Report on 'Political Correctness' Plays Down Its Impact on American Campuses

AS measured by newsprint and vitriol expended over the issue, "political correctness the mocking term for left-liberal orthodoxy - is a pervasive controversy on American college campuses. But a new survey suggests that only a few colleges and universities have experienced significant controversy over the political and cultural content of courses, texts, and lectures given on campus.The debate over politically correct thinking centers on the polemics of "multiculturalism" and traditional "Eurocentrism." Conservatives contend that a form of leftist McCarthyism in academia condemns mainstream Western culture as racist, sexist, ethnocentric, and homophobic. But the actual number of incidents of significant controversy over these issues is statistically minimal, shows a survey released today in the eighth annual Campus Trends report of the American Council on Education (ACE), a national coordinating body for post-secondary education which issued a major study in 1988 promoting multiculturalism. "Reports of widespread efforts to impose 'politically correct thinking' on college students and faculty appear to be overblown," says Elaine El-Khawas, ACE vice president. Of senior administrators polled on 359 campuses, just 5 percent reported receiving faculty complaints of pressure to alter the political or cultural content of their courses. Controversy over text content was cited by 3 percent of the schools, and 4 percent reported complaints about the content of information presented in the classroom. When divided out, larger, more influential doctoral institutions had a higher percentage of reported incidents of controversy. But no more than 10 percent of this categor y of schools reported controversy in the areas of course content, texts, and political pressures on faculty. Conservative scholars immediately questioned the study. "This survey seems to prove little because administrators [who were the subjects surveyed] have a vested interest in denying or whitewashing serious problems," says Dinesh D'Souza, a research fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and author of "Illiberal Education," a treatise on the subject. But a systematic study of the political correctness debate is necessary precisely because the debate has been fueled solely by subjective feelings, says Ms. El-Khawas.

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