Political correctness rests on two propositions, both palpably false. The first is the claim that all knowledge is relative to the knower’s intentions, that words and thoughts are exercises in power used to construct whatever reality the knower fancies. The second is the assertion that truth is psychologically damaging, that every person has the right never to be challenged by living in the presence of truth-claims that run counter to his own ideas, even if the only idea he holds firmly is the conviction that nothing is true.
The culture in which these ideas grow is the culture of the fervently secular state, its governors, educators, and communicators dedicated to the retention of control over the moral and intellectual playing field, for whom any idea that might lead citizens beyond the boundaries of the tightly managed culture of comfort is a danger. In such societies, as Huxley and Orwell told us, the enemy is not another state, for all states seek first the security of the regime and the perfection of their power, using as means the seduction of the population by the beads and mirrors of a technologized, medicalized society. In such cultures evil is non-existent because good is non-existent. Dialogue replaces encounter based on truth; therapy replaces repentance, punishment, and conversion. In such a society the enemy is the thinking person. The creation of the therapeutic culture begins with the suppression of those at the fringes, Branch Davidians and the like, who often urgently require suppression in the name of civil peace, and moves toward the center, finally becoming the implacable if subtle enemy of homeschooling moms, of any person who seems in the slightest way to stand outside the secular, therapeutic culture.
The existence of the ideas intrinsic to political correctness in the context of a society tending toward the therapeutic solution is enough to impair any civilization, but with these ideas are also promoted certain existential corollaries. Any claim to truth, so the argument goes, leads to insensitivity, persecution, and finally to the Inquisition. Thought, in the form of what Newman would call real assent, that is, genuine conviction, is then a threat to civil peace and an insult to relativists. Truth-claims, it is said, lead to controversies if not wars and give pain to the sensitive who are other-minded.
But, contra the therapeutic culture, man is a rational animal, that is, man is a truth-asserting animal, and is at his noblest in the service of truth. Truth may indeed be held in a context of hatred and hurt, but the proper use of truth in oneself is the allegiance of the mind to reality, and with respect to others is conversation, undertaken generously, based upon the genuine attempt to think the thoughts of the other, and without the hidden conviction that one’s brother is a fool. We are warned repeatedly that talk about truth is dangerous because if conversation fails, there will in this fallen world be strife. There is something worse than strife: the death of truth, which is the death of the soul, and that we have been warned to fear more than the inevitable death of the body.
The existential corollary of political correctness that threatens human freedom most intimately is the doctrine that any education that encourages belief in truths other than so-called scientific facts, with fact pared down to the human standard of the touchable, is deceptive. The politically correct mean by this that truths about God should never be taught because these are not knowable in the scientific manner. Nonsense. Such scientific manner is not the only way truth may be known, and men have been thinking and writing about God for several millennia before a Scot named Hume cut down the field of the knowable to his own metaphysical size. Admittedly, truths about important things are controversial in a way that the chair is brown is not. As we move up the ladder of knowledge from the trivial to the truly significant, obviousness flees. But this does not mean that truths about God and man are unknowable or merely subjective. We have not only a right but a duty to teach what we do see regarding God and goodness, man and nature.
Christian culture has a duty to teach about Christ. The most important fact about any civilization is its religion, those things that bind. Barbarism, the tendency of civilizations in decay to suppress thought, hope, and beauty on behalf of immediacy, pleasure, and violence, has its own religion: the culture of the public schools, leftist media, and Planned Parenthood–the latter based on violence against little children. The articles in its catechism are environmentalism, sex education, death education, self-esteem, and gender neutrality. These ideas it will teach, not so much by argument as by assumption, with all the zeal of a St. Dominic.
In the face of this assault on the soul, Christianity, which is now the counterculture, has a duty to teach the great humane tradition of philosophy and literature in which Christ is indeed the center of reality. In any situation teaching may be coercive. There is such a thing as indoctrination. Marxists were experts in the field. Modern pedagogues are also able practitioners, for indoctrination can be carried out on the basis of assumptions unenunciated. But great teaching, even good teaching, moves in the arena of the learners’ freedom. Teaching and learning is the art that leads intellect across adventuresome ground from the chaos of ignorance to the free acceptance of truth. Teaching is mysterious. It is more than technique; most often it is a love affair with truth that begins with a teacher who stands beside those learning and points to the truth he knows and loves and shares in a context of respect. Teachers may and must argue, illustrate, encourage, chide, exemplify, but they may not coerce or manipulate.
Does teaching true things violate the learner’s freedom? In fact it makes his freedom possible by giving him or her truth to test, and from that testing mature judgment will be born. Perhaps the single most damaging cause of the moral and intellectual listlessness that afflicts the relatively young is the absence of that introduction to the realm of truth that education is supposed to be.