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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Mastering newspeak at Stanford

Will Stanford continue to award master's degrees? Will my daughter's major -- American Studies -- need a new name?

"Circle the wagons" and "hold down the fort" are listed as harmful because they suggest aggressive savages are "on the warpath" and unwilling to "bury the hatchet."

Stanford's IT department has released a guide to "harmful language" -- replacing "American" with "U.S. citizen" was the most controversial -- that was publicized and mocked on the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

The guide suggests alternatives for potentially racist, sexist, ableist, culturally appropriative, gender-binary-promoting or violent terms.

The Journal:

Gangbusters” is banned because the index says it “invokes the notion of police action against ‘gangs’ in a positive light, which may have racial undertones.” Not to beat a dead horse (a phrase that the index says “normalizes violence against animals”), but you used to have to get a graduate degree in the humanities to write something that stupid.

"He/she" is out. The guide suggests using the person's name or "they/them" until a personal pronoun is provided. "Chairman/woman" is no good because it leaves out gender-neutral chairs.

"Masked study" should replace "blind study," which "unintentionally perpetuates that disability is somehow abnormal or negative, furthering an ableist culture," according to the guide.

"Chief" is a slur when used for a Native American and cultural appropriation when used for a non-Indigenous person, the guide advises. "Tribe" is out too.

"Master" has nothing to do with competence. "Historically, masters enslaved people, didn't consider them human and didn't allow them to express free will, so this term should generally be avoided."

"Trigger warning" could be triggering. The alternative is "content note."

Steve Gallagher, Stanford's chief information officer, denied that the university is anti-"American," and said the guide isn't university policy.

Big Brother is watching and listening to you, writes the Stanford Review, a conservative student publication. The editorial uses as many "harmful" words as possible.

. . . this type of stupidity is no surprise coming from the Stanford administration. Stanford whips its freshmen into shape during its ultra-politically correct student orientation and continually pressures students to submit to the woke newspeak regime. These crazy and Orwellian rules of engagement on campus include putting one’s preferred pronouns on their dorm room door, and including them in all introductions as a rule of thumb.
. . . Master these rules, we’re told, and our time at Stanford will be a cakewalk, where the bells of diversity and inclusion chime a merry tune.
. . . No longer can we say someone is addicted to cocaine — that “trivializes their experience” — instead we should say a person is “devoted” to cocaine, which is obviously much better.
. . . The phrase blackbox is also on the list, supposedly for assigning “negative connotations to the color black, racializing the term.” This ought to puzzle computer scientists, who know that a blackbox algorithm can often be a blessing. But we wouldn’t expect the Stanford IT department to know that given they can’t figure out how to design a functioning enrollment system. Whitespace also made the list for assigning “value connotations based on color (white = good).” Anyone who’s ever taken a test should be confused… after all, a lot of whitespace likely entails a failing grade.
Descriptive phrases like ‘immigrant’ and ‘prostitute’ are on the chopping block as well, with suggested alternatives “person who has immigrated” and “person who engages in sex work” that use “person-first language [which] helps to not define people by just one of their characteristics.” We propose the term “Stanford student” be added to the list, with the proposed ‘person-first’ alternative being “human being who attends college at Stanford University (they/them).”

The list will be endorsed by one group, the Review suggests: "Students desperate to hit a word limit on an essay."

157 views2 comments


Dec 27, 2022

Notice what is missing? All of the derogatory terms that might be used against white people. "Redneck" is not found. Neither is "white trash", "gringo", or "anglo".

The idea that "chief" is bad shows a poor understanding of both etymology and history. Chief is an English word, going back centuries (related to the French word "chef") and was used in the form of "chief accountant" or "chief engineer" long before it was used to refer to the person in charge of a tribe. The idea that it is disrespectful, when it has long been used to refer to other top dogs (see what I did there?), is simple foolishness. Only an English professor could show such poor understanding of …


Dec 24, 2022

Etymologically, "master" comes from the Latin "magister," which means "teacher."

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