February 22, 2006

Omit offensive reading

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education (no link; it's behind a subscription wall), change may be coming to the higher ed biz in Arizona. Personal taste may be introduced, through legislation, as grounds for a student to decline a reading assignment without having seen the material in question:

College students in Arizona may be able to opt out of required reading assignments they consider personally offensive, under a bill approved on Wednesday by the State Senate's Higher Education Committee. The measure would allow students to decline assignments that "conflict with the student's beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion." Critics say the legislation is too broad and could undermine the integrity of courses.

That's going to come as a blessed relief to those many students who are still being told to read Strunk and White's vile collation of stupid advice and false claims about grammar in The Elements of Style, isn't it? The work is unquestionably offensive, as I have so often pointed out on Language Log (random examples here). And I'll write a letter saying so for any Arizona student who otherwise might be under threat of having to look at it. Don't put up with being told to read anything offensive. (Sex, morality, and religion are all considerations here, by the way. Trust me. To see that I'm right you would of course have to read it, and if you're a college student in Arizona that would undercut the whole point of the planned legislation, so don't.)

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at February 22, 2006 10:35 AM