KingMidget's Ramblings

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Being Politically Incorrect

A few weeks ago, a controversy erupted in my hometown. A local high school that has one of those international baccaluerate programs, also known as HISP, held a science fair. One of the students in the HISP program submitted a project titled “Race and IQ’ for the science fair.

Ever since then the local media has reported breathlessly about how offensive this project was. Students have protested. Parents have piled on. And everybody has an opinion. If they all get an opinion, so do I.

First, it’s impossible to know what the student’s objectives or intent were. None of the stories I have read include any information or quotes from him since the controversy began. The student and his parents appear to have gone completely quiet. On some level, good for them. Instead, there’s all sorts of … rumor and innuendo. He is known to have made racist comments in the past. (Examples please?)

Ultimately, though, none of that matters. The question of whether minorities are disproportionately underrepresented in elite programs like HISP are valid. While the student appears to have sought to suggest that race is a factor in intelligence, the question remains valid. Why are minorities underrepresented in these programs.

The student apparently conducted a survey that was pretty limited and not “scientifically sound.” Good, grade him accordingly for failing to demonstrate the right kind of academic rigor expected of a high school student in an advanced program like HISP.

But, where I have a problem is with the idea that the questions should have never been asked. That the topic is somehow inappropriate for discussion among educated individuals. Why are minorities underrepresented in McClatchy’s HISP program? Is it lack of opportunity? Lack of confidence and support? Differences in the socio-economic status of different races in America? Is it something else? Why wouldn’t we want to know this.

Yes, the student may have done a lousy job with his project. But grade him accordingly. Don’t shut him down. Don’t stop the inquiry. Ask the questions and answer them instead of insisting that it is better to ignore the issue.

If we cannot discuss the hard questions, if we cannot accept challenges to our convictions, what the hell are we doing?

* * * * *

In other news of political correctness, a fellow blogger/author read Deviation and expressed some discomfort at the objectification of women in the story. I share her discomfort. Absolutely, 100% get it.

Her concern is one of the reasons why it took me a couple of years to get around to pushing the publish button on the story. The characters talk a lot of crap, much of it disrespectful of women.

But one of the fundamental reasons I decided to push the publish button was because of exactly that. It is crass and crude and politically incorrect. And I wanted to make a statement by publishing this long short story. Fiction and art are meant to be challenging and to push the boundaries and unsettle people.

We seem to have lost that in a lot of what is produced these days, and I’m tired of the politically correct wars that rage. Just absolutely tired of it.


8 responses to “Being Politically Incorrect

  1. Berthold Gambrel February 25, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Some stories need to have characters who say and do things that are disturbing in order to work. It’s important that people realize an author is not his/her characters. I once wrote a short novella narrated by a character so screwed up that it sometimes made me sick to write in his voice… but the story had to be that way to be compelling.

    It can be a little unsettling to read (let alone write!) such twisted characters, but that’s also how a lot of great drama gets created–by pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable to say. If you aren’t willing to say something that nobody else will, there’s no point in writing.

    • kingmidget February 25, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      A number of years ago, my niece who is in the entertainment industry asked me to write a story about a child being abducted — but write it from the perspective of the child’s mother. I wrote the first few pages of it, but from the child’s perspective as she follows her mother through a grocery store and keeps seeing a man at the end of the aisles trying to get her attention. It wasn’t what my niece wanted because of the difference in perspective, but just writing those few pages were an interesting challenge. As I try to figure out how to start writing again, it is one of the “starts” I want to look at again to see if I want to do something with it.

      Fiction can and should be unsettling where it makes sense. One of the things that annoys me about the current environment is how things that are make believe are being criticized for their political incorrectness. Don’t know if you’ve seen this, but Friends was recently made available on Netflix. Millenials are now watching it in droves and some are outraged at how the characters talk about gay people, and a few other things. I just want to tell people to get over it.

  2. John W. Howell February 26, 2018 at 10:17 am

    I so agree with you. We are a polarized society and disagreement takes on an ugly tone smacking of censorship.

  3. S.K. Nicholls February 28, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Do you have any idea what the student’s final grade for his project was? I ask because my daughter did a project on Teen Suicide in high school and one component in her studies dealt with gender identity and her social studies teacher took off 5 points for “inappropriate content”.

    In the current political climate, with social media policing every word spoken, and the media (both social and mainstream) demonstrating the polarization that John speaks about, it is only a matter of time before people walk around mute, like zombies. Or start killing each other…oh, my bad, they are already doing that.

    I am not well right now. I could write volumes on the subject, but my thoughts are disorganized and tangential. Should be back to “normal” in a few days.

    • kingmidget February 28, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      That’s one of the things that none of the articles mention … what grade did he get. Regarding your comments about politics and social media … you know where I stand. We are falling apart as a people and as individuals.

      Sorry to hear you’r struggling. Stick with it and stay strong.

  4. TamrahJo June 25, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Creative works often are the FRONT LINES of braving the ‘hard conversations’ we humans have to have, to move forth to the next step of social evolution – that said, Algorithms and those companies profiting from them, are not about what is fact, what is true, what context actually lives up to the headline posted – – and so, in ‘my inner world’ I think, “What if he did a small sample size, that wasn’t well thought out, and the conclusion he came to was, “Race and IQ are not linked” – ? What if?!? Cuz lord knows, if folks bandwagon on to shut down a 6 year olds lemonade stand, they’ll do the same to a budding young scientist who must, none the less, get used to such things – – cuz ya know? scientific published papers/citing/results/replication, etc., are all under algorithms too, now, ya know – :). And the reining cry is not “Publish or Perish” in scientific halls, celebrity halls, creative halls, it’s flat out, “Go Viral or Go Home, no matter what” – shock and awe headlines and mindless liking, etc., all help it happen – 🙂

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