Posts tagged ‘political correctness’

September 3, 2012

Mad Stuff

I just started a new blog about expats (us) returning home (maybe) which you can find here.  In my first post I used the word loony bin.  Since I wasn’t even sure how to write it (loonie vs. loony) I thought I better say a few words about it.

Probably the most famous movie about a “loony bin: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, pic:

A loony bin is where you end up if you have gone certifiably insane or in more politically correct word if you suffer from a serious mental illness.  Since we are already politically correct let’s get it over with and use the proper term for such an institution which is something along the lines of mental health facility, mental health institution.  I am sure there are even more politically correct terms for such places, used especially when a famous or somewhat famous person publicly ends up there – something like “rehabilitation facility” or alike.

Just like other languages, too, – I can vouch for German – there are many words, mostly unkind and politically not correct for mental institutions.  Here are a couple more English one:

nut house – being crazy is also called “being nuts”

funny farm – not sure why it would be so funny

The loony bit is derived from lunatic which is an adjective used to describe mad people (based on the old believe that a full moon will make people crazy, or turn them into werewolves).  Why bin?  I don’t know but since a bin is something where things are kept in a somewhat unorderly fashion the expression probably means just that: place where crazy people are kept.

August 9, 2012

In Defense of Californias Elementary Schools

I have pretty much given up blogging about the California school system and it’s shortfalls, specifically the political correctness which often lies like a sticky blanket on everything that should be fun from candy to a good playground fight.

Mobbing is nasty, pic:


Today, though, I have to raise my voice in defense of the political correctness and mollycoddling which surprises no-one more than me.  I have spent the last four weeks with my family in my native German town.  My parents live in a small, save cul-de-sac with kids my son’s age around.  “Perfect”, I thought to myself, “‘precious only son’ will have some buddies (or should I say mates) to play with and I will get to do – whatever.”  What I never even considered was the fact that the lovely little neighborhood brats would gang up on my child, whose only crime it is to be a stranger


with the occasional strange idea about how German language should be used.  Five of them mobbed him, were absolutely nasty from the first moment on, stole his toys, refused to include him in their games, shoved dirt down his shirt and similarly nasty stuff while their parents sat by looking and saying smart and enlightening things like “that’s just how kids are”.

Now I hate to say this but where we live every parent would be mortified by such behavior and every teacher would call a conference with the parents if they observed such despicable acts.  Kids would be impressed upon that mobbing is unacceptable and that message would be delivered in no uncertain terms.  Kids learn in Kindergarten to be open and tolerant of others.  This is part of the curriculum.  Does it always work and do we have a bunch of little angles floating three feet off the ground in California?  No, of course not, but at least a serious attempt is made to train them from an early age to be caring and inclusive,  call it mollycoddling if you like but at least it isn’t mobbing and indifference.

I am very glad, I have to say, that the first day of my son’s third grade will be in a political correct school in politically correct California.


November 17, 2011

Another crazy day …

No such a thing in Californian schools, pic:

… in the California school system.  I haven’t written about this in a while.  Kind of decided that it won’t get any better if I make a big fuss over it and have by and large been able to ignore whatever craziness came my way but today is one of those days when my son tells me a story and I just stare at him and say something along the lines of “you got to be kidding, right?”

“No, mom” he says and I say

“But this story you just told me isn’t true – you made it up?  Right?”

“No it is true, the teacher said it.”

So the story he told me was the following.  Along with such words as underwear, stupid, dumb and lame (I get the last three, no complaints there) the latest word to be banned from the class room is “easy”.  “Easy” as in not difficult.

A reasonable question in this context might be: “why on earth is ‘easy’ a bad thing to say?”  which is exactly what I asked my child.  He, looking earnestly, said “the teacher said because it might hurt someone feelings who does not think the task is easy.”  WHAT?  How far do we have to drive this craziness?  Some kid finds this easy, others that and that’s just a fact of life.   Shouldn’t they get used to that?  Isn’t that normal and a good lesson to learn?

So here we go again – another thing I need to remember when doing homework with him.  Can’t say “hurry up, you can do this quickly, it is easy.”  That just might be an insult to somebody out there.

Where, oh where, did all the common sense disappear to?

April 20, 2011

12 things you should never do in the US …

… unless you want to get in trouble, offend people, or come across as a barbarian.

