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College Bans Words “Intellect” and “Culture”

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by Diana Senechal

“I’m so glad we’re getting rid of ‘culture’ and ‘cultural’ and all that,” said the head of the Student Social Committee. “I mean, whose culture? It’s always somebody else’s. Their culture. Whereas ‘social,’ that’s just so you-and-me.”

New York, NY—In a surprise press release, Polonius College announced that it would be eliminating the words “intellect” and “culture” from its brochures, course descriptions, communications and daily conversation. “We have found that certain words create divisiveness within our community,” explained President Marty Bench. “The word ‘intellect’ intimidates those who doubt their own intelligence, while the word ‘culture’ suggests imperialism and hegemony. As of this moment, we are replacing these words with ‘cognitive and social skills.’”

For instance, Polonius’s famed course in European intellectual history has already been renamed “Perspectives on European Cognitive and Social History.” The college has submitted a rush order of the revised brochure, which states that Polonius prepares students for the “cognitive and social demands of the workplace and beyond.”

I like ‘cognitive.’ It sounds scientific but not over my head,” said Paul Weetniet, a Career Skills major. “I think that’s sort of what workplaces want, too. They’re not looking for intellectuals, who everyone knows suck at teamwork and stuff. They want people with lots of skills.”

Sharon Boltovnya, head of the Student Social Committee, concurred. “I’m so glad we’re getting rid of ‘culture’ and ‘cultural’ and all that. I mean, whose culture?” she asked. “It’s always somebody else’s. Their culture. Whereas ‘social,’ that’s just so you-and-me.”

Yet another advantage of the new terminology, according to psychology professor Penelope Preuve, is that everyone uses it in education discussion and research. “People don’t wonder what you mean by these words,” she explained. “They think they know, even if they don’t.” In addition, she said, you can put them in a sentence with the phrase “research has shown” and sound quite official. “I’m not saying that’s a good thing,” she said. “But research has shown that this is where our social and cognitive environment is heading. A trend is a trend.”

For the next four to six months, Polonius plans to monitor email and classroom discussion for occurrences of the eliminated words. “We need to make sure everyone’s on the same page,” said Bench. “Without the page, that is.”

Polonius’s next step will be to replace books—relics of the replaced concepts—with icebreakers and skill-building exercises. “We aren’t there yet, since some of our faculty still cling to the status quo,” admitted Bench. “But we’re getting there.”