I have been a long critic of the erosion of free speech on college campuses and the use of the ill-defined concept of “micro aggressions” to sanction students and faculty alike. Now there is a national campaign by the National Association for Bilingual Education and the Santa Clara County Office of Education that indicates that a teacher who mispronounces a student’s name is causing an offense to the student’s identity. negative emotional state that can lead to poor academic success.
The campaign, titled “My Name, My Identity” says on its website, “Did you know that mispronouncing a student’s name negates the identity of the student? This can lead to anxiety and resentment which, in turn, can hinder academic progress.” The author of an influential report on the issue, Rita Kohli, an assistant professor of education at the University of California at Riverside, maintains that such mistakes can be deemed a “microaggression.” That is chilling for some of us who are notoriously bad at pronouncing names.