So, do NOT (in no particular order):

Unthinkable!, pic:

  • Offer somebody under 21 an alcoholic beverage – illegal
  • Be critical and confrontational, remember that many things that are acceptable in Europe are considered rude in the US – e.g. where Germans think it perfectly normal to push into you to get past you that is considered rude and aggressive in the US
  • Walk around with hairy legs and armpits (this rule, unfortunately, only applies to women)
  • Tell everybody you are an atheist and religion is a big scam – offensive to a vast majority of people, possible exception: urban areas in coastal California, maybe certain parts of New York
  • Telling everybody that the whole world believes Americans are completely ignorant – nobody likes to hear that
  • Taking your top off at the beach (only applies to women) – absolutely scandalous and woman here is defined as pretty much any female older than 8 years or so
  • Not paying extremely close attention to your personal hygiene, not showering before going to the office = unthinkable
  • Referring to American English as an accent of the proper British English.  Everybody here thinks British is an (albeit cute) accent of proper American English
  • If you are in California: smoke – anywhere for any reason.  You might get a way with smoking marijuana – but not tobacco
  • Tell a joke that makes fun of a certain race, gender, sexual orientation, age group, etc – at least not in public.  Among friends it happens.
  • Start a discussion about abortion, guns, or evolution and think that it will be a friendly, inspiring chat
  • Pronounce foreign words correctly in their original language unless the foreign language is your mother tongue and everybody knows that.  It is considered quite blasé.

There are more, but these came to mind quickly.

April 5, 2011


This is another political correctness gone wild in the California school system story.  This one didn’t happen to my child but a friend’s child who attends a private school – which goes to show that the craziness does not stop with the public education system.

Bullying: does not exist in the perfect world of California schools, or does it? pic:

Anyway, the story is that one of his classmates was bullied by a few other students, and it finally reached the point where the mother couldn’t sit by the sidelines anymore and felt she had to intervene to protect her child.  So she went to have a talk with the principal and the conversation (and here I paraphrase) went something like this:

Mother: “I am here to talk about how these kids behave towards my child and what is being done about it.”

Principal: “I assure you that all necessary measures are being taken.”

Mother:  “I don’t think so, my child has been bullied by these kids for some time now and nothing has been done to stop the bullying.”

Principal (using the same low, slow, and indulgent voice generally used with recalcitrant or slow children): “Please do not use this word around here.  There is no such a thing as bullying in this school.”

Ahem, please??

So we want those perfectly behaved little angels (just like we were at 7 years old) who sat things like “I would appreciate if you made better choices about the way you speak to me to avoid hurting my feelings” and if they – surprise, surprise – do not live up to those standards we just define the problem away.  Bullying: does not exist in our school – despite evidence to the contrary – because we don’t want it to exist, because it cannot exist in our perfect rainbow-colored world of little angels.  If it existed, we who set out to create the perfect world of little angels, would have failed – and that is impossible, unacceptable.

The degree of self-delusion at work here amazes (even jaded) me.

March 18, 2011

Putting lipstick on pigs

Looking real cute with lipstick! Pic:

This rather harmless and colorful little expression has gained some notoriety over the last few years for its use in political campaigns.  But before we go there, let’s first explain the meaning of the expression “putting lipstick on a pig”.

This is a way of saying that making superficial cosmetic changes to something will not change the fundamental nature of it.  If you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig and not a lady (or something else that ranks higher in the hierarchy of things than a pig).  Therefore putting lipstick on a pig is a rather futile exercise one undertakes in the hopes to fool somebody into not seeing the pig for what it is.

In my experience that saying came up first when I was involved in getting a company ready for sale – there was a lot of figurative lipstick application involved.

But now to the recent notoriety:  it might have started earlier but the example that sticks in my mind is then presidential candidate Barak Obama referring to all the talk of the McCain campaign about change as “putting lipstick on a pig“.  Since Palin had – a short while before – defined the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull in one word: “lipstick” wild claims were made that Obama had called Palin a pig.  It all disintegrated quickly into ugly political maneuvering and the little expression came away bruises and looking ugly.

I still like it, it makes the concept really clear in an amusing, funny way.

March 16, 2011

Backhanded compliment

A backhanded compliment is nothing you necessarily want to get: it is a compliment that also insults at the same time or saying it the other way around: an insult that masquerades as a compliment.

A backhanded compliment might first fool you into thinking you received a real compliment but it is a deliberate and rather subtle way to disguise an insult.  Sometimes backhanded compliments are not intentional but generally the term applies to the intentional use of a disguised insult.

Here are a few examples:

Classical backhanded compliment, pic:

“You are sure smarter than you look.”

“I love you new haircut, it slims your face a lot.”

“Long skirts look good on you, they hide your calves.”

“You drive very well, for a woman.”

“Your son is more handsome than I would have expected.

In each case there is a compliment that immediately gets negated by an implied criticism, namely that a person is stupid, her face is too wide or her legs to thick, she can’t drive or his parents are ugly.

Another term meaning the same thing is left-handed compliment.  Traditional the left hand has had sinister connotations and therefore a left-handed compliment is one that is devious.

