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Political correctness can be traced back to the early 1980s when it was used to describe a position or belief associated with nontraditional viewpoints in the United States. Through the 1980s, the term was infrequently used until the media grasped it and started to apply it to environmentalist and feminist viewpoints. Political correctness has evolved into a host of practices with a negative tone associated with groups that attempt to stifle the positions and speech of other groups.
Political correctness (adjectivally: politically correct; commonly abbreviated PC) is a term used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society. In public discourse and the media, the term is generally used as a pejorative, with an implication that these policies are excessive or unwarranted. Since the late 1980s, the term has been used to describe a preference for inclusive language and avoidance of language or behavior that can be seen as excluding, marginalizing, or insulting to groups of people disadvantaged or discriminated against, particularly groups defined by ethnicity, sex, gender, or sexual orientation.
A Progressive’s Guide to Political Correctness
With the progression of political correctness, multiculturalism has arisen. Multiculturalism is a paradigm that is furthered through the use of politically correct language. It is the realization of equal opportunity for minorities, the disabled, women, and others. The aim is inclusiveness of the broader cultural content.
Politically correct language is similar to social labeling. The meaning conveyed by words depends not only on the textual context under which the word is spoken but also on the context into which the words are launched. The listener’s background and individual experience affect the interpretation of the word’s meaning. Positive and progressive social labeling is associated with a positive self-image and greater flexibility.
Political correctness thrives from the debates between politically correct and anti-politically correct groups. This is necessary in order to keep the groups in check. Political correctness could stifle universities, murder the English language, and set one interest group against another if not kept in line by anti-politically correct groups. On the other side, anti-politically correct groups could breed intolerance and repress minorities.
Political Correctness Breeds Insanity
The movement of political correctness has influenced many people to desert the idea of a common culture. Though we have many differences, there is still a common intellectual, artistic, and moral legacy that we hold.
The effects of political correctness are seen most in the world of academia. University campuses are where politically correct thinking is thought to have taken hold. The view of history has been progressively changing to include more viewpoints and descriptions from a multicultural view. University administrations have been forced to review policies concerning cultural discrimination. Policies have been developed in order to reduce sexism and racism. However, many people have seen political correctness as a violation of free speech. The word “diversity” has been used to enforce uniformity on campuses through the enactment of politically correct laws. The aim of political correctness is to reduce prejudice, but it has been ineffective in the context of real prejudice. The changing of a word or an image will not change the world.
By C. R. Stites
Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999)