Originally published by The Province (British Columbia), September 19, 2012. Original link.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time we call a spade a spade. English-speaking Canadians must learn to speak inclusively. Whether you are a long-time resident or a recent immigrant, choose your words more carefully. After all, we should make sure that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists all feel equally included in our society. Inclusivity begins at home when mothers and fathers model appropriate language for their kids.
Gratefully, I’m not an employee of the Durham, Ont., district school board. If I were, what I just wrote could get me in serious trouble with their language police. In fact, I violated their Guidelines for Inclusive Language more than a dozen times in my first paragraph. That could be enough to classify me as a level-one cultural destroyer on their cultural proficiency continuum.
You see, their guidelines prominently display a chart with six different levels. They range from level one, cultural destructiveness, to level six, cultural proficiency. Being tolerant doesn’t count for much in this school district – it only gets you up to level 2. It is also called cultural incapacity. To reach the highest level of inclusiveness and attain cultural proficiency, you need to master a whole new lingo.
For starters, starting a speech with the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” is verboten in that workplace. Apparently, audiences are supposed to be addressed with a more neutral greeting such as men and women. Similarly, you should not refer to people as husbands or wives, they are all simply spouses. Teachers are also expected to replace the terms mother and father with the more neutral title of parent or guardian.
According to the guidelines, the idiom “calling a spade a spade” can’t be used since it allegedly “demean[s] and ostracize(s) people.” Apparently, bigots in the United States sometimes used the word “spade” as an ethnic slur against African Americans during the early 20th century. So notwithstanding that this English phrase dates back to 1542 and ironically means to tell the truth in a direct way, it still can’t be uttered by Canadian teachers.
The silliness doesn’t stop there. It is now officially wrong to refer to someone as Chinese, Korean, or even American.Rather, teachers should identify someone as a person from a particular country. So calling U.S. President Barack Obama an American is a no-no. Rather, we should say that he is a person from America. So when country artist Lee Greenwood sings that he is “proud to be an American,” we should change that to “proud to be a person from America.”
By the way, the same applies to faith and language groups. No longer can teachers identify someone as Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Rather, they should be identified as members of a particular faith community.
For example, Billy Graham is not a Christian, rather he is a person from the Christian community. By the same token, we cannot refer to someone as English-speaking or French-speaking but rather as a person who speaks a particular language.
So let’s put this into practice and see how it works in real life.
Pauline Marois is a person from Quebec, a person who speaks French, and a member of the Roman Catholic community. Unfortunately, some of her comments during the recent Quebec election campaign could be interpreted as hostile to immigrants.
Oops, I did it again. I used a level-one cultural destroyer phrase when I said the word immigrants. According to the Durham District School Board, I’m supposed to refer to them as newcomers instead. Someone should really tell the minister of immigration, I mean the minister of newcomers, that he insults millions of new Canadians, sorry, persons from Canada, whenever he calls them immigrants.
Isn’t it great to know that Durham District School Board values diversity? In fact, they are so committed to diversity that they’ve issued a document that forces everyone to speak exactly the same way.
If we want to see real improvement in our schools, perhaps administrators should spend more time focusing on academic achievement and no time creating politically-correct language guidelines for students and staff.
All persons from Canada should be outraged at this silliness going on in our schools.