The flip of the calendar to a new year prompts millions of us to pledge personal improvement in the form of resolutions. In 2023, I have chosen not to participate in this annual ritual. Having reached a state of personal perfection, I can’t come up with a single area in which I need to improve, despite what The Wife says.
Others, however, are still evolving.
“As we enter 2023, we would like to share a change we are making at the Suzanne-Dworak-Peck School of Social Work,” began a January 9, 2023 email blast sent by the University of Southern California to faculty and students.
And what is the new year bringing?
“Specifically, we have decided to remove the term ‘field’ from our curriculum and replace it with ‘practicum,’” the email announced.
I had to look up “practicum.”
According to Wikipedia, “A practicum is an undergraduate or graduate-level course, often in a specialized field of study.”
“This change supports anti-racist social work practice by replacing language that could be considered anti-Black or anti-immigrant… phrases such as ‘going into the field’ or ‘field work’ may have connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant works that are not benign,”says the unsigned message.
So, if you can follow this, practicum means “field,” and field is bad, therefore I find myself compelled to make one small change despite having resolved not make any resolutions.
Henceforth, I will no longer be playing outfield in old man softball. Following the lead of the USC School of Social Work, in 2023, I will henceforth be dropping flyballs in the “out- practicum.”
In this wokest of woke announcements, this decision by USC – and I’m still not convinced it wasn’t written by someone at “The Onion,” “The Babylon Bee” or even George Orwell himself – acknowledges words have power. Suggesting that African Americans and immigrants will be traumatized by the word “field” is powerful indeed – powerfully patronizing.
And profoundly silly – a parody of social-consciousness.
The same school of social work whose former dean copped a guilty plea for accepting bribes from Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, as well as gifting Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass a $90,000 graduate degree of questionable legitimacy, is going to lead the way to a more enlightened America by putting a white hood on a benign word like field.
“In solidarity with universities across the nation,” concludes the email, “our goal is not just to change language but to honor and acknowledge inclusion and reject white supremacy, anti-immigrant and anti-blackness ideologies.”
Who knew praising astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, principal ballerina Misty Copeland, or U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as “outstanding in their fields” is now “white supremacy” and/or “anti-blackness ideology?”
Can you imagine sitting through that meeting?
Language evolves along with human understanding.
Words that mean one thing to one generation can mean something else to another. Here’s a short lexicon of words that gained new meanings in the social media era: friend, unfriend, like, tag, text, post, ping, block, catfish, follow, profile, swipe, troll, timeline, tablet and on and on.
At its best, language clarifies, enlightens, inspires, consoles, and most importantly allows us to communicate clearly. By attacking our vocabulary, idealogues pull at the fabric of our multicultural society, making people less likely to engage with each other in a meaningful way. This is not progress.
The notion that “field” is oppressive and somehow denotes White supremacy is an idea from way out in left practicum.
Doug McIntyre can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com. His debut novel, “Frank’s Shadow” will be published in July.