Thursday, December 3, 2015

College Kids, Campuses, Close Minds

                             No Debate: Hysteria And Conformity The New Norm On Campus

                Colleges have historically been tasked with challenging students to think about and debate various ideas, and encouraged them to seek out all sides of an issue. Students were introduced to vast new (to them) stores of human knowledge and were taught about the evolution of thought from Aristotle, Plato and Socrates thru Cicero, Disraeli and Locke on up to modern times. They were, in short, given a classically liberal education. At the University I attended, most students were encouraged to enroll in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA as everyone referred to it) for two years before matriculating to the specific college that would be the launching pad to their chosen field of endeavor. (So I did).
                In days of yore, teachers and professors unabashedly came at you with arguments, attempting to figuratively push you into a corner, to see if you could, through logic and reason, intellectually fight your way out of that corner. This would quickly and clearly show them what you did- or didn’t- know about the given subject. In fact, rhetoric and debate were integral parts of academic instruction on many campuses. In this way, and through adequate reflection, a student learned what he or she truly believed. The goal of a liberal education was to show students how to think, not tell them what to think. It was also to challenge them with difficult concepts and get them out of their comfort zone, illustrating the world as it was, that they might have the tools- the mental wherewithal- to be able to solve problems, create, innovate, advance and generally make things better.
                Those days are over. I shudder to think of the future.
                Today, many students at most colleges and universities do not want to be exposed to opposing ideas, viewpoints or anything that might make them the slightest bit uncomfortable in any way. Students expect to be coddled; when they believe they aren’t, they feel oppressed. Words and phrases are being banned, Halloween costumes are being aggressively policed and books are being removed from study, all so the students don’t suffer emotional “trauma.” A student on one campus asked a colleague not to use the word “violate” (as in, ‘did that violate the law?’) as it might trigger distress. Students frequently talk of “micro-aggressions,” “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.”
                At Claremont McKenna College two students posted a Halloween picture of themselves wearing sombreros. The campus went berserk. The dean of students resigned. At Dartmouth a mob paraded through the library, demanding that students stand up in solidarity and shoving those who seemed unwilling into its walls, in a chilling imitation of Nazi Brown-shirts.
            The New York Times reported that at (the elite Ivy League’s) Brown University,students set up a ‘safe space’ that offered calming music, cookies, Play-Doh and a video of frolicking puppies to help students cope.” (College students used to search for Plato, not Play-Doh!).
                And some kids their age are fighting overseas.  Where are the best and the brightest?
                The paper further stated, “the sense that hearing opposing opinions can cause damage to the psyche – has seeped from the campus to the classroom. Literary classics are now considered potentially ‘unsafe’ for students to read. Reading lists at some universities are being adapted to come with warnings printed beside certain titles.” Two of those titles are:
                *“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Trigger: suicide, domestic abuse and graphic violence)
                *”Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf (Trigger: suicidal tendencies)
                Professors at some colleges have told their students that, “if a book makes them feel unsafe,” they are allowed to skim it, or skip it altogether, according to a Harvard Law professor. (Obviously the Bible would be one of those books, were there anyone in academia thinking it worthy of study. Oddly enough, the Koran, however, could not be banned in this politically-correct climate).
                Essentially, real learning is being extinguished. Along with logic, reason, courage…and freedom. Ironically, the College of Liberal Arts has been transformed into the College of Illiberal Arts, or CIA. 
                The American Founders were the most educated, open-minded leaders imaginable. They had a burning hunger for knowledge and loved to question and debate. They faced- and overcame- seemingly insurmountable obstacles. (George Washington did not have a “safe space” replete with calming music, cookies, Play-Doh and videos of frolicking puppies at Valley Forge).
                Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I have sworn, on the altar of God, eternal hostility to all forms of tyranny over the minds of man.”
                Students no longer are exposed to that quote. “God” and “hostility” are triggers that, like, make them feel uncomfortable, you know.

                If any of you disagree with any of my opinions, I don’t want to hear it!
                I’m going to get a cookie.

                And cry.                                        

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