Not a very politically correct expression now that we don’t discriminate against “lefties” anymore.

March 11, 2011

Soccer moms

A typical soccer mom, pic:

Soccer moms are a very American species.  The expression is a somewhat derogatory term for generally white middle-class, stay-at-home moms who spend an extraordinary amount of time chauffeuring their kids around – of course in an SUV or a minivan, not a VW Bug – to different sporting events (hence the term soccer) and other enriching after school activities.  Soccer moms generally are married and live in the suburbs.

Created in the 80s the term came into widespread use in the 90s.  It started out as a positive label used by an ambitious female politician for herself to get the message across that she is just like the other moms out there, one of them and therefore a good choice to vote for.

Over the years the term has taken on a negative connotation, one generally thinks of hurried women, planning every second of their children’s life, overburdening them with valuable activities (vs vegging out in front of the TV) and going crazy between volunteering at school, supervising piano practice, driving all over the town for baseball practice while providing healthy snacks.

What gets the soccer moms into the headlines is the belief (whether it is a fact I don’t know) that they are swing voters and able to make a significant difference in the next election.

March 2, 2011

Little Red Ridinghood, part II

the wolf breaking into grandma's house to steal the muffin recipe, pic:

Since Bubbleboy has entered first grade and returned to his old home-based after-school the political correctness is no longer quite as much in my face every day as it used to be – or maybe I have just gotten used to it.

However, we had another “Little Red Riding hood” episode the other morning.  They are reading different versions of that old fairy tale in school.  Thankfully version 1 seemed to be fairly close to the original from what I could tell from my boy’s stories.  He seemed unfazed by all the eating of grandmas and cutting open of wolfs to get her out.  “It’s just a story, mom.”

Now the second version entered political correctness territory in a major way – the wolf, my child informed me – was not after the grandmother or even Little Red riding Hood, no, he was after grandma’s super special muffin recipe.

I abstain from any further comments on this craziness and leave you with the mental image of a wolf engaging in a little B and E (breaking and entering = burglary) to rummage through grandma’s cabinets in search for the famed muffin recipe, which, of course – and this I am making up as I go – would have to be either gluten free, low-fat, high-fiber, omega 3 rich, or – alternatively – triple chocolate, double fudge, extra cream – depending on grandma’s attitude towards life and health.

February 26, 2011

Pointing my finger

We are back to my favorite – not – topic:  Guns, toy guns to be precise. Whenever I refer to guns in this post I mean toy guns, not real ones .

We have over the last few weeks drilled into our son to never, ever sneak a gun or anything that might remotely resemble a gun into school.  Smart boy that he is he had pointed out that kids he had nothing to fear because kids don’t go to prison and being kicked out of school sounded like fun and so it all culminated in the statement that mom or dad might have to go to jail if he wields a gun.

So we got through that all right and I started to relax a bit about that whole gun business and was hoping that I could stop talking about guns all the time because that a) I find it incredibly boring and b) it makes them all the more exciting and interesting for Bubbleboy, or more aptly Gun Boy.

Then the following conversation happened:
Gun Boy: “Mom, we can’t bring guns to school.”
Me: “Yes, I know. We have been talking about this for a while now.”
Gun Boy: “We are also not allowed to use our fingers as pretend guns.”
Me, incredulous: “Really, I haven’t heard that before. Is that a new rule?”
Gun Boy: “Yes, were playing the other day and were told that we can’t use our fingers as guns either.”
Both contemplate that new development for a few seconds ….
Gun Boy: “Mom, you know, that is really difficult because we always have our fingers with us.”

A whole new meaning to flipping the finger, pic:

I stopped and hugged my little guy – he squirmed out of it, not wanting to be hugged randomly anymore – for I felt so bad for him. He is six, he wants to play cops and robbers, cowboy and Indians or whatever modernized variation therefore they play these days (yedi knights vs. droids seems to be the flavor of the month) like generations of little

boys before him.  They take his plastic guns, his sticks, pencils, squirt guns, and finally now they tell him he can’t even use his fingers anymore. What is he supposed to do, play house all day or exciting math games, or draw flowers and kittens?

As much as I dislike guns myself, and as much as I am pro-gun control to the point where they would probably kick me out of most states in the country if I voiced my opinion, so – considering all of that I am going to take this little boy to the local gun club.  I want him to learn how to handle guns and I want him to touch them, I want him to grow up and have a relaxed attitude towards them. It might not have gotten through to the people at school but things you really, really want and can’t have become all the more desirable. I could tell a few stories about that myself, most people could.

But somehow, this lesson seem to have gotten lost somewhere during one school reform or another.