There’s an adage in politics and propaganda that people interested in gaining government power must “control the narrative,” and it certainly looks like a University of Louisville English instructor teaching a “101” class this fall is ready to do just that – all to push the narrative of “systemic racism” in contemporary America.
An English 101 class offered this semester at University of Louisville is focused on antiracism and forbids ‘disruptive language’ and ‘disparaging commentary,’ according to its syllabus.
All of which could be fine - if that were spelled-out clearly, the assumptions underlying what is “racism” were close to fair, and students were the only ones paying for the classes. But none of the previous criteria are met in this class entitled, “Introduction to College Writing: Commemoration and Public Memory” and taught by graduate teaching assistant Kendyl Harmeling.
In fact, Harmeling’s class syllabus includes this introduction:
2020 marks 157 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and fewer for the years since chattel slavery as an American institution was formally ended across the union. These are facts which came after and were followed by the American system of race-based classification, which has resulted in the denigration of groups of people based on color. This system is still active today with race-specific rules for behavior, demographic wealth gaps, disrupted access to resources, and on. This is the America some of us were born in, from our ancestors through indigeneity, through those who came here by choice, and those who came here by force.
So, of course, “systemic racism” must be responsible for “demographic wealth gaps” and “disrupted access to resources.” Just don’t mention the fact that, until the COVID19 crackdowns by numerous politicians, employment in the US had skyrocketed – and that included the lowest recorded unemployment figures for black and Hispanic residents as of October of 2019. And don’t ask instructor Harmeling what she means by “resources” or “access to resources,” since resources are products of human discovery, recognition, supply, use, and refinement – and all of those depend on the wills of individuals in a free market for their proper appearance and attenuation.
Just keep repeating overblown and erroneous propaganda to perpetuate envy and resentment without any recognition of the processes by which people grow wealthy and all “boats are lifted” by a rising economic tide.
But wait! There’s more in this lovely University of Louisville offer! Writes Hilu:
Harmeling also instructs students to ‘employ inclusive language, which shows that the writer honors the diversity of the human race by not using language that would universalize one element of humanity to the exclusion of others.’ She asks students to use ‘men and women’ or ‘people’ rather than simply ‘man.’ Students are also asked to use ‘they’ rather than ‘he/she.’
And part of what Ms. Harmeling asks is something that can stand as an offering of preference. Sure, she departs from generations of the normative “he” and “mankind,” but it’s understandable that some folks might want to change that standard.
The use of the plural pronoun “they” in place of a singular for a non-gender-specific human subject is problematic. Even if one does not know the identity or gender of a person, one logically cannot use the plural pronoun “they” (or its variants) to describe a single person. Yes, Webster changed its rules on this in 2019, but the editorial team at Webster is incorrect.
To prove it, consider a couple examples. Say, for example, a television news reader tells an ever-dwindling audience:
City police say they have arrested the individual suspected of starting three arson fires in the past month. Officials have not released the identity of the suspect, but say THEY will be arraigned on Tuesday.
That’s simply incorrect and confusing. How many people were arrested? One, or more than one? After all, at first, the reporter said a single suspect had been arrested, but then the reporter said “they”, implying more than one, would be arraigned on Tuesday. Since the reporter did not know the gender of the suspect, the reporter used a plural for a single person.
Then there’s the emergency room. Ask any medical worker banging the boards inside an emergency room what info an EMT needs to offer as a team transports a victim, and you’ll immediately find out that medical teams don’t mess around with plural pronouns and “gender-fancy” language. Those workers need to know how many victims are en route, what they suffer (so far as it can be ascertained) and the gender of the victim, as well as general age, weight, and other factors that play a major role in preparing to receive the patient.
And on a more philosophical level, the use of “they” for a single person turns people away from recognition of people as individuals, throwing each person into the realm of “the plural," stripping each person of the dignity of autonomy. That’s a dangerous phenomenon in a nation-state already rife with collectivist, autocratic rules and a collectivist education system.
The way to manage pronoun “fairness” without sacrificing logic is to use “he or she” when one is uncertain of the gender. Even that becomes clunky at times, and one can be forced to rearrange syntax to get around mentioning the pronoun at all, but it’s far better than misusing “they” because of politically-correct language police.
It’s perfectly fine for a teacher to offer to students a biased, race-baiting, economically myopic English class. People can read about it, attend it, and debate its merits or demerits.
It’s another to suck tax cash off others to pay for it. And, of course, since the University of Louisville is tax subsidized, that’s precisely what this “Introduction to College Writing: Commemoration and Public Memory” class is. Just a few months ago, GOP Senator Mitch McConnell’s office announced $4 million “federal” bucks would be headed to the school, something that forces non-attendees, and non-Kentucky residents, to pay, and something that is not sanctioned by the Constitution McConnell swore to uphold.
So one might ask Ms. Harmeling if she plans on discussing this unfairness – the unfairness that sees her opinions subsidized by others under threat of arrest for tax evasion, the unfairness that sees the promulgation of race-baiting propaganda paid for by people who might disagree.
It’s doubtful Ms. Harmeling does plan on discussing those facts.
Which is educational in itself.