Internet goes berserk over Stanford “language guide” that discourages use of “American” and “Survivor”

STANFORD — From the Internet to the national media to the holiday dinner table, much of the country seems to be up in arms in recent weeks about a newly discovered Stanford University “language guide” that discourages the use of words like “American.” “Survivor” and “new man” – too far for many who are exhausted by the culture wars.

At a time when politicians and the media continue to debate critical race theory, LGBTQ discussions in schools, and other cultural issues, liberals and conservatives seem to be on the same page about one thing: This Stanford “language guide” goes too far.

Written by Stanford’s Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative in partnership with People of Color in Technology and the Stanford CIO Council, the “Language Guide” is part of a multi-phase, multiyear project addressing harmful language—used exclusively in information technology (IT). – At the university. Its goal is to “eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased language, on Stanford websites and codes.”

“The purpose of this website is to educate people about the implications of the words we use,” reads the guide’s introduction. “Language affects different people in different ways. We do not attempt to determine the level of harm for the terms on this site. We do not attempt to address all informal uses of language.

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The 13-page guide discourages the use of ableist, ageist, colonialist and culturally appropriating language, among others, and urges code writers to avoid words ranging from the obvious “stupid” and “spas” to seemingly more innocuous phrases. “Brave,” “American,” “Hispanic,” “cakewalk,” “homeless person.”

Members of the committee that produced the guide could not be reached, but the guide itself provides context for why the language should not be used. For example, the word “prisoner” should be replaced with “incarcerated person/incarcerated person” because “using person-first language helps people not to be defined solely by their one characteristic.” For similar reasons that word has been flagged as ugly by the prison abolition movement in particular. But “American”?

In the guide, the IT writers suggest using “US citizen” instead, in part because American “often refers only to people from the United States, thereby implying that the US is the most important country in the Americas,” ignoring the other 42 countries. As far as the continent. Professor at Stanford School of Medicine Dr. For many on social media, including Jai Bhattacharya, the guide is at times too far. He called it “really disappointing” on a recent “The Ingram Angle” show on Fox News.

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“It doesn’t really build respect for people,” he said. “It makes people wonder what went wrong at great universities like Stanford.”

Bhattacharya was not alone with the “language guide”. Dozens of other right-wing media accounts and commentators dug into Stanford for publishing it. He got a quick reply from Twitter boss Elon Musk, “Stanford doesn’t approve of saying you’re proud to be an American? Whoa.”

In a statement, Stanford Chief Information Officer Steven Gallagher said the university actually encourages the use of the word “American.” He tried to distance the organization from the work of IT specialists.

The website “does not represent university policy,” the statement said, and it “does not represent mandates or requirements.” This website was created and intended for discussion with the IT community at Stanford” and “provides ‘suggested alternatives’ to various terms and reasons why those terms may be problematic in certain uses.” Its goal has always been to “support an inclusive community.”

“We particularly heard concerns about the guide’s handling of the term ‘American,'” the statement said. “We understand and appreciate those concerns. To be clear, the use of the term ‘American’ is not only not prohibited at Stanford, it is entirely welcome.”

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“The guide for the university’s IT community is subject to continuous review,” and “from its inception, the spirit behind it has been to respond to feedback and consider adjustments based on that feedback,” the statement said.

University of Washington computer science professor and author Pedro Domingos said in an interview that no university should “try to dictate the language used by its members.”

“Many of the terms considered in the guide are thought to be harmful, and the suggestions for replacing them are very interesting,” Domingos said. “The way Stanford has handled the whole issue is a disgrace.”

While Domingos agrees that the tech and IT world needs to be aware of the language it uses, he said these guides — a similar one published at the UW — are flawed.

“The tech community has a lot to do to improve its language use, but the Stanford Language Guide and similar ones (eg, UW’s) are not the right way to go about it or the right content,” Domingos said. “Above all, technocrats should try to be ideologically neutral, not rejecting a particular ideology for whatever it may be.”


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