How Incorrect Can Politically Correct Be?

"Mine is a world of incomprehensible shad...

“Mine is a world of incomprehensible shadows”. Severely retarded mentally and physically, she never spoke, was stunted and probably never walked. She was one of a quarter of the world’s children at risk of iodine deficiency, known to be the world’s leading cause of preventable mental retardation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has proposed changing the terminology it uses in its regulations and its materials. The SSA proposes changing the term mental retardation” to “intellectual disability.” The Administration has proposed making these changes because it thinks that its current terms can be offensive to some people and that these terms carry negative connotations.

All references to “mental retardation” are being changed

More than two years ago, Congress required that the term “intellectual disability” be used in place of “mental retardation” in all federal health, education and labor policy. This requirement did not apply to the Social Security Administration, however.

In early 2013, the SSA finally moved to follow the lead of Congress. “Advocates for individuals with intellectual disability have asserted that the term ‘mental retardation’ has negative connotations, has become offensive to many people, and often results in misunderstandings about the nature of the disorder and those who have it,” said the SSA in the proposed rule  (NPRM) published in the Federal Register.

The 30-day public comment period on the proposed rule has just passed, and it looks as though the rule will move forward. When it is finalized, all references to “mental retardation” within the SSA’s Listing of Impairments and other rules will be changed to “intellectual disability.”

Also, “mentally retarded children” will be replaced with “children with intellectual disability.”

The language changes are not meant to alter the way SSD claims are evaluated for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Intellectual disability is just one of many mental issues that can entitle you to Social Security Disability benefits. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are examples of other mental health issues that can lead to a disability finding.

Political correctness, or politically correct (PC) is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent.

Widespread use of the term politically correct and its derivatives began when it was adopted as a pejorative term by the political right in the 1990s, in the context of the Culture Wars. Writing in the New York Times in 1990, Richard Bernstein noted “The term ‘politically correct,’ with its suggestion of Stalinist orthodoxy, is spoken more with irony and disapproval than with reverence. But across the country the term p.c., as it is commonly abbreviated, is being heard more and more in debates over what should be taught at the universities.” Bernstein referred to a meeting of the Western Humanities Conference in Berkeley, California, on “‘Political Correctness’ and Cultural Studies,” which examined “what effect the pressure to conform to currently fashionable ideas is having on scholarship”. Bernstein also referred to “p.c.p” for “politically correct people,” a term which did not take root in popular discussion.

Within a few years, this previously obscure term featured regularly in the lexicon of the conservative social and political challenges against curriculum expansion and progressive teaching methods in US high schools and universities. In 1991, addressing a graduating class of the University of Michigan, U.S. President George H. W. Bush spoke against “a movement [that would] declare certain topics ‘off-limits,’ certain expressions ‘off-limits’, even certain gestures ‘off-limits'” in allusion to liberal Political Correctness. The most common usage here is as a pejorative term to refer to excessive deference to particular sensibilities at the expense of other considerations. The converse term “politically incorrect” came into use as an implicit term of self-praise, indicating that the user was not afraid to ignore constraints associated with political correctness.

The central uses of the term relate to particular issues of race, gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture and worldviews, and encompass both the language in which issues are discussed and the viewpoints that are expressed. Proponents of the view that differences in IQ test scores between Blacks and whites are (primarily or largely) genetically determined state that criticism of these views is based on political correctness.

Examples of language commonly referred to as “politically correct” include:

  • Intellectually disabled” in place of “Mentally Retarded” and other terms
  • “Gay” in place of “homosexual” and other terms
  • “Sexually dysfunctional” in place of “perverted” and other terms
  • “Sex care provider” in place of “prostitute” and other terms
  • African American” in place of “Black,” “Negro” and other terms
  • Native American” (United States)/”First Nations” (Canada) in place of “Indian”
  • “Gender-neutral” terms such as “firefighter” in place of “fireman,” police officer in place of policeman.
  • Terms relating to lack of various common human abilities, such as “visually impaired” or “hearing impaired” in place of “blind” or “deaf”
  • “Caucasian culturrally-challenged” in place of “white trash” and other terms
  • “Undocumented alien” in place of “illegal immigrant” and other terms
  • “Economically unprepared” in place of “poor” and other terms
  • “Sanitation engineer” in place of “janitor” or “garbage man” and other terms
  • “Near-life experience” in place of “abortion” and other terms
  • “Youth group” in place of “gang” and other terms
  • “Senior citizen” in place of “old person” and other terms
  • “Holiday”, “winter” or “festive” in place of “Christmas”

In the United Kingdom, “political correctness gone mad” is a catchphrase associated with the conservative Daily Mail newspaper.

In a more general sense, any policy regarded by the speaker as representing an imposed orthodoxy may be criticized as “politically correct.”

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