Traditionally, young people mature with age. In the leftist microcosm that is college, however, our student snowflakes become ever more sensitive with time. We can give our thanks to the education system for that.
When the University of Michigan planned an optional screening of the movie American Sniper, campus activists dropped their lattes and sprang into action, accusing 3-tour Iraq war veteran Chris Kyle, the subject of the film, of every sin under the sun. Apparently, an autobiographical account of the most successful sniper in U.S. military history was just too much for these adults to handle. Hitchens warned his fellow leftists not to “spit on those who guard you while you sleep,” but the warning was lost on these college students.
After students at Columbia University were asked to read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, written in 8 A.D., some took to the campus newspaper to pen an op-ed against the assignment. These students felt “unsafe” reading a work written two thousand years ago that did not conform to their modern conceptions of society.
Evidently, it’s too much to ask for college students to open their minds to classical literature or have the option to watch a movie depicting an American hero. On the other hand, students feel perfectly justified in asking for intellectual “safety” during their college experience.
Central and other preparatory schools, indubitably, play their roles in instilling in students an expectation of intellectual safety. Take this year’s summer reading list, for instance.
Sophomores, with precisely zero pedagogy on politics and government in their backgrounds, are assigned The New Jim Crow, a book accusing American society and government of continued systemic racism. While I would love to go back a year and debate the merits of Michelle Alexander’s argument, particularly the parallel to the Jim Crow era that her book relies on, that debate wouldn’t happen even if I were a sophomore. The main reason why it wouldn’t happen is that these students have no academic backgrounds with politics, and the only work on the justice system they will have read is that one. They will, given no other assigned literature on the subject, parrot back the views of Alexander onto college-ruled paper. And they’ll get an A.
And we’ll move on.
The seniors will have an array of choices including a novel about the radical African-American group M.O.V.E. and an environmentalist book written by Rachel Carson. (It seems like the English department has even given up the pretense of objectivity) What’s not included is anything displaying a dissenting opinion, and it’s particularly disturbing because students should be constantly challenging their preconceived notions, not having them constantly and officially reaffirmed. Students at Central may benefit from reading something written by the founder of modern conservatism, Barry Goldwater. They may even question the notion of expansionist government after reading a book by Friedman, who shaped Chile’s modern economy. If we’re now alright with choosing modern controversial books, as The New Jim Crow demonstrates, there’s no reason not to have American Sniper, which is substantially less controversial, on the reading list.
Who cares if the students will never read a dissenting opinion in their entire academic career? Who cares if the entire summer reading list is ideologically homogenous? As long as the predominantly liberal student body and faculty feel “safe,” it’s all perfectly fine.
While I’m aware that today’s graduates will be skeptical of taking advice from a junior, this is one time I’ll ask you to make an exception. Resist the cult of orthodoxy, challenge the perpetually offended, and use your academic careers to open your minds, not insulate yourselves from unpopular ideas.
One thing’s for sure, though; you won’t have much help along the way.
Michael Moroz (275)