Friday, January 18, 2008

Do not go to this college

Beware Bergen Community College in New Jersey. It was planning on requiring all students to sign a "civility code" in order to attend the college. It is now backing down on the idea due to bad publicity, but those behind it are still running the show. The code itself is interesting, and I would consider it an example of taking a good thing too far and turning it into a bad thing.

Before further discussion though, here is the "civility code" that was put forward.

In the full knowledge of the commitment that I am freely willing to undertake as a student, I promise to respect each and every member of the college community without regard to race, creed, political ideology, lifestyle orientation, gender, or social status sparing no effort to preserve the dignity of those I will come in contact with as a member of the college community. I promise to Bergen Community College that I will follow this code of responsibility.

1. Honesty, integrity, and respect for all will guide my personal conduct.
2. I will embrace and celebrate differing perspectives intellectually.
3. I will build an inclusive community enriched by diversity.
4. I am willing to respect and assist those individuals who are less fortunate.
5. I promise my commitment to civic engagement and to serve the needs of the community to the best of my ability.

So, starting with the intro. Some nice verbiage to make it sound more like a free choice affirmation than a statement of "I'm agreeing to this to get into the college." Next we have a list of things we cannot discriminate on the basis of. I agree with most of this list. Race, sexual orientation (seriously, what the hell is lifestyle orientation? It's the stupidest politically correct term since someone came up with the idea of calling short people vertically challenged.), gender, and social status should not form the basis of discrimination.

Religious creed and political ideology are a completely different ball game. If I met someone who espoused support for, as an example, a return to the white Australia policy, I will not respect that idea. I would oppose them and seek to discredit their arguments. If they were able to their position well, I might start to respect their abilities, but I still would not respect their ideas. The same goes for most religious beliefs. I oppose them, I think they are bad, and there is no force in the universe (save God actually turning up and talking to me) that would make me respect them.

I'll point out here this does not mean I think these people should be forced to give their ideas or beliefs. Just because I disagree doesn't mean they have to give them up. But if they disagree with me, it doesn't mean I have to agree with them, or like what they think, or like them. I don't have to support them in any way. I just shouldn't harm them personally. I will attack their ideas, but I won't attack the person. If they feel attacking their religious or political beliefs is attacking their person, then I can't help that, but they are two separate things.

As for the actual bullet points. 1 is pretty obvious and I agree with fully. 2 is a bit trickier. I will accept differing perspectives. I will tolerate differing perspectives (to a point. See this for an example of when I don't tolerate a differing perspective). When presented with new ideas or new perspectives, I will give them consideration, consider the evidence for and against, and will make my decisions based on the strength of the evidence. I will not embrace or celebrate for the sake of embracing and celebrating. I'm not sure if 3 is actually saying anything or not. 4 is charity, nothing objectionable there. 5 is a bit like 3 and sufficiently open to interpretation so as to not really place any obligations on a student.

The guys at South Park said it pretty well in the Lemmiwinks episode, there is a big difference between tolerating something and liking something. There are many things I think should be tolerated that I don't like. There are many things I think should be tolerated that I would prefer no one actually did, but I don't it isn't a matter that anyone other than the person or people involved with should be concerned with. I tolerate a lot more things than I like.

I think the people behind this code have mistaken tolerance for liking. Tolerating and accepting that people have different opinions is a good thing. Trying to like everyone's opinion is a recipe for schizophrenia.

End Post
Writing time: 42 minutes
Time since last post: 7 hours
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