Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Here Come the Thought Police

A relative recently took up a new job - a senior professional position in the world of education.

On settling in, this individual was handed a number of documents to sign, one of which was the organization's policy on Inclusive Language.

In this lengthy document, staff were told not only how they should and should not refer to other people, they were also told how to think about such people. This is an important point.

Example: when addressing a married woman, staff were told to "not assume that she had changed her surname to that of her husband."

Here's the point. It is one thing for an organization to have a policy on language that is acceptable within its four walls - though even then, such a policy arguably represents a significant intrusion into people's free speech; it is quite another thing for an organization to insist that its workers think in a certain way and hold certain opinions. This is surely implicit in the command do not assume....

The fact that this command on intellectual freedom was issued by an institution of learning makes the policy even more tragic and unacceptable.

Even my mild-mannered relative saw this as "a step too far".

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