Phi Beta Cons

Another Absurd Academic Obsession: Microaggression

Should professors refrain from saying anything that a student (especially from an “underrepresented minority” group, but why not everyone?) might find offensive? That is the concept of “microaggression” and some people are taking it seriously. For example, a group of UCLA grad students recently protested against a professor who had the unmitigated gall to correct poor grammar in their dissertation proposals. In today’s Pope Center piece, Troy Camplin examines this idea and concludes that if it’s valid, then we should stop teaching English.

Of course, deliberate rudeness is to be condemned, but if we tell professors that they should refrain from any criticism, no matter how beneficial it could be to a student, on the speculative grounds that it might cause hurt feelings, we’d lose a lot of useful interaction between teacher and student.

We might also ask if it isn’t a form of aggression to attack well-meaning instructors who want to help students improve, merely because they haven’t found a form of words that couldn’t possibly offend anyone.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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