America’s universities are making increasingly bold attempts to police language on campus. In addition to encouraging students to use “preferred pronouns,” a growing number of schools are issuing language guides to help students avoid non-inclusive and “harmful” words like mother, father, Christmas trees, bunnies and … America.
Activists have defended these efforts as simply a matter of politeness, but as a professor of rhetoric I know that there are dark motives that are driving this language-policing.
Rhetoric is the study of how language and symbolic communication produces persuasion: the political left is using rhetorical tactics to change the way students speak in order to advance “social justice” ideology across our culture.
There are dark motives driving this language-policing.
This means that the universities’ ideologically-inflected “language guides” are really a form of thought control – one that is specially calibrated to foment radical political reforms by changing how we think about our world.
George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” offers us a powerful representation of how changing the words we use can bring about changes in ordinary life. But it’s important to remember that this book was a reaction to real-world historical examples of language-policing in totalitarian societies – not, as is commonly supposed, an imaginative anticipation of a future oppressive society that might use these forms of political control.
These made-up words supposedly denote newly discovered gender identities. But the real motive here is to condition students to believe the propaganda that says there are other options for one’s identity besides “male” and “female.”
For another example, consider how Springfield College, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, and University of Wisconsin advised students to remove the terms mother and father from their vocabularies. The presumptive reason for the change is to make sure that people raised without a mother or father don’t feel “marginalized.” But the policy actually works to erase the different, essential ways that men and women help in successfully raising a child.
If the woke activists can eliminate the words mother and father, they can eliminate our ability to conceive of the different ways that the two sexes contribute to nurturing children. This erasure wrongly suggests that alternative family structures are just as conducive to child-rearing as any other, which in turn incentivizes college students (i.e. future parents) to disregard traditional norms for family formation. And that, of course, is precisely the point.