From the Atlantic:
The Coddling of the American Mind
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Some recent campus actions border on the surreal. In April, at Brandeis University, the Asian American student association sought to raise awareness of microaggressions against Asians through an installation on the steps of an academic hall. The installation gave examples of microaggressions such as “Aren’t you supposed to be good at math?” and “I’m colorblind! I don’t see race.” But a backlash arose among other Asian American students, who felt that the display itself was a microaggression. The association removed the installation, and its president wrote an e-mail to the entire student body apologizing to anyone who was “triggered or hurt by the content of the microaggressions.”More.
The way things are going, we’ll put lots of people in psych wards but never again on the moon.
This new climate is slowly being institutionalized, and is affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion. During the 2014–15 school year, for instance, the deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools were presented by administrators at faculty leader-training sessions with examples of microaggressions. The list of offensive statements included: “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
Anyone who has ever been in the back of a paramedic van with a loved one believes that the most qualified person should get the job.
That such a statement would be considered controversial shows how steep, maybe irreversible (?), the decline really is.
We are not asking anyone to confront a dangerous mob here. So if a student experiences so much emotional angst dealing with routine slights (see here, for example) that might occur in a checkout lineup at an urban Canadian supermarket, that person is most likely not suited to a university.
In my view, this problem stems mainly from the university getting student loan dollars by keeping people on campus (in debt) who should either shape up or ship out.
After all, if one can earn a good living from a trade school certificate, why collapse under the seemingly insupportable weight of addressing others’ ideas, which is what a university education is supposed to enable?
According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided.
But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral herapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.
Yes, but those are all business opportunities for incipient fascists! Most of whom will be government funded. It’s everyone else in society, especially people with an interest in ideas, that they aren’t good for.
Fortunately, a moment’s thought shows how false the basic premise is: Suppose an athletically talented young man gets shot by police and his injuries bar him a career in sports. Suppose the shooting was unjust. Yes, something must be done. But does that mean that other young people may not enjoy and thrive in sports, for fear of triggering more unhappiness in that unfortunate young man?
We all know what we really think about that, and the main question is, why are we living under the intellectual dominance of these “soft-hearted” fascists? Isn’t it time to just see them to the door?
See also: Liberal prof terrified by students?