Jonathan Chait has a good piece at the Atlantic documenting the University of New Hampshire’s new rules of politically correct speech. It is very appropriately called “Everything is Problematic.”
While I do think educators should try to avoid using hurtful or stereotypical speech, UNH’s new guidelines would have me so worried that I think I would be terrified to say anything in the classroom. Here are some examples of words and expressions that should not be used, along with their preferred replacements:
1. Older people, elders, seniors, senior citizen (People of advanced age)
2. Poor person (person living at or below the poverty line, people experiencing poverty). Likewise, don’t say “rich,” say instead person of material wealth.
3. Obese, overweight (people of size). Really, UNH? People of size? don’t all people have size by definition?
These new guidelines also seem like they would lead to passive, roundabout ways of speaking that hinder clear communication. Just hearing things like “person of material wealth” would make my eyes glaze over as a student.
Seema Jayachandran has a new paper in the JDE called “Incentives to Teach Badly: After-School Tutoring in Developing Countries.” I’ve heard anecdotal tales of this phenomena in developing countries and it certainly seems plausible, but it is exciting that someone is testing whether it is actually true. Sadly, it seems to be true, at least in Nepal. Here is the abstract:
Schools in developing countries frequently offer for-profit tutoring to their own students. This potentially gives teachers a perverse incentive to teach less during school to increase demand for their tutoring. Through this mechanism, the market for tutoring can adversely affect student learning, especially for students who do not participate in tutoring. I model and present empirical evidence on these effects, using survey and test score data from Nepal. The evidence suggests that when schools offer for-profit tutoring, teachers teach less during the regular school day. As a consequence, performance on the national secondary-school exam appears to suffer among students with a low propensity to enroll in tutoring. An implication is that discouraging teachers from tutoring their own students or reducing entry barriers for third-party tutors could increase student achievement.
Educational prospects don’t look so good when this is the rallying sign for your country’s teachers.