Writing policy under scrutiny

By Michael McCulloh

A future decision in the English department could determine whether students will use “gender-inclusive” guidelines in their writing.

Freshman English Director Robert Self said the freshman English committee will make a decision about his call for a “gender-inclusive” writing policy sometime early next week.

The changes—like replacing ‘cave man’ with ‘cave dweller’—would get students to think about their audience and improve their writing, he said.

The guidelines Self might follow are from a revised 1985 publication from the National Council of Teachers of English.

However, Self said the guidelines aren’t politically correct.

“They’re guidelines that talk about the way people can be inclusive and less narrow in terms of bias language descriptions,” he said. “You just don’t write what comes easiest, you write what makes it more effective to buy into what you’ll say.”

Student Association President Preston Came disagrees.

“I would say it’s an attempt to advance political agenda. These guidelines go farther than the textbooks,” he said. “The NCTE guideline (even) says the National Council of Teachers influence thought and behavior.”

Student Regent James Mertes also said “gender-inclusive” language is another way of imposing politically correct speech.

“PC advocates contend that their proposals uphold and protect individual rights, when in fact those proposals tend to abridge other more fundamental rights,” Mertes said.

The NCTE’s suggested guidelines include using non-sexist terms and choosing books that emphasize the equality of men and women. Also, it suggests changing quotations with sexist overtones with non-sexist words.

“I don’t know if we’ll come to a decision, but we might want to broaden the guidelines currently used in the handbook,” Self said.

If implemented, Self said he doesn’t know when the guidelines will be used. “We haven’t had our first meeting yet. So it will depend on the committee,” he said.

“If this is how this group chooses books, it seems more like they’re choosing political content. I’m concerned an English book would have political ramifications,” Came said.

“Language should give you illusions of real life,” he said. “This is just goofy.”