Professors in many classrooms are encouraging students to be mindful in the kind of language they use in the classrooms. Recently, there has been a push to employ gender-neutral and inclusive terms when speaking and writing, by both the professors and the students. I recently read an article in the Chronicle of Higher education titled “Should a Syllabus Ever Tell Students What Not to Say?”, where an instructor informed the students that they would be penalize for using words like “mankind” or “illegal alien” in class and on assignments. The goal was to emphasize the importance of teaching biases inherent in language. The professor set these expectations in the syllabus and informed the students of the consequences of not following up with these expectations. The professor has received pushback from not only the students but also for other constituents at the university. So what intrigues me is that if classroom is not the place to learn about such inherent biases then where do the students learn this?
I believe that college is a place where students learn not only about their majors but also acquire life long skills. Expectations that faculty set in the classroom regarding the use of language, may not always be well received, but creates an avenue to challenge and explore different ways of knowing and communicating. Often, people use language that is learned from an early age, not always the most politically correct, but it is never too late to practice new skills and become mindful. In my opinion, I would not penalize the students (unless it is a requirement) but I would create opportunities to have dialogues with students when non inclusive language is used. Also it allows for those in the room who the language excludes to get a voice. I am not sure about others but dialogues like these allow me to be self aware and conscious of the language I use when communicating with diverse populations?
Do you think faculty can police certain types of language in the classroom and penalize those who do not adhere to such expectations?
December 1, 2015 @ 9:19 pm
I have to admit…..I’m not sure I am a fan of this. It is one thing to teach students and make them aware of biases, it is another thing to police language in the classroom to the point of giving students poor marks. When professors start telling students what they can and cannot say and how they should think, that is taking away the entire point of college which is learning discourse, learning how to debate opinions, and being exposed to ideas other than your own – it shouldn’t be a place where people are afraid to use the wrong word. And not just words…what if this policing extended to actual opinions? To papers and theories? Of course, we don’t want people going around using the n word and things like that…but words like “freshman”? Are we really going to make students so afraid of using the wrong word or words in order to protect their grades and do well in the class that they may not even want to contribute to discussion anymore?
This whole idea has good intent….but I think it is contrary to the point of higher education. We can expose people to their own bias without penalizing them (or worse, ostracizing people who disagree to the point that the classroom becomes an echo chamber).
December 2, 2015 @ 6:45 pm
My opinion is that we should create spaces outside the classroom to address these issues, not within. The classroom is losing its sanctity as people continue to imply the need for moderation of professors and their teaching approaches. It is most definitely a slippery slope.
We do students a disservice by not helping them defend their stance by being challenged, be it academically or socially.
December 2, 2015 @ 11:26 pm
A student’s parents should tell those students what not to say. Unless those students are saying something that is oppressive or harmful to others let them talk. Don’t squash their academic freedom unless they’re being a bigot – bigotry is not a freedom, it’s a character defect.
December 3, 2015 @ 3:02 am
I think that faculties can placed some rules for their classes, but they should be logical.
It is acceptable to mention some rules in syllabus, but they cannot restrict the students to talk freely. I believe that drinking and eating in class are a little impolite , so the professors can ask students to avoid these tasks. But, it is not logical to expect that the students should not use some words!!