August 14, 2015

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Sheltered Students Go to College, Avoid Education.

The new language of campus censorship cuts out the middleman and claims that merely hearing wrong, unpleasant or offensive ideas is so dangerous to the mental health of the listener that people need to be protected from the experience.

During the time when people are supposed to be learning to face an often hard world as adults, and going through the often uncomfortable process of building their intellectual foundations, they are demanding to be sheltered from anything that might challenge their beliefs or recall unpleasant facts to their mind. And increasingly, colleges are accommodating them. Everything at colleges is now supposed to be thoroughly sanitized to the point of inoffensiveness — not only the coursework, but even the comedians who are invited to entertain the students.

The obvious objection to this is that it is not possible to have a community of ideas in which no one is ever offended or upset . By the time you’re done excising the Victorian literature that offends feminists, the biology texts that offend young-earth creationists, and the history lessons that offend whichever group was on the losing side, there’s not much left of the curriculum . The less obvious, but even more important, objection is raised by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in this month’s Atlantic: It’s bad for the students themselves.

Students demanding that campus life be bowdlerized to preserve their peace of mind seem to believe that the best way to deal with trauma is to avoid any mention of it. But Lukianoff and Haidt argue that this is exactly backward; chronic avoidance breeds terror. The current climate on campus is a recipe for producing fearful adults who are going to have difficulty coping in an adult world. It’s as if we were trying to prepare the next generation of American citizens by keeping them in kindergarten until the age of 23.

Fearful, and looking for a big brother to protect them.

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