I still don't get why it's so offensive. I have read all the posts here, and really thought about it and still stand by my original post. I still don't think that the term is offensive. I think it has been made offensive because of how people reacted to it. People react differently to different words. Anyone can find offense in anything. We all know that to be true. How on earth is a writer supposed to know in advance that using a euphemism meant to imply fun is going to cause such a ruckus? It seems like we expect writers to think everything they say can be misconstrued and cater to the complainers instead of just trusting the general public to use their common sense.
To me, a circus-like atmosphere means that something is out of control.
How was the concert?
It was a circus in there!
The 4th definition from Merriam Webster's dicitonary: circus: something suggestive of a circus (as in frenzied activity, sensationalism, theatricality, or razzle-dazzle) <a media circus>
So saying a reading event was circus-like was saying that the people attending were in a frenzy and implies that they can't behave themselves in an appropriate manner.
But the first 3 definitions are:
1 a: a large arena enclosed by tiers of seats on three or all four sides and used especially for sports or spectacles (as athletic contests, exhibitions of horsemanship, or in ancient times chariot racing) b : a public spectacle
2 a : an arena often covered by a tent and used for variety shows usually including feats of physical skill, wild animal acts, and performances by clowns b : a circus performance c : the physical plant, livestock, and personnel of such a circus
As a writer, he is supposed to invoke an image with his writing. The word "circus" brings different feelings and images to everyone. When I think of circus, I think of well, an actual circus where fun is the idea. Like the first definition. And...He didn't say that "it was a circus", he said "circus like atmosphere" as if to imply "fun". I get what he was doing. Like I said before, reading comprehension goes a long way. Honestly though, without actually reading the rest of the article it's hard to say what the tone was but my guess is that it was light and fun.
Like another poster suggested, 'carnival-like' would have been a much better choice of words. 'Circus-like', to my mind, was problematic because it ran the danger of casting the participants as performers for another's amusement, as if there wasn't a purposeful educational benefit to their activities. Given the history of black exploitation in entertainment (e.g. minstrel shows) and the stereotyping of black people as 'uneducated' - I can see why the group could have felt belittled by that.
I am afraid that might not be better.
I see the situation a bit like making fun of situation of the less fortunate. That if the school was a privileged, upper class one, then no one would bat an eye if an event was described as circus or carnival.
But if it is a ghetto school, then it is all too easy to read it as: "Wink, wink! THAT is the reason why most of those people are on welfare - instead of seriously working on their education it is all CARNIVAL and CIRCUS for them!"
So - overreaction, but not all that strange one.
I still disagree. Why is it better for privileged upper class one? If it's offensive to one, shouldn't it be offensive to all? It's only easy to read it that way if people already think that way, and if they already think that way, that article or it's following apology did nothing to change that anyway. And the only ones thinking that way in this case were the offended parties. We as a society have become so PC to make up for the mistakes of the past that we aren't holding people accountable to use their common sense anymore. It's become expected that we will cater and coddle to avoid misunderstandings caused by... nothing.
Sorry. I see where some of you get your opinions from, and think they are valid points, but I still don't think he had anything to apologize for. I realize that what I am about to say is not really a popular, and can be considered quite dismissive, but... I think that people are reading way to much into the word "circus" and are reacting too sensitively about it. This is not a typical case of someone saying a truly rude and offensive thing and then saying that people are being too sensitive. I think this is a case of people taking offense at nothing and calling it something because of their own personal feelings. Let's (general, not everyone here) use some common sense here.