November 22, 2015
Right now there are about 17.5 million college students attending some 4,100 schools across the U.S. They come from almost every country, speak most every language and come from every current culture, race, religion and ethnic group. Most of them understand that they are part of a very lucky global elite. They are the real 1 percent.
Fewer than half will graduate, so most work hard to succeed. The majority of these kids – and they are just that – want very much to meet new people and experience new things while they are here. From my perch at a large Midwestern school, I see mostly earnest young women and men making their way in the world as best they can.
If this description does not sound very much like the student shenanigans taking place at Yale, the University of Missouri, and now many other places, then you are right. That is largely not what is happening at American universities, which remain places of scholarship, hard work and little coddling.
Now, this doesn't mean that my university or any other isn't susceptible to remarkable asininity. Ball State has a new ‘Bias Response Team.’ I can only suppose these public employees will be trained to rush to the scene of a supposed thought crime to dispense Kleenex and valium, while carefully torching any errant copies of the Constitution in sight. These groups won't survive their first, inevitable, public blunder. Still it is easy to figure out why they exist.
Many university presidents and boards are fearful, and even a lukewarm defense of free speech is sure to unleash a wave of aggrieved fury on social media. And besides, moral courage is no longer in fashion in the modern university, so let's just have a conference on the “intersectionality of identities.”
The glorification of extreme identity group politics has run amok. In this world of micro-whining about micro-aggressions, nothing is too trivial to cause grievance. This atmosphere is shockingly disrespectful to the memory of real struggles for freedom. It is also deeply anti-intellectual. College should focus on our ideas, passions and character; not our race, ethnic tribe or sexual preference.
Successful adulthood is not easy, and where young adults are abundant, boorish behavior abounds. That boorishness includes racial, sexual and religious slurs. Ironically, a resilient freedom of expression coupled with decent manners are the swiftest encouragement to change. Dr. Martin Luther King knew that, but freedom and expression and good manners are in short supply in Mizzou or Yale.
In a larger sense the fringe mal-behavior on campuses should be entertaining. It is fight between the fascist left and the radical left. It is as entertaining as say, the Westboro Baptist Church protesting the KKK. It would be the stuff of a good chuckle, if it weren't happening on American campuses. This is where the world learns. If we, the faculty of America's universities, cannot teach and defend freedom of expression, model adult behavior and push our students into responsible adulthood then we fail. American universities mustn’t fail.
About the Author
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