I'm not going to say Canadians don't support using racial slurs, because a great many obviously do.


1. 57% in the poll becomes 75% in the headline; support is taken to be the default.

2. The question asks about "certain offensive words", not the specific word used here. https://twitter.com/CultMTL/status/1321561116242300930
and, most egregiously,

3. The poll pits the professor's decision against "social media concerns", not against the substance of the students' own concerns. The professor's POV is represented by reference to pedagogical context; the students' is reduced to the media they use.
In essence, the poll asks: "do you support academic freedom, or do you support social media campaigns?" But that's not exactly what's at issue.

Taking the professor at her word, the issue is a pedagogical one. And that is how the students and other critics have treated it.
It's telling that the *university* has treated this as a "social media" problem -- i.e., a PR problem. And it's on that basis that the *university* -- NOT the students -- took action.

Finding that action inappropriate is not the same thing as addressing the *pedagogical* issue.
This poll confuses the two, lumping the students in with the university, and lumping their substantial concerns in with its PR worries. That's either ignorant or dishonest.

Either way, it doesn't justify (and no poll can) the pedagogical decision to use the N-word.
Confusing student's *explicit* concern for their own learning environment with the university's concern for its brand does a disservice to students and, in the long run, to faculty and to academic freedom as well.
On the pedagogical front, several assumptions seem to be in play

1. That teaching about racism requires using racist slurs. There is no reason offered for this, and it contradicts the experience of many faculty who teach about periods of history when slurs were commonly used.
2. That "banning" one word is a slippery slope towards banning other (less offensive? more essential?) words. Again, no reason is offered why this should be so. Language evolves all the time. The list of words we don't use, because they would make teaching harder, is a long one.
3. That protesting against the word means demanding summary firings. No reason is offered for this. A student interviewed on the question in Montreal last week recalled a prof using it, being called on it, and apologizing for the harm caused. That's a normal, human, exchange.
4. That assigning readings with slurs is the same as using slurs in the classroom. I invite anyone to argue that reading a slur for people like you when you're by yourself at home is the same as having it said, in your presence, in a room full of people to whom it never applied.
Students interviewed on this *consistently* talk about the negative effect it has on their own and others' ability to *learn*. They voice a pedagogical concern. They are also voicing a view that is intuitively obvious to, and true to the experience of, many professional teachers.
Turning that into "academic freedom" vs "social media" is more than an oversimplification; it misrepresents what is at issue for the teachers and students involved. It casts teachers as the only ones with a stake in the learning process, and reduces students to angry customers.
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