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John Karl Wilson Myth of Political Correctness.(Duke University Press, 1995)    

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mjmonar@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu Review: John K. Wilson's "Myth of Political
chris <cgstroh@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu> Review: J. K. Wilson, The Myth of P.C. (Stroh)

Date: Fri, 1 Mar 1996 15:15:14 -0600 
From: mjmonar@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu
Subject: Review: John K. Wilson's "Myth of Political 

Review of John Karl Wilson's "Myth of Political Correctness." (Duke University Press, 1995)

Michael Monardo

The term political correctness was originally used as a criticism liberals placed on themselves for being too radical. Shortly after Reagan took office the concept was applied by conservatives against these radical liberals for the purpose of exploiting extremist doctrines in the realms of education and government. This conservative view took political correctness out of context and attached it to those in favor of abortion rights, multiculturalism, affirmative action, and environmentalism.

The book is meant to open the eyes of both liberals and conservatives to what is really behind the myth of political correctness. The conservative allegations of political correctness corrupting American colleges and universities is unfounded. The belief that our institutions of higher learning are slowly coming under the control of left-wing radicals who want nothing more than to brainwash their student bodies is unsubstanciated. Nonetheless, it is one which has attracted widespread media attention in recent years.

Conservatives feel as though they are victimized in American universities which conform to the so-called "leftist ideology" of political correctness. They feel as though the adherence to affirmative action, multiculturalism, sexual correctness, and speech codes are threats to their own civil liberties. In response to these threats, conservatives have banded together and have used the media to inaccurately bash what they believe to be politically correct universities, professors, and students.

To support this arguement, a number of examples were cited in the book where conservatives have misconstrued the facts in many of their reports on the ramifications of political correctness. For instance, the case involving Jesse Jackson who had led a demonstration on afro-centric education was quoted by conservatives (namely former DOE head William Bennett) as shouting "`Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture's got to go.'" However, when confronted on the issue, Bennett recanted his statement stating that maybe just the students were shouting and not the Rev. Jackson. In fact, there was little, if any, evidence of the chanting in the first place.

The book then focuses attention on the misrepresentation of the facts about the leftist movement from noted authors and academics such as Dinesh D'Souza. D'Souza's views on the cultural aspects of this movement discussed in "Illiberal Education" are greatly distorted. For example, the Cultures, Ideas, and Values program established at Stanford University which serves to give students a more multicultural educational experience was attacked by D'Souza for equalizing certain values indifferent cultures and for attempting to de-emphasizing Western culture. This is a decieving arguement when one takes a look at how D'Souza had come to such conclusions. First of all, he seems to evaluate the entire multi-track curriculum on the basis of one book from one track of the program--"I, Rigoberta Menchu. Secondly, he denounces this book as a politically correct and Marxist view of American Indians. However, the book's portrayal of American Indians and Rigoberta suggest that many of the decisions against marriage and family life that Rigoberta made in the book (two of the main points of conservative ideology) were made on a personal and political basis with regard to her own independent beliefs and, contrary to D'Souza's conclusions, had no ill effect on the future of Native American Indians. In addition, his perspective on the origin of political correctness is skewed. D'souza tends to believe that the concept had originated in the early part of the century and was used by Marxists to impose conformity on their people. However, there was hardly any talk amongst these Marxists of politically correct behavior or what it means to be politically correct.

Because of this backlashing by acadamics, multicultural education involving issues such as race, gender, class, and sexual preference, strikes fear among liberals that our universities will become too Westernized and ethnocentric. There must be an emphasis upon Non-Western teachings if our insitutions wish to teach diversity.

Moving on from multiculturalism, the myth of speech codes which are supposedly supported and instituted by politically correct universities is debated. Conservatives oppose codes that prevent students from exercising their right to free speech no matter what is said and that these codes supress the thoughts and ideas of the conservative right. But asthe author points out, the implementaion of speech codes at universities is nothing new--they have been in place since many American universities were founded. Furthermore, aside from all this alleged surpression and censorship as a result of speech codes, there must be a willingness to acknowledge diffferent views no matter how offensive they can be and that we can learn a lot from understanding these views of dissent. The issue regarding speech codes is not one of political correctness as much as it is one of intolerance from both liberals and conservatives alike.

Under the politically incorrect ideology, affirmative action came under fire from conservatives who saw it as a means for the opression or exclusion of white males. Even though no evidence exists to support this claim, there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotes about the preferential treatment that minorities get in the workplace. According to the conservatives, this is reverse discrimination. The images painted by conservatives are that of a lonely white male trying, as best he can, to find any sort of work in society and often times having to settle for less than what he is qualified for while women and minorities quickly pass them on their way up the socio-economic ladder. However, in the case of the American university, white males still occupy the largest number of faculty and staff positions. Male professors, on average, earn $7000 more per year than their female and minority colleagues. In addition, many of the minority professors are refused tenure because they are held to a higher standard of academic excellence than white males who tend to rely more on reputation and personality than on academic proficiency. The truth about affirmative action, according to Wilson, is that it has failed to breach the barriers of racial discrimination.

