Friday, January 30, 2015

New York college bans 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.' salutations

Professors and other employees at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center have been forbidden from addressing students and prospective students with the title “Mr.” and “Ms.” because, campus leaders say, the terms may be offensive. School spokeswoman Tanya Domi told The Wall Street Journal  that the policy aims to work “within a regulatory framework to comply with Title IX legal principles.”

What about students who want to be addressed with a traditional salutation? “It’s difficult to find a principled reason why the perspectives of those who prefer traditional salutations should be valued less than the perspectives of those who favor their abandonment, and that is precisely why language policing is best avoided altogether—it always entails making distinctions based on subjective preferences for a particular viewpoint,” said free speech lawyer Ari Cohn.

The new policy is fraught with problems. For one thing, it will promote disrespect for older indiduals. Instead of calling the delightful preschool toy "Mr. Potato Head," children will start calling him "Potato Head." (Mr. Potato Head, by the way, is over 60 years old.) Worse, if the central character of the British television "Mr. Bean" came to campus, everyone would be forced to call him "Bean" since he has no first name. Kids' show "Mister Rogers" would become just "Rogers."

The problems are endless: "The talented Mr. Ripley," "Mrs. Butterworth," "Mrs. Miniver," "Saving Mr. Banks," "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," "Mr. Belvedere," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Looking for Mr. Goodbar," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." On and on it goes.

The college is making a statement: no matter how offensive our in-your-face policy is to your sad traditional values, it's worth it, if only to prove what a backward Neanderthal you are.

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