Saturday, February 08, 2014

Microaggressions Article at The Pope Center -- and More Musings

My latest at The Pope Center is on the UCLA debacle regarding microaggressions and correcting students' writing. The discussion going on at the end is particularly interesting.

Aria Razfar, whose paper I cite and link, comes by to comment. He and I are actually not all that far off from each other. For example, I agree with him that, "language itself can not be separated from values, identities, and culture." But the problem is that many people (not Razfar, though, I believe) think that one's values, identity, and culture are and ought to be completely unchanging over time. The fact of the matter is, though, that one's values, identity, and culture do change over time. And when you go to a university, you either adapt to the university's values, identity, and culture, or you end up dropping out. Is that wrong? Or is that as it should be?

Humans are social, and social identity comes about in no small part from shared values, identity, and culture. If you want to join my group, you have to conform to my group's values, identity, and culture. Does that mean you will have to give up some of your own values, modify your identity, and adapt to a different culture? Yes. Necessarily so. I did it with each university I attended, I did it with each city to which I moved, and I did it when I married. We all do.

Thus, when a professor corrects you, that professor is attempting to help you adapt to the new values, identity, and culture inherent in university life. If you want to attend a university, that is what you are doing and what you must do. It is no different than if you decided to go live in Saudi Arabia for four years -- you cannot run around in a bikini or say aloud whatever negative opinions you may have about Islam there. Fortunately, the cultural differences are such that the ramifications for not fitting in well in a university are far less personally dangerous, but the general principle is the same. So if you attend a university, you need to understand that you need to adapt to that culture -- and that means, adapt your language to the university and the professors' expectations as well.
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