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?