I’m working on a piece about the various ways that writers about higher education, especially those within the academy, write about students with absolute disdain. Here are some of the responses to the Trigger Warning and Commencement issue, both filled with scorn and not getting it.
Here’s the worst, one so bad I am hesitant to even include the link. It’s from Chester Finn, who has “devoted his career to improving education in the United States.”
Maybe not, for such unfamiliar and provocative views might make them, precious as they are, feel unwelcome, excluded, even distressed. And they surely don’t want that. Let’s face it. A growing portion of today’s student population, at least on elite campuses, holds expectations that are both schizy and spoiled: They should be free to do absolutely anything they want without institutional barriers or interference of any kind, yet the institution must protect them from every conceivable sort of harm or upset. Try to thread that needle. While you’re at it, write a very large check to pay for your child’s opportunity to benefit from four years in such a high-status center of learning.
There’s another conservative voice, “No Wonder Putin Sneers at Us” from a non-educator who makes much the same argument.
What a bunch of titty babies American college students can be. Who spends $50,000 per year to send their kid to a college where they are coddled like mental invalids? These aren’t institutions of higher learning; these are sanitariums. These Special Little Snowflakes are going to be as bunnies in the gator pit when they hit the real world.
“Titty” babies.” Mental invalids? It’s interesting how Finn, with “schizy,” and this author, with “invalids,” relies on such language to talk about something that is in fact about mental trauma.
Jonah Goldberg, of the American Enterprise Institute, does some similar work in the LA Times, writing:
I can sympathize. But this way leads to madness.
And what a strange madness it is. We live in a culture in which it is considered bigotry to question whether women should join combat units — but it is also apparently outrageous to subject women of the same age to realistic books and films about war without a warning? Even questioning the ubiquity of degrading porn, never mind labeling music or video games, is denounced as Comstockery, but labeling “The Iliad” makes sense?
I do wish these people would make up their mind. Alas, that’s hard to do when you’ve lost it.
The psychologist Michael Hurd, in “Is Academia Going Mad,” ruins some interesting points when he writes:
Why is it automatically and always assumed that people wish to be taken care of, fussed over or given special attention because of their victimization? In my experience, people actually want just the opposite. They’ve been put upon enough and they don’t wish to draw even more attention to their problem. It’s not that they’re ashamed. They’re desperately looking for a way to move on, and being given an Official Victim Permission Slip in order to make some vapid college undergraduate feel superior does not help them
“Vapid college undergraduate feel superior.”
In The Stranger, we get “not about protecting delicate flowers from the sadz”
Salon calls it “dumbing down education.”
In the New Yorker, Jay Caspian King is really upset that someone told him Lolita is about the systematic rape of the young girl, because it distracts him from Nabokov’s amazing sentences. I’m not really sure how to respond to that.
There are lots of ledes saying: trigger warning for trigger warnings. Hah hah!, I say. I get your joke.
Then there’s the strange argument: Life doesn’t come with TWs, so why should the classroom? Professors who think their classroom is “life” are, I believe, not thinking about the complexities of their highly mediated environment.
Karen Prior comes out against empathy in The Atlantic.
Meanwhile, in the commencement story front, we see some similar patterns. Stephen Carter, law prof at Yale, writes in a spoof address:
And, before I go any further, I would like to express my personal thanks to all of you for not rescinding my invitation. I know that matters were dicey for a while, given that I have held and defended actual positions on politically contested issues. Now and then I’ve strayed from the party line. And if the demonstrators would quiet down for a moment, I’d like to offer an abject apology for any way in which I have offended against the increasingly narrow and often obscure values of the academy.
In my day, the college campus was a place that celebrated the diversity of ideas. Pure argument was our guide. Staking out an unpopular position was admired — and the admiration, in turn, provided excellent training in the virtues of tolerance on the one hand and, on the other, integrity.
At Haverford, William Bowen, former president at Princeton, did Carter one better. Carter was an op-ed for Bloomberg. Bowen actually scolded the graduating seniors:
A commencement speaker at Pennsylvania’s Haverford College called college students “immature” and “arrogant” Sunday for protesting a different speaker who ultimately withdrew.
Bowen and Carter are criticized nicely here on “Dad’s Rule.”
Then there’s Matt Bai, who ultimately blames us for being too soft on our kids.
America’s college kids are back and resting at home this week, which is a good thing, because during the long months away they seem to have gone completely out of their minds.
Bowen talks about Vietnam war protests. Bai talks about PC protests. These were “real” debates. More on that later.
UPDATE: From the Wall Street Journal, this diatribe. I can’t even quote it, as the whole thing says – students are babies, parents and employers will thank me for being cruel, and you humanities professors (i.e. me) are semi/post-literate.
So, what did I miss?