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I Have to be P.C., but I don’t Have to Like It

Over the course of my work life, I have been in positions that I am responsible for people.  Their successes, their failures.  Whether I hire them or not.  Whether I keep them at the company or not.  I’m in - oh no - MANAGEMENT.  I’ve been told I’m a pretty nice person - heck, I even got 100% on my performance ratings from the people who report to me this year.  But underneath my work disguise, I am NOT politically correct.

In my work experience, I have had to "separate" a person, or "end their employment arrangement."  Nope, I can’t fire them.  An employee can’t suck at what they do, they are "underperforming."  I see it in the school system, too.  Remember the days of grades A, B, C, D and F?  The only "F" I see anymore is on "The Fairly Odd Parents" (dear ole Mr. Crocker).  My son brings home O, S, N and the like, and soon to come more "normal" grades such as 1-5 (finally, as he hits 3rd grade).  Teachers in the UK don’t want to use the term "fail" and think they should use the term "deferred success" in order to reduce the risk of demoralizing the student.  Teachers here don’t want to grade with red ink, as it hurts the student’s self-worth or self-esteem - instead they want to grade in purple ink.  Next, they won’t grade at all!  Perhaps the student should decide what grade they get - then they’ll be "bought in."  You know the banter - I’m sure most of you have experienced it either in your own job, in your children’s education or even reading the mainstream news. 

Everywhere, words have evolved into some homogenized version of what they used to be.  These changes have a direct and distinct impact on our society and how we perceive what is going on around us.  Here’s just a few, across the spectrum, with some help from Wikipedia:

  • Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” became “Person of the Year”

  • Chairman was replaced by chair (policeman or policewoman was replaced by police officer, so on and so forth)

  • "Merry Christmas" is often replaced with "Happy Holidays".

  • Blacks became Negroes, then became blacks again, then became Afro-Americans, then became African Americans

  • The elderly became senior citizens.

  • Foreign students became international students.

  • “English as a Foreign Language” became “English as a Second Language," then "English for Speakers of Other Languages."

  • The ghetto became the inner city.

  • "Alms" evolved into "poor relief" and became "welfare," which in turn morphed into "public assistance."

  • Genocide became ethnic cleansing.

  • Terrorist has been replaced – via the MSM - with insurgent or bomber or protester or poor guy who is just misunderstood (okay, this one I embellished on a bit).

  • Problem or conflict became issue

  • "Hospital" became "Health care center."

  • Doctor or nurse became health care provider.

  • Backward became mentally retarded, which in turn became slow, then mentally handicapped, then mentally challenged.

  • "Heart attack" became a "cardiovascular event."

  • "juvenile delinquents" became "children at risk"

  • The Department of Prisons became the Department of Corrections.

  • The "War Department," together with the "Navy Department" became the "Defense Department."

  • Illegal alien became Illegal immigrant (though many if not most illegals are not by definition "immigrants," or people who intend to relocate to the United States permanently), which has recently been replaced with the term undocumented worker.

It’s hard to keep up with some of these changes.  Not that I necessarily disagree with some changes to the words we use to describe situations or people.  As a manager of people, telling someone that our employment arrangement needs to end versus "you are fired" makes it a bit easier on me.  But is it really appropriate to call a terrorist something by any other name? 

I truly believe this "dumbing down" of society as a whole will not serve us well in the future.  For example, isn’t competition part of success?  If every little Janey or every little Johnny gets the same grade, or they are all told they are doing well, where is the competition?  If everything is sugar-coated, how do people know the truth?  I’ve seen the impact in the working world - there’s a strong sense of entitlement from a higher percentage of people new to the workforce now than early in my career.  And I can’t speak about it with them in a way that is straightforward without risk of someone filing some kind of claim (either via a law suit or a myriad of other avenues).  These are people that come in, do the bare minimum or less, but get pissed when their performance review is just average or below average when compared with their peers.  Growing up, they were TAUGHT that they were good, even if they are not.  They are not expecting this kind of news - I’ve even been told in the most egregious example of "underperformance" by an employee "well, there’s *some* work in there."  What a rude awakening, this whole working world thing.   Oh, and I don’t write my performance reviews in purple ink, either. 

Update:  tee bee over at Guide to Midwestern Culture has a response, a Merri response.   

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