A Big Apple for the teachers, the latest diabolical plot against conservatives, a perfect score in India. LIGHTEN UP, AMERICA

(FORTUNE Magazine) – In which Kindly Dr. Keeping Up seemingly belies his sobriquet with a call for more insensitivity up and down the land. Dear Doc: Other than a certain affinity for Attilaism, what could possibly possess a nice liberal arts graduate like you to prefer folks ''deficient in . . . acuteness of feeling,'' as the $89.95 Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines ''insensitive''? We gravitate to our position via straightforward inductive reasoning. First, we observe that a Nexis search over the five-week period ending November 4 yields up no fewer than 261 news stories in which somebody or other is labeling somebody else insensitive. Second, we cannot help noticing that the pejorative labels seem invariably to get hung on folks going about their business quite reasonably, unless, of course, you think it was evil to discover America. Dear Kindly: You are hinting that Columbus was among those deemed insensitive? Yes, it says so right there in a Newsday review of a revisionist biography arguing that the Indians had it great before Cristoforo inconsiderately showed up. Dear Upkeep: Who else had a debit balance in the feeling acuity department? Republicans in the House of Representatives were labeled insensitive for supporting the death penalty. Gill-net fishermen were stated to be insensitive ''to the welfare of marine life.'' Marion Barry, departing mayor of Washington, D.C., said it was insensitive to suggest that he would run again for office in order to beef up his pension. Wisconsin's tourism director was called ''insensitive to women'' for advertising the charms of the Badger State in a sexually explicit magazine in Japan. The U.S. Navy . . . Dear Keeping: If we could just stop the flow for a minute -- . . . was called insensitive for giving 35 days in the brig to a seaman of American Indian extraction who had gone AWOL in Australia after being denied permission to return home so that he could participate in a sacred sun dance. The president of the Southern California Library Literacy Network invoked the same label against the Coors Foundation for Family Literacy for running an ad stating that illiterate mothers were apt to have illiterate children. The owner of the Los Angeles Kings hockey team was also thusly tagged for raising the prices of loge seats and then pointing out that fans unable to afford the new impost had the option of staying home and watching Wayne Gretzky on TV. Two Hispanic professors at the Northridge campus of California State University said the county government was insensitive to the alcoholism- treatment needs of Latinos. (''Although we are about 35% of the county population and 49% of those convicted of driving under the influence, we receive only about 18% of the county's services.'') Newsday quoted unnamed economic analysts who said it would be insensitive to laid-off blue-collar workers to suggest that the current downturn was mainly a white-collar phenomenon. A Chicago Tribune news story said a certain judge was ''insensitive to people defending themselves in court.'' This was after the judge gave a weekend jail sentence to a young man who had snickered upon receiving a $500 speeding ticket. But you had a question. Dear Up: Merely about the deeper meaning of it all. Wherein lies the pith and purpose of this upsurge in the I word? We view it mainly as a left-liberal plot to discredit conservative thinkers and institutions by implying that their ideas are inherently offensive while dodging the question of whether their underlying factual assumptions are empirically supportable. Dear Dr. Up: And is the plot succeeding? Hard to say. Note that in Massachusetts, John Silber, Mr. Insensitive himself, was first written off as a serious gubernatorial candidate when he called residents of a slum area ''a bunch of drug addicts,'' but later in the campaign was winning plaudits for his ''straight-talk approach.'' Dear Kindly: Still, he lost in the end. Yes, voters could be sick of sensitivity and yet not ready for straight talk.