It’s possible to be too politically correct
The title of maid has been changed to household assistant. Janitors are now environmental workers. The color “flesh” has been changed to “peach” because every ethnic group has a different skin tone, so it is not a correct term. To name the peach color “flesh” only represented the average skin tone of Caucasians, which is racially discriminatory in a globalized, diversified society. “Political correctness” was taken into consideration in the renaming of the color. Many derogatory expressions against blacks, Chinese and Japanese have been discouraged from daily usage.
What will happen if political correctness is emphasized excessively? Last week, the New York Post featured an interesting article. The New York City Department of Education is banning references to dinosaurs, birthdays, Halloween, homes with swimming pools and computers, terrorism, and other select topics in citywide tests. The reasoning behind the ban is to prevent uncomfortable feelings among students. Discussion of dinosaurs might upset Christian fundamentalists believing in creationism. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays. Halloween suggests paganism. Some children from not-so-affluent families may feel sensitive toward homes with swimming pools and computers.
The ban by the New York City Department of Education might sound strange to many Koreans, but it is based on a long-standing debate in American society. Multiculturalism took American education by storm in the 1990s. Armed with political correctness, the diversity education climaxed in the debate over “History Textbooks: A Standard and Guide” in 1994. The advocates of diversity and multiculturalism completely denounced racial and gender bias. They claimed that most of the recommended books had been written by dead, white, European males, and therefore, the school reading recommendation lists were not appropriate. Then, many textbook publishers began screening controversial words and phrases referring to appearance, evolution, wealth, abortion and abuse according to their own censorship standards based on political correctness. A passage on a test discussed peanuts but did not mention those with peanut allergies, so nutritional information on peanuts was removed from the passage.
The diversity-oriented education in America has evoked different opinions, and the ongoing debate has yet to reach a conclusion. The discussion is based on the fundamental differences on educational philosophy and American society. Nowadays, Koreans are increasingly aware of political correctness. It has been only 10 years since the color “flesh” became peach, so it is desirable that the awareness is growing. However, it is regrettable that so many people are packaging their political interests, ambitions for power and their personal preferences for certain politicians with political correctness.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun