In a previous position, we had a saying, "The large print giveth and the small print taketh away." Political correctness, under the guise of "diversity", "tolerance" and "preventing hurtful speech", is the small print. A few examples:
Diversity: We are told (and I generally agree) that we should be respectful of (i.e. not be prejudicial based on) the differences between us all. Modern academia has taken this noble idea and extended it to its logical (or absurd) extreme. Not only are we to not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, religion, or sexual preference, we can no longer discriminate based on ability or performance.
Tolerance: We are commanded to be tolerant of other points of view - excepting of course that we are intolerant of points of view that don't support tolerance and diversity. And we are allowed to be intolerant of speech that "harms" other people. "We don't tolerate that sort of thing", I was told. How, exactly, speech "harms" someone is left rather vague and open to (post hoc) interpretation. Apparently, telling a student that their interpretation of evolution is "wrong" (i.e. is not in agreement with the current concensus view) is "harmful". I suppose that marking an examination answer as "incorrect" would also be "harmful".
This past October, for me, was a very stupid month. And November isn't shaping up to be much better, so far. By "stupid", I mean no disparagement of the month itself or of the weather. What I mean is that during October - and the first few days of November - I have been bombarded by stupidity from a variety of sources (not the least of which has been the blogosphere).
I suppose the serious stupidity (i.e. stupidity above the normal background level) started when a student in the virology class announced that HIV (the virus that causes the disease AIDS) didn't cause AIDS - that AIDS was the result of "poor life choices" combined with the debilitating effects of anti-retroviral drugs. He based this startling assertion on his experience as a hospital orderly handing out medication to AIDS patients. This was one of the few times in my teaching career that I was so daunted by the sheer magnitude of willful ignorance that I was unsure where - or if - to begin.
This experience was augmented by the annual start-of-term "Loonies on the Lawn" program (not sponsored by the University) where we were bombarded on a daily basis by Creationists ("old earth" variety), "Intelligent Design" promoters, and a generic mix of "Repent Now!" auditory evangelists.
Following close on the heels of all that, there was a student in the evolution class who announced (why must they always make public pronouncements?) in class the he did not believe in evolution (thereby begging the question of why he had registered for the class) and would challenge everything that contradicted his firm belief in "Intelligent Design". Let's just say that the term doesn't look too promising for him.
Of course, I must take some responsibility for the dismal nature of the last month (after all, I made the decision to pursue the career I am in). When the lad in evolution class asked how I would refute "Intelligent Design", I responded thusly:
 "Intelligent Design" is not a hypothesis, since it makes no testable predictions.
 Even if "Intelligent Design" supporters could somehow "prove" that evolution was wrong, it would not make "Intelligent Design" "right".
 "Intelligent Design" is not good science - it is not even bad science - it is religion dressed up in a lab coat pretending to be science in order to have a particular religious viewpoint taught in public schools.
Point number three earned me a round of applause from the class (with one notable abstention) and a note from the department chairman inviting me to drop by for a cup of tea and some conversation.
Finally, the blogosphere has been humming with people who think they understand science but who are simply parroting what the pseudoscientists have told them. In all fairness and scientific candor, it may be that I am noticing this more since I have been out-of-sorts lately.
Still, I tire of the seemingly endless numbers of scientist wannabe's who think that reading "Evidence of Harm" or other such drivel can put them on par with people who actually know something about the subject. I have nothing against ignorance - there is no shame in being ignorant (no great honor, either), since we are all ignorant about something.
However, the willful, agressive strain of ignorance that I see surrounding certain pseudo-scientific issues (e.g. evolution, autism-mercury, etc.) is mind-boggling. Many of these people are so misinformed and yet they resist all efforts to point out their errors. They don't trust anybody except the people who already agree with them. It's like watching a tour group trying to navigate through Rome with a map of London.
Well, I must be off to try and not overly offend the young minds entrusted to my care. 'Til next time...