some, of these?
I would like very much to see an example of "downright fraud". (Several should be available unless Mr. Hart's final "sometimes" should have been "very occasionally" or "it's not unheard of that it's".) This is a serious accusation, and I feel it deserves backing up. Perhaps there are frauds of this type out there, but that is something I refuse to accept blindly.
In another post, Michael Paul Goldenberg said: *** I believe I stated repeatedly on this list last year that I'm strongly anti-PC and that I have been reviled at this university at times for being openly against the simple-minded sloganeering of certain folks on the extreme left.... I don't automatically assume that 'equity' and 'diversity' are a threat to my existence, though I balk at their use as a club with which to beat people. ***
I agree: simple-minded sloganeering (which is certainly not the exclusive domain of the left) and "equity" and "diversity" should not be used "as a club". But I (and many others) have no desire to return to the times when only white men could vote, learn, publish.... I'm quite happy, thank you, living in a world where SOME people at least TRY to treat everyone fairly.
Two more things and I'm done.
--please be careful when you use the term "PC". Often (not always, and I'm not even certain I can say "usually", flamers put down your throwers) it is used simply as a dismissal for something one doesn't agree with, largely because it wasn't the way it was "way back when *I* was...." It can be as much a term of pure propoganda as the terms it's trying to put down.
--it's too easy to dismiss something using loaded words such as "politically correct", "conservative", "liberal", and "hypocrite." I make an effort to be PC; I was raised in a conservative household; I consider myself liberal; if you wish, you can call me a hypocrite because I'm not doing everything I can to divest myself of "privileged status" as a middle-class white male. But you don't know me and you don't know everything that affects my perspective, so please don't insult us all. And trying to go back is futile and counterproductive; any solutions have to lie in going forward. The PC movement is about increased awareness--i.e, EDUCATION; maybe once people are aware of the insidious, subtle prejudices, a true solution can be found.
I sincerely believe the world would be a better place if people took more care to understand what goes on around them rather than merely what goes on in front.