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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What IS Politically Correct?

I'm an avid researcher.  I like to know every little detail of information before making a decision.  I am also an avid planner.  Not just professionally (I have a Master's Degree in Urban Planning) but also personally.  There is not a spontaneous bone in my body.  Even when we go on vacations I like to have almost every detail planned before even purchasing tickets or booking a hotel.  These personality traits are both a burden and a blessing.  They helped me complete two masters degrees simultaneously.  They helped me publish a book in the final trimester of pregnancy with my second child.  But they also have forced me to re-evaluate the way I parent, because very few aspects of parenthood are predictable and plan-able.

I spend countless hours (certainly more than I'd like to admit) scowling the internet for information about how to deal with specific parenting dilemmas, tips for helping my children's development, topics in child psychology, and ideas for how to deal with the daily complications of parenting.  Now-a-days every third Facebook post on my newsfeed relates to politics in some fashion, so I spend an equally lengthy amount of time scowling political articles, blogs, and news websites.  So, when faced with this new idea of how to address politics in my parenting I first had to do some research.  It was a can of worms, but here's what I learned...

History of Political Correctness

The term Politically Correct is "used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society" (Wikipedia).  Apparently, the term didn't have wide spread use until the 1990s when a series of articles by the The New York Times brought it into mainstream media. If your interested in the specifics of the term "Politically Correct" there is a great decade-by-decade generalized account on Wikipedia.  Certainly check out the citations at the bottom of the Wikipedia page for more detailed reading.  Otherwise, here is a chart summary of the origins and uses of the term.

Current Meaning of Politically Correct

Being "Politically Correct" has largely been criticized because it holds peoples feelings in too high a regard and has been considered by Conservatives as a way of "babying" issues and groups of people.   An article published in January 2016 in the Washington Post suggested that Conservatives often use the term to ridicule to an ideological opponent.  In contrast, it is used by Liberals as a way of showing respect and inclusion to groups of people who have been historically marginalized.

WikiHow suggests that being Politically Correct serves an "important purpose" because "it promotes equality by demonstrating an understanding that all people and groups are valuable to society". WikiHow also suggests that speaking in a Politically Correct way can actually begin to change sexist, racist, and homophobic thought.  They suggest that choosing respectful language helps others hear your respect and reciprocate it.  This suggests that being Politically Correct is about more than language use, it's about respect for others.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned in my research on being Politically Correct is the idea that it is about more than language, it is about RESPECTING OTHERS OPINIONS.  There is a line between respecting other's opinions and wanting to understand how they came to their beliefs, and accepting blatantly racist, sexist, and phobic speech (more on this line in future posts).    It is important to note that being Politically Correct doesn't mean respecting or tolerating hate speech.  Being Politically Correct means respecting that other people have opinions that you may or may not agree with.  It means understanding that their thoughts and opinions are based in their own experiences (life experiences, religious experiences, and in some cases lack of experiences with certain groups of people) and that their voices deserve to be heard.  

What does this have to do with Parenting?

I choose to take this term at it's foundation: showing respect towards others. I will wear the label Politically Correct with pride because it means that I am showing respect to ALL PEOPLE and recognizing that their thoughts and opinions (as long as they are not hate speech) are valid. It does NOT mean agreeing with political opposition, it means respecting the position of political opposition.  I think it also means trying to learn the roots of thoughts and opinions that differ from your own.  Part of respect is understanding.  As a parent, I think that this is an important example to set for our children.  Surely, none of us wish to purposefully guide our children to be racist, sexist, or phobic of any group of people.  In order to teach our children respect towards others we have to show it ourselves.

In what ways do you strive to be a Politically Correct example for your children?  Please share your thoughts on this term and it's importance in Parenting below.


  1. I don't know that if these days there is such a term as "Politically Correct"

    1. Thanks for your comment Andrea. I agree, it's a difficult thing to be Politically Correct in our current political atmosphere! Certainly the term has had negative connotations throughout history and there has been controversy over being Politically Correct (especially with the current trend towards the blunt "say what you want" politics we saw during this past election cycle)... but I think that showing each other RESPECT is essential in politics. We need to first show each other respect so that we have have intelligent and meaningful conversations about politics.