Wilson has uncovered the truth about what really goes on behind closed doors at many American universities. Through Wilson's great detective work, the book provides us with insight into what is really changing the face of our institutions of higher learning--Conservative correctness. The myth that white males are victims of multiculturalism, affirmative action, and reverse discrimination has been overplayed by the media as a serious problem on many campuses. There is no infiltration of radical liberals into the power seats of many colleges and universities and the degree of success attributed to college educated white males has not diminished.

Michael Monardo MJMONAR@ACADCOMP.CMP.ILSTU.EDU

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Date: Mon, 11 Mar 1996 10:18:48 -0600 
From: chris <cgstroh@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review: J. K. Wilson, The Myth of P.C. (Stroh) 

The Myth of Political Correctness John K. Wilson Duke University Press, 1995 By: Chris Stroh    

Wilson's book gives an in depth journey to show the true problems of political correctness on college campuses. Political correctness is not the attempt of liberal ideologies or extremists to rewrite the old and change the new, but a conservative attempt to promote their own views. Wilson works to defend the true meanings of political correctness by debunking the myth established by conservative leaders.

The myth Wilson says, is that "conservatives are the victims of a prevailing leftist ideology." (p.1) Wilson describes this so called political correctness movement as being one-sided and continuously applied to the liberal thinkers. Wilson writes, "Whenever conservatives were criticized or a leftist expressed some extreme idea, the story quickly became another anecdote of political correctness. But when someone on the Left was sensor ed....Nobody called it political correctness." (Preface, XV) Throughout the book Wilson continuously challenges the conservative attempts at appearing as the "true victims" of political correctness.

Each chapter in the book is used to describe certain myths of p.c. , that Wilson claims were created by the conservatives. Topics such as Multiculturalism, Speech codes and affirmative action are all defined as being distorted and blown out of proportion by the conservatives. The conservatives try to paint a picture of the innocent professors being silenced by the true radicals of the university system. These radicals as the conservatives claim, are out to ruin education and create a system based on their leftist beliefs. In his writing Wilson works to prove every anecdote of p.c. as being completely wrong and of conservative creation.

The most interesting chapter addresses the myth of reverse discrimination. This chapter redefines the current debate of affirmative action by establish the fact that white males are not discriminated against. Wilson describes reverse discrimination as being the invention of conservative leaders. The author cites that "acceptance to selective schools, hiring in full time tenure track positions at top universities, admittance into leading graduate schools" as being examples of how white males are not discriminated against. These figures show that white males would still be in the majority. The author describes the racial break down of faculty at his college ( the University of Chicago) as being proof of whites in the majority. Wilson states that two percent of the faculty are black (4% of under grads and 3% of grad student) and 2% of the faculty are hispanic. (4%of under grads and 4% of grad students. Wilson claims that the allegations of reverse discrimination are the result of a backlash against affirmative action. I can see this point as being one of legitimate claim. But to the opposite effect, I have seen and heard of examples that prove this myth to be alive and well. Programs, scholarships an admission standards are all change in an attempt to get minority students enrolled. Students who shouldn't belong are pushed through no matter what the consequences. Isn't this reverse discrimination? Why should the standard be lowered to help one group, when it does not apply to the rest. Someone who may be a borderline student may get in if their a minority, but a borderline white student does not have a chance. Diversity in the work place also is reverse discrimination. Companies go out of the way to create more of a diverse work force. Many times this means overlooking qualified candidates just to fill a spot with a racial preference. This system of quotas, makes job hiring very discriminatory.

Wilson also shows some extreme examples of discrimination on college campuses. The author tells of instances where feminists or homosexuals are discriminated and harassed simply because of their beliefs. This backs up Wilson's claim that the only ideas truly oppressed are the ones that are oppose it of the conservative beliefs. He goes on to describe where supporters of gay rights or feminist beliefs receive hate mail, are threatened and hounded out of school. The author tells of how supporters of Anita Hill were denied tenure and drove out of their teaching professions because of their support for Hill. These people are solely attacked on their principles and little else.

Throughout the book Wilson continually comments on Dinesh D'Souza and his book Illiberal Education. The author counters many of D'Souza's points and uses his opinions as sort of a focal point for the conservative side. In order to provide better evidence, Wilson could of cited more conservative writers for more of a expanded view.

Wilson's book is very creative and his claims are supported by many real life examples. The author provides an excellent view of the current situation on college campuses. Wilson uses such examples that help to really define the struggles of political correctness around the country and how they are misinterpreted by people. This book is one that must be on required reading lists. It defines between two different schools of thought and helps put more of a true definition on what political correctness really is. -- Chris Stroh Illinois State University cgstroh@acadcomp.cmp.ilstu.edu       Back to top...