Evan DaCosta (’16) believes that political correctness tends to form a society that “walks on eggshells”. He himself is not a supporter of typical political correctness because he feels that “when you change your language to avoid offending someone, all you are doing is highlighting the differences between yourself and that person, which creates more of an ‘us and them’ complex,” in which disparities between people are extrapolated.
DaCosta acknowledges that respect is a necessity, however he believes that when political correctness is taken to the extreme it “emphasizes contrasts between people, which is what was trying to be avoided in the first place. So it’s really counterproductive.”
DaCosta often experiences moments within the High School when he feels unable to voice his opinions due to the fact that they are not “politically correct”. He expects to be shot down by his peers with this justification, which DaCosta claims proves his point about political correctness emphasizing differences.
While the concept of political correctness itself is rather elusive, the dictionary definition is “the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
AP Psychology teacher Jason Cancella believes that political correctness is rising in notoriety recently because “there were other norms before where it was okay to be verbally abusive to women or people of ethnic minorities, and now this [culture of political correctness] is a different norm.” Times have changed, and so has the range of “acceptable” language.
While Cancella does not see political correctness as inherently negative or positive, he believes that some people who promote political correctness are motivated by “awareness, concern and sensitivity, but others are motivated by a desire to control and to dictate and to be in charge,” such as many current American politicians.
In Cancella’s opinion, a productive conversation regarding political correctness would consist of more than simply “saying you can use this word and you can’t use this word.” In order for progress to be made, Cancella believes that discussing the ways in which language can actually affect people, shape identity and potentially even undermine is key. “For some, just the idea of suggesting that certain terms may be subtly demeaning will anger people, such as using ‘he’ as a gender neutral term even though it’s not.”
Cancella also sees obliviousness as part of the problem. “The tension for political correctness is that it is trying to draw attention to things one might not already notice and that cognitive dissonance is not always easy to navigate.” From a psychological perspective, Cancella believes that people can easily ignore impact around the use of language. This is because the impacts of certain types of language may not be a direct impact on yourself but rather “a collective impact where the consequences are not linear, they are exponential and varied”.
Vonn Albright (’18) strongly believes that political correctness is a positive concept, and that it should be synonymous with being “polite and respectful”.
“I think some people see political correctness in a negative [light], because they think it’s rampant and taking over our language, but I don’t agree. I see it as everyone [gaining] more of an understanding of other cultures, people, and ideas,” Albright said.
For Albright, political correctness is prevalent at ASL, especially regarding race and gender. She believes that knowledge regarding issues of race, gender identity and equality are key when it comes to political correctness, especially in a school that is as culturally diverse as ASL.