A freshman’s surprise


I live on the East Coast, and am confronted occasionally about my ineptness at political correctness, especially by my children. One of those children is now going to college on the West Coast, perhaps as a reaction to her mother’s lack of political correctness.

A few days ago, without any of this in mind, I asked the 18-year-old how she likes her new school. She had a lot of positive things to say—they have an ice cream station, a sushi bar, a good poetry class, and free bus passes to Oakland—but one thing she didn’t like much surprised me: “It’s so politically correct around here that it’s exhausting.”

Always careful not to press too hard for details, I hung on the phone for examples but only one was volunteered—that the students all listen to “alternative music,” and it seems to be the only kind of music tolerated.

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I don’t own a TV and I don’t watch South Park, but someone told me there was an episode in which a teenager, spurned by his girlfriend, decided to join the Nonconformist Club. He moseyed over to the gang and asked if he could become one of them. They informed him that if he wanted to belong to the Nonconformists he had to dress all in black like they did, wear the same shoes they did, smoke cigarettes like they did, and drink coffee. (He didn’t like coffee.)

I am feeling sorry for the young lady in the West Coast, but I am also intrigued to see how she will return to Pennsylvania. She has always been a nonconformist here on the Atlantic, but it mustn’t be much fun to come face-to-face with the logical extremes of nonconformity and political correctness on the Pacific—every conversation full of landmines, every classmate waiting in ambush, finally finding yourself standing on an island of allowable speech shrunk to the size of a turtle’s back.

Who knows? A different opinion from her mother might feel downright refreshing when she comes home for summer vacation. And she will finally be able to breathe.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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