Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Taliban, Ivy League chapter. A not-so-safe space?

UPDATE, Monday, Nov. 16: Excellent column on the topic by George Will.

Militant political correctness on campus is getting the long-overdue scrutiny it deserves thanks in no small part to Atlantic Monthly writers Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (they're a writing team) and Conor Freidersdorf, as well as New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait. Books on the subject are even bursting into print, like Kirsten Powers' excellent The Silencing. That the sniping is coming from a pair of magazines that tilt to the port side, as well as from Powers, long one of the Left's most ubiquitous talking heads, tells you something about the gravity of the problem. When folks like that jump ship, and do it so vocally, the situation must be dire indeed. 

It is. Today's brand of PC, with its ceaseless blather about microaggressions, trigger warnings and safe spaces, is in fact anything but safe. It is terribly dangerous in that it undermines the single most important umbrella mandate of a college education, which is to promote critical thinking/skepticism...i.e, the idea that no cow is too sacred to be examined, if not dissected, from every angle. The very mission statement of college is to shake people out of their comfort zones by forcing them to confront unfamiliar, possibly offensive (and yes, dear children, even hurtful) ideas. It bears saying that that mission, translated into policy, promotes true diversity of thought (not today's faux diversity-mania). It promotes the ability to abide the notion that while others may disagree with your belief system, that disagreement does not make them objectively wrong, and it certainly doesn't make them evil. What we are witnessing on today's college campuses is the (ironic) Talibanization of sociopolitical thought. If you beg to differ, then off with your head! Thankfully, so far this has been true in a metaphorical sense only.

I could drone on and on about this, and about how I myself have been targeted, but the errant ways of today's Safe Space Revolution have been elucidated at length, and better than I could do it here, in the articles linked above, as well as by Ms. Powers in her fine book. Let's just agree that this a cancer of mind and spirit. It simultaneously (if improbably) fosters a brutal hubris and a painful fragility within those in whom it incubates.

Which brings me to the final takeaway for those of us who congregate here. The regrettable phenomena rampant on today's campuses are direct outgrowths of what I wrote about in SHAM, and what we've explored at length on this blog in the decade since my book was published. Today's campus bullies (who do their bullying while wearing the cloak of the oppressed) are the chickens of the self-esteem movement come home to roost. That movement gained its greatest traction during the grade-school years of the millennials now overrunning colleges nationwide, producing a generation of young adults trained to think of themselves as special, wonderful, destined for greatness. (I can be anything i want! I don't ever have to give up my dreams!) A generation of kids who grew up somehow believing that each of them would go on to become president (for isn't that what they were told in all those cheering, chanting assemblies?) And yetas prophesied early on by some of uswhat a hollow form of self-esteem it is that degrades so easily into the abiding sense of victimization we see at academy today.They cannot bear insult, they cannot be challenged on their beliefs, or else they fall almost pathologically to pieces. If I am special...and this is what I can you dare challenge me? OMG, maybe I'm not that special after all...?

In the case of the Ivy Leaguers who are front and center in the crusade against freedom of thought, the prevailing mindset was also catalyzed by privileged upbringings, and further enabled in many cases by helicoptering parents who ensured that disappointment never stained the lives of little Matt or Muffy. 

So it is that deep inside, these young people who come off as demanding, who shout down all dissenters, are as delicate as a fine China tea set...woefully unprepared for a Real World that is not going to bow to their every whim. 


Anonymous said...

I dispute your premise. The premier mandate for a college should be to give students a solid *moral* education. They need to learn to be good, respectful citizens. Students with a solid moral background will learn to think properly and will be critical and skeptical about the right things that pertain to actual daily living, not the airy or contrarian ideas people like you uphold. With all due respect.

Steve Salerno said...

A solid moral education? And whose morality would it be, Anon? Mike Huckabee's? Hillary Clinton's? Pro-life? Pro-choice? Pro-DOMA, pro gay marriage? Do we consult the bible, the Torah...the Quran? Do you not think that Sharia Law endeavors to instill in young Muslims a "moral education"?

You really do not see the problem with your kind of thinking?