People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled.Reason's Robby Soave goes further, contrasting the elite hot-houses with pre-school, and not to higher ed's favor.
To say that the 18-year-olds at Brown who sought refuge from ideas that offended them are behaving like toddlers is actually to insult the toddlers—who don't attend daycare by choice, and who routinely demonstrate more intellectual courage than these students seem capable of. (Anyone who has ever observed a child tackling blocks for the first time, or taking a chance on the slide, knows what I mean.)It gets better.
Caving to students' demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces is doing them no favors: it robs them of the intellectually-challenging, worldview-altering kind of experience they should be having at college. It also emboldens them to seek increasingly absurd and infantilizing restrictions on themselves and each other.There's an opportunity here for the land-grants and mid-majors, if the faculty and Student Affairs see it: the cookie-cutter snowflakes and hothouse flowers tend to turn up at the Ivies and their ilk. (Perhaps Ms Shulevitz had enough material for a column just from the usual suspects, but her round-up of "make the owie go away" didn't offer any anecdotes from a land-grant or mid-major or community college.)
As their students mature, my mother and her co-workers encourage the children to forego high chairs and upgrade from diapers to "big kid" toilets. If only American college administrators and professors did the same with their students.
Susan Kruth of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education states the general principle these special pleaders seem bent on breaking. "If meaningful debate is to be possible on college campuses, students must be willing to thoughtfully engage with those with whom they disagree, those who use language they dislike, and those who make them emotionally uncomfortable." And the snowflakes, by making that nasty sunlight go away, are depriving themselves of an intellectual challenge that others, outside the consensus, get as a matter of course. Here is Jonathan Adler, a member of The Volokh Conspiracy.
One of the benefits of having been right-of-center in college was that my political and philosophical views were constantly challenged. There was no “safe space” — and I was better for it. I often felt that I received a better education than many of my peers precisely because I was not able to hold unchallenged assumptions or adopt unquestioned premises.That's an argument of long pedigree, particularly among libertarian or conservative observers of the academy: the leftists and liberals never have to engage the strong form of significant opposing views, and sputtering "Tea Party" or "dittohead" and hoping that ends the argument often fails on the outside. It gets interesting, though, when Power Line's Steven Hayward picks up discomfort with the Perpetually Aggrieved among Nation writers.
There is a challenge for classroom management that emerges, though. A student, or a workshop participant, ought not use viewpoint diversity as a club. Daniel Drezner explains that there is a right way, and a wrong way, to air dissenting views, and a right way, and a wrong way, for a faculty member (or whoever is leading the discussion) to ensure opportunities for exchanges of views.
I’ve led a fair number of undergraduate and graduate seminars in my day. If a student shares a politically unpopular viewpoint, then as the seminar leader it’s often my job to defend that position. In the absence of such views, I will very often articulate such views as a means of provoking the conversation.Yes, that's another skill that the pre-school teaches. Take your turn. Let the other person take his turn.
That said, if any student tries to monopolize or repeatedly hijack the conversation, it’s a serious pedagogical problem. A seminar leader has to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to articulate their views, and critique others in the room. Playing intellectual traffic cop is difficult, but it’s made even more difficult if one person just honks their horn endlessly without stopping. And to play this metaphor out, when students do nothing but honk their own horn, they tend to drown out others trying to communicate with them.
In the classroom at least, simply averring the free speech should never be restricted is facile but wrong. There’s only so much time in a seminar and when one person is speaking, the others need to listen.
When it appears that the conversation is headed off-topic, that's when the discussion leader has to invoke the cup of coffee, or the pitcher of beer, depending on the audience.