Political Correctness, Still in Control With a Vengence

As a sometimes-academic who has lost jobs because of his lack of political correctness, it is disturbing to encounter continual reminders of the mindset that now gets hired and tenured at today’s colleges and universities. Some of us were sounding warnings ten years ago that this was coming. The warnings went largely unheeded, and now, just as we predicted, political correctness is as all-pervasive on campuses as oxygen is in air.

Let us take for example a minor controversy that recently erupted at the University of Northern Iowa. This controversy came to my attention when I was emailed a copy of a letter to the editor which appeared in the October 4 U. S. News & World Report. The author is a professor of social work. Here is her letter, quoted in full:

“On Military Social Service: How disturbed I was to see your article in the September 6 issue about ROTC as a means of providing funds for a college education. The education associated with ROTC is a contradiction to the academic freedom enjoyed at university campuses; military training on college campuses, in fact, makes a mockery of education. For from taking a global view of learning, ROTC encourages narrow patriotism and a philosophy of any means (killing people and polluting environments) to the end. The institutionalized mistreatment of gays and lesbians in the military and sexual harassment of women are par for the course.” (signed) Katherine Van Wormer, Professor of Social Work, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Picking this letter apart is easy for anyone with a logical mind who is an experienced observer of campus life today. The first point is that the “academic freedom” she appeals to in the second sentence simply doesn’t exist. Any faculty member who criticizes “diversity” programs, or “multicultural education,” or affirmative action, or radical feminism, or special programs for gays and lesbians on campus, quickly learns this. Her “academic freedom” is freedom to agree with those who hold de facto power through now-familiar methods of intimidation.

Proceed to the third sentence. What is this “global view of learning”? Whatever it is, it differs from “narrow patriotism.” I presume, therefore, that it means learning in the context of today’s increasing stealth moves toward global governance and dissolution of U.S. sovereignty under the Constitution. Proponents of the latter are demonized as “narrow patriots” and “isolationists.” I am not sure what to make of the rest of this sentence in its utter lapses of even rudimentary logic. Neither ROTC units nor the military at large “kill people” unless ordered to do so by governments, as they recently were in the former Yugoslavia. In fact, the leftist governments Professor Van Wormer probably favors hold the all-time body count.

Nor does the military “pollute the environment.” Perhaps Professor Van Wormer does not realize that when the Baltic states were freed from Communist domination it was discovered that their rivers and streams were many, many times more polluted than any bodies of water to be found in relatively free societies. In fact, a market-based order places many more checks on environmental pollution than all-powerful governments which have no incentives because they do not answer to their people.

The final sentence, though, is the real kicker. Recall Bill Clinton’s “gays in the military” campaign, which began before he was even in office and basically told us that we had our first politically correct White House. AIDS had become a dominant issue, of course. Now, seven years later, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent trying to find a cure for the disease spread mainly by homosexuals. AIDS however, isn’t the chief problem. Political correctness is the problem. AIDS has become the first politically correct disease in human historyu2014the first disease, that is, to afflict primarily members of a group rapidly achieving politically protected status. According to political correctness, homosexuality is merely “an alternative lifestyle choice,” even though homosexual men have been known to have as many as 400 partners in a year, and sometimes several in a single night.

Finally, could it be that women are “harassed” in the military because the plain truth is, they shouldn’t be there? This particular social experiment was actually tried in Israel in the 1950s, with almost identical results: the presence of women in combat units was a distraction and a disruption. In those days, one could discontinue social experiments when they don’t work. Today, their failure is simply blacked out.

I emailed a very abbreviated version of these remarks both to Professor Van Wormer and to the President of the University of Northern Iowa. I received the following reply from the President’s office: “As an institution of higher education, the University of Northern Iowa wholeheartedly stands behind the right of U.S. citizens to freely voice their views…” Uh-huh. I wonder if the institution would have come to her defense so rapidly if she was criticizing, instead of defending, the views she expresses.

Of course, I heard nothing from Professor Van Wormer herself. Perhaps she is seeking out someone to help her with the big words.

Steven Yates has a Ph.D in philosophy and is the author of Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (San Francisco: ICS Press, 1994). He lives in Columbia, South Carolina, where he teaches a contemporary moral issues course at Midlands Technical College and works as a free-lance writer and consultant.

Original email of Katherine Van Wormer’s letter courtesy of Sterling H. Saunders of IMADWIPAP ( According to Mr. Saunders, IMADWIPAP is an acronym for, “I’M Absolutely Disgusted With Politics And Politicians.”