The Ebb And Flow Of Political Correctness

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
3rd September 2011

Tagged: relativism tolerance

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It was while I was serving on my children’s Parents and Citizens’ Association that I saw how much the “P&C” really stood for “Political & Correct”. Every latest fashion in political correctness drove the decisions. Many of the policies that teachers wanted to implement were opposite to what the majority of the parents wanted. However, to oppose the agenda was to be politically incorrect.

The difficulty of being a Christian in such an environment was not so much the issue of raffles and gambling; that was actually straightforward. No amount of argument would convince the P&C to miss out on the easy money of gambling. The importance of modelling good eating meant the canteen only sold ‘healthy’ food. But there was no way for that logic to be applied to fund raising by gambling.  So we made our protest, donated an equivalent amount of money, and were dismissed as religious nutcases – harmless and ignored.

The difficulty of making a Christian presence was far greater at the level of the politically correct. It was the days of the high water mark of feminist ideology. So there was to be no differentiation between the boys and the girls. We were assured that at the primary school age there was no physical developmental difference between the sexes. Academic ‘Studies’ were cited from leading physical educationalists that proved there was no difference. We were also told that our old fashioned stereotyping of sports into male and female was having a deleterious effect upon our daughters’ development. So there were to be no differences between the sports that they played. All the teams were to be mixed.

It just so happened that there were no men on the staff to coach rugby league so the school dropped that brutish and violent sport for one with better physical educational outcomes. The teachers knew that some of the boys were disappointed but that was just the result of the media’s promotion of league and parental stereotyping of sport.

But little boys and little girls are different. Certainly, every generalization has its exceptions. For example, men are taller than women but there are some women who are taller than some men. But the exception does not negate the truth of the rule that men are taller than women. Nor should exceptions disprove that boys and girls are different. We need to be careful not to turn generalizations into the kind of stereotypes that will not allow exceptions to be exceptional. We must also make sure that we do not push the difference to such an extent that we make either boys or girls into second-class citizens. The Christian argument for our equality before the law comes from our equality in creation and redemption. Men and women are together created in God’s image and there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus, for we are co-heirs of eternal life (Genesis 1:26-28, Galatians 3:28, 1 Peter 3:7). 

But it is still true that boys are different to girls. God did not make us as hermaphrodites, but as males and females (Genesis 1:26-28). And the differences between the sexes are more profound than those needed simply for procreation. These differences do not commence with marriage or adulthood or puberty – they are in the make up of little boys and girls. While it is wrong to overemphasise the differences, it is an equal mistake to underemphasise them, or worse, to deny their existence as was the fashion in the 1980’s.

Recently, one of Sydney’s leading feminist journalists wrote about raising boys:“I had silly ideas. I was one of those arguing 20 years ago there was no difference between little boys and little girls. I have had to eat my words. I learnt you do not inject sensitivity into boys by making them play with dolls or by crushing their boisterousness. What were we thinking?” (SMH 27th Aug, 2011).

My attempts to speak out against those policies and the feminization of our local public school fell on deaf ears. The need to help girls get ahead was such a mantra of the time that any attempt to help boys’ education was viewed as a chauvinistic backlash that had to be resisted to the death. I soon discovered that parents’ views were welcomed only when they concurred with the current ‘correct’ fashions.

But our school was spared the worst of these politically correct ideologies by the competing political correctness of multi-culturalism. There were several ethnic groups represented in the school and though the Anglo-Saxons were predominant at the P&C, we were not in the majority within the school. One father spoke up for his ethnic group with a simple argument that won the day. His argument ran: “I have two daughters in this school. In my culture, where lots of the parents come from, little boys do not play with little girls. My daughters are not going to play with boys.”

It was a non-negotiable argument. It allowed for no exceptions. The feminists spluttered about tolerance, people’s rights, girls’ developments and shifting social values – but to no avail. Nothing was shifting his commitment to his culture.  And in the world of the politically correct, multiculturalism trumped feminism. So segregated sporting programmes continued in the school (though not rugby league – nothing could save league from the feminization of education).

Yet political correctness is always changing. And yesterday’s argument will not necessarily win today’s debate. So later this week another columnist in the same newspaper wrote about certain politically incorrect Jewish and Islamic practices. She wrote: “Our desperation to avoid intolerance allows intolerance to thrive. Our determination not to offend means we tolerate the thoroughly offensive.” These practices were not matters of “cultural relativism” but “moral relativism”, and were “profoundly dangerous to a free and fair society”.

So questions are now being asked about multi-culturalism - that most politically correct of social philosophies. Without a clear moral compass, that exists outside our culture, we will always be tossed to and fro on the currents of the P&C.

 

A different article on the P&C can be found here.