When I was a wee undergrad, I lived through the first wave of political correctness. At the risk of dating myself (what was that word from a couple of days ago? self-sexual? compulsive masturbator?), this would have been late 80’s or early 90’s. I was in a technical field, but there were general education sort of requirements. One was a speech class. On the first day (or maybe second meeting), the teacher, some English department grad student bimbette, started with the usual go around the room, and introduce yourself, fairly innocuous. But then the actual lecture started and devolved quickly into bias and implicit bias (I’m pretty sure she did not use that term, but the idea was essentially formed) and how we needed to be very careful when giving a talk about offending people and making sure we were sensitive to our oppressive nature. So I stood up, gathered my things and walked out. On the way out the teacher stopped class and said, “Oh sorry, I didn’t realize we were boring you?” – note use of ‘we’ to isolate and cast it as the group against you. My response was something along the lines of “You’re not boring me, but I thought this was a class on formulating and presenting ideas to large groups of people, not a politically correct indoctrination session.” I never returned to the class and got an F that I had to expunge at a latter date. But why did I just walk out? Was that cowardice? Did I cede ground that I shouldn’t have? I could have stayed in the class and fought the stupidity – I mean I got an F anyway, maybe I could have convinced someone else, or at least exposed them to something different along the way, even wrong or poorly presented. Am I responsible for where we have ended up?
Around the same time, I was contemplating getting a teaching certificate. As mentioned, I was in a technical field, but being naïve, thought I might enjoy teaching younger kids at some point, no-pedo. There was also some idea of a tight job market and it might be a useful back up credential. We were still very early in the long march through the institutions (or maybe about half way?), but it was still bad. I looked into the requirements and what courses one would have to take in the Department of Education and well over 50% had some sort of PC subtext – or supertext! By way of illustration, a couple of years later after I had moved on (or at least given up on the credential part), one of the required courses included a requirement to go to a gay bar, spend the evening, and write up report about what a reprobate you were if that made you uncomfortable, or more likely, a steaming pile of BS about how enlightening is was and how you are now a better person for having done it, ready to indoctrinate 5 year olds into the ghey. Well, even before that was a requirement, I saw the overwhelming commie slant to the whole process and wanted nothing to do with it, so dropped the idea. Of course I had the convenient excuse I could fall back on that I was working 1.5 jobs, had close to a full school work load, at least in the semesters I’d saved enough money up to be full time, so it was easy to just walk away. But why did I just walk away? Am I responsible for where we have ended up?
These are two examples that are perhaps a bit larger than something like walking away from a discussion when you just didn’t feel like engaging. But are they all part and parcel of a bundle of missed opportunities? Now of course I’m not so narcissistic (I think…) so as to think that lil ole me staying a class and fighting or getting my permission slip to infect young minds would’ve made a difference in the course of history. But maybe 2-3 people would have some exposure to different ideas, and they would have exposed 2-3 other people to them. And if 100 other people had the courage/conviction I lacked, who is to know what would have happened 20 years down the line?
Did I cede the battle field while busy living my life and hence cede the war? I’ve worried that all the my little failures to confront this sort of thing, or pursue courses that might mitigate it has helped lead us to where we are, at least integrated over 100’s or 1000’s of others in similar situations. Did I fail to “tell the truth, or at least not lie”? I don’t have any answers to these questions. But I hope mumble-mumble-mumble years from now, I won’t have the same regrets.