General Education Title Turns 'pc'

San Diego State is following suit in political correctness with other universities across the country by dropping the word “foreign”from the general catalog’s “Foreign Language Requirement.”

According to Dean of Division of Undergraduate Studies Geoffrey Chase, the University Senate decided to delete the word “foreign”from the title last Tuesday. Chase said the extraneous word carries negative connotations and should, therefore, be omitted in the next publication of the general catalog.

Members of the Undergraduate Council, who drafted a rationale, in support of this initiative wrote: “The term ‘foreign’ has been used to designate something alien and is as ethnocentric and inappropriate as using ‘oriental’ to designate a person of Asian descent.”Moreover, members pointed out many universities that have already changed the wording of the requirement such as Stanford University,University of Michigan, University of Chicago and University ofTexas.

Chase said he knew of some Cal State Universities that have already made the transition. CSU San Marcos did so in 1999. Prior to this, Chase said other alternatives for the existing title included”Non-English Language” and “Second Language,” but were both rejected by the council since English is not always a primary language in the household. He said the change will be implemented at SDSU free of cost and he does not expect any problems with it.

“I don’t think it is too vague,” Chase said. “From my perspective, the term ‘language’ is fine.”

Although the action does not change graduation requirements, linguistics and oriental languages professor Zev Bar-Lev disagrees with the council’s decision and considers it harmful. He said while small doses of political correctness can be helpful to avoid giving offense in writing, its excess will hog-tie writers and speakers.

“The inevitable result is new stereotypes: female fire person, male nurse,” he said.

Bar-Lev said stereotyping is the real villain within the issue.

“If I have to choose a stereotype, I no more want to be forced to choose the unrealistic one over the realistic one,” he said.”Presumably the requirement listing is clear enough legally, but why the debasement of language by subordinating accuracy to PC-ness?”

Classics and humanities professor Nicholas Genovese, who also opposes this motion, said a ‘Language Requirement’ does not suffice.

“The original purpose of our ‘foreign’ language requirement (is)to introduce liberal arts and sciences majors to foreign cultures, traditions and nations through other languages and literatures,”Genovese said. “A ‘language requirement’ does not ensure this.”

According to Bar-Lev, many universities are oblivious that their speech codes create a problem for a great American value – free speech. He said many universities seek diversity of skin color, but few seek diversity of opinion in their faculty or guest speakers.However, diversity of opinion is what a university should be all about, he said.

Biology senior Ken Colburn said he doesn’t think the word”foreign” is necessary, but also believes the issue is a little irrelevant.

“I think it shows how our society has become more and more politically correct to the point where we’re afraid to offend anyone,” he said.

Communication sophomore Tamara Murray said the movement from”Foreign Language Requirement” to “Language Requirement” doesn’t bother her.

“It makes sense,” Murray said. “By assuming English is the only non-foreign language, the term could seem discriminatory. It’s something I don’t usually think about as a native speaker.”

This article was originally published in The New York Times.

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