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The Curse of the Easily Offended Student

​Author: Chris Boggs

When you look at what “sets people off" and how easily some get angry, you have to think that ours has become a society of easily offended, “politically correct" people in need of a hobby. Well, there are three key truths we all need to remember:

  • Being offended is a personal choice. Yes, you can choose to be offended or not. You know, live life and let others live theirs. And if you are offended by what a person says, it's a personal problem, your personal problem – not the person who “offended" you. If 100 people are in the room and you are the only one offended by what someone says, guess whose problem it is.
  • Political correctness is a bully that doesn't allow problems to be solved. You can't solve a problem if you can't talk about it, and political correctness prevents the discussion. At what point in our past did short, tall, black, white, skinny, fat become anything more than adjectives. Political correctness attaches meaning to words that you won't find in the dictionary.
  • Those who espouse tolerance are generally the least tolerant people. They are tolerant - if you agree with them; but disagree with them and you are akin to every evil thing under the sun. It seems a truly tolerant person would accept the opinions of another person even if they don't agree with those opinions. If you preach tolerance, you darn well better not get mad at someone else for voicing his opinion (back to the first two truths).

Insurance instructors are often accused of offending their students. To be truthful, more often than not it is only one person who is “offended," but they make the most noise. I took a poll of many insurance instructors I know to ask what has gotten them in trouble in the past. You tell me if the comments which resulted in their being “written up" are actually offensive. I don't see it, but then I choose to not be offended by things people say or opinions they hold. If you are easily offended, you may not want to read these. If you have a decent sense of reality, you might like these. I am not revealing the names of these instructors (protecting the innocent and the guilty).

  • “I was teaching a webinar on flood using the River Styx as my example river. As an aside during the session I explained that in mythology the River Styx separated hell from the rest of the world – then I proceeded to say, 'sort of like the Potomac River today.' An hour or so later I received a two-page letter from a lady incredibly angry that I had compared Washington DC to hell."
  • “In one session I made the comment that an insurance class should be like a woman's skirt. Long enough to cover everything and short enough to be interesting."
  • “A student asked me a question about something that was a little personal, but not too personal, I answered with, 'I leave that to the grace of God.' In the evaluations one student wrote, 'If I wanted to be preached to, I would have gone to church.'"
  • “I was talking to a legal association about certificates of insurance and quoted Macbeth: 'It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.' An insurance agent in the audience took offense feeling I called insurance agents idiots."
  • “I was accused of being a racist. I wracked my brain for a bit and finally realized what I said. I was teaching WC and was talking about the penalties for not carrying coverage if you are required. One of them is imprisonment. I said: 'The last thing I want to do is wake up next to Bubba every day!' I forgot people in the northern part of the country don't know that Bubba is just a big ole' redneck."
  • The problem with “Bubba" came up again. Another instructor responded, “I got written up years ago for using Bubba in an example. I was told that I was culturally insensitive."
  • “Evidently the phrase, 'tree huggers' is a no-no among the environmental elite. I took a pen lashing for that statement following a class where I was talking about pollution."
  • “I was teaching Workers' Compensation and the syllabus included a discussion of the history of workers compensation in the U.S. To illustrate the disagreeable situation faced by injured workers prior to the establishment of workers compensation systems, I used a hypothetical example that went something like this:

    “'Let's say you are a recent immigrant from Poland working in a machine shop. Your young wife and your children are still in Poland waiting until you can save enough money to bring them here to join you, so you are working all the hours you possibly can under very challenging circumstances. Late one work day, your hand slips while you're operating a punch press and the machine amputates your left index finger. You sustain medical expenses and are off work for over three weeks, losing income. Your only possible source of recovery, due to the lack of workers' compensation, is to sue your employer alleging negligence. How likely is it that you will sue the guy who has been paying you, getting you ever closer to bringing your family to the US? Not very likely, right? Not only that, before the existence of work comp, your employer has a number of common law defenses.'ll just suck it up and get back to work just as soon as you possibly can, unless your boss has hired someone to take your place! As you can well imagine, the medical expenses and lost wages of untold numbers of injured workers went uncompensated prior to the passag
    e of the state's workers compensation law.'"

    “Well, to my great surprise, one of the class members brutally attacked me in his/her lengthy evaluation for using this example, asserting that my hypothetical story had insulted all immigrants, and indeed, the history of the city. This person also wrote the sponsor of the program complaining vociferously about my grievous "insult" to multiple parties."
  • “From time to time I tell lawyer jokes. One day someone complained that she was offended because her daughter was studying to be a lawyer and such jokes were insensitive. Some of my best lawyer jokes come from lawyers."
  • “Funniest thing I have learned is never make a joke or a claim example about animals, especially dogs. I can use the same claim example but substitute a “little old lady" and that is safe ground. I had a 'fake' video where a little old lady gets hit by a car and thrown into the air, and everyone loves it. Do that to a dog and you suffer a fate of critical evaluations!"
  • “I was teaching a class for an insurance carrier, talking about coverage under the PAP in Mexico. I discussed the reason why the coverage territory did not extend there (their laws, not ours) and that anyone driving a vehicle there MUST comply with their laws or risk 'disappearing' or being arrested by the Federales. A student called the company and complained that I had maligned the country of Mexico by saying that people disappear there. Never mind that this really does happen!"
  • “After a break I said, 'Ok kids, it's time to get back to work.' Of course, someone was offended that I was 'treating them like children.'"
  • “I was presenting a multi-day class and on the first day a student asked about a request she had received recently from a bank. I told her the request was being made due to a lack of understanding and often agents have banks asking for things that don't make sense, but they demand that the agent do. One of the student's agency was owned by a local bank and she was furious that I would make a disparaging remark about banks."

This is but a few examples of easily offended students. I'm not sure there is much here about which a reasonable person should be truly offended. If your sensibilities are this delicate, your life must be awful – or people walk on eggshells around you. And I don't like being around people who get so easily bent out of shape.

Remember, being offended is a personal choice; political correctness tries to keep change from occurring; and don't you ever call yourself tolerant if you can't tolerate differing opinions or jokes. Lastly, if what someone says truly offends you, be an adult and take up with them face to face. Don't hide behind the anonymity of the evaluation. I guess what I'm saying is, come on people, let's be adults. 

Last Updated: December 7, 2018

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