From the last week of the NRO, you’d think that some kids at Yale were a bigger threat to America than ISIS. Which led me to a question: if students objecting to things said to them on campus is puerile and self-indulgent, why wet your pants over it? Really? If it’s just kids being kids or lefties fussing over nothing, then get on with the important news of the day rather than pounding on the table telling them to shut up. When I am being disruptive or unfocused in meetings my dean just gives me a look and moves on instead of yelling at me and distracting everybody from what is important.
Instead, it’s been one screed after another lambasting universities for political correctness. I have been wanting to write something about this all week, but Arthur Chu at Salon (of all places) beat me to it. with the best title I’ve yet seen: Go Ahead and Hate on Coddled College Kids: Just Admit that Anti-PC Backlash is Fueled by Outrage, Too.
(Although I don’t think you should hate on coddled college kids.)
Go read his bit. I do disagree with a couple of points. In the case of Yale, people are getting their undies in a bunch in particular over the video of a student shouting that “he didn’t want to debate…he wanted to discuss his pain.”
Oh, quell horror! An administrator! Being expected to listen to a student’s experiences and the hurt caused by those experiences! OMG!!! THAT’S WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA RIGHT HERE! MENIALS EXPECTING VOICE! ELITES BEING EXPECTED TO SHUT THEIR CAKEHOLES AND LISTEN! IT’S ANARCHY. WE GOTTA CLOSE DOWN THE CAMPUSES (except for business and engineering schools) BECAUSE IT’S JUST A HOTBED OF LIBERALS TEACHING OUR KIDS TO BE WHINERS/LOSERS/JUSTICE WARRIORS.
Ahem. I dunno about you, but when I was 20 years old, I didn’t have the guts to shout at an administrator. So there’s that. And the Mizzou students…got a president to resign. When was the last time *the faculty* could do that? Or are people wetting their pants because they LOVE a world where billionaires can yell “dance, monkey, dance” at university presidents, and have them perform, but Heaven Forbid power actually be accountable to the students the institution serves?
What you are seeing is a) typical academic bureaucratic methods of communication that, either intentionally or unintentionally, try to silence a student and b) a student saying, perhaps not in the smoothest way, “Look, dude, we can’t have a debate because you are ignorant. You are ignorant of what is hurting me. So we can’t debate it until you’ve learned it and I have shown it to you.” The shouting may be off-putting, but the student is pissed. Pissed off people shout. If you had to put up with some of the bullshit black students on campuses experience, you’d be pissed off, too.
[And cue all the white people stories about how they were picked on because of this, that, and the other, and they survived, blah blah.]
And my response: yeah, and those things made you feel unwelcome and hurt you. And years later, you still remember it. So why the actual fuck do we want people feeling that way when they are trying to get an education just because you got through it? You didn’t succeed because of that nonsense. You succeeded in spite of it. Bad treatment sucks and it diminishes human flourishing, so what say we conclude that the fact that you were badly treated at some point is evidence that it sucks, and we’re sorry that it happened, rather than as evidence that there’s nothing to see here? There are plenty of things that toughen us up in life without excusing bad treatment. There’s cancer and war and economic futility and our favorite television characters getting killed off.
Instead, yo: the conversation about a student’s rage and pain needs to happen. It’s important. But it is not a conversation that need be the object of speculation while the rest of us ogle and judge and point fingers and opine. The two people in that video don’t need our gaze. They need time. Administrators should be giving these students time. They should be showing up to listen before they talk or debate.
They won’t die if they aren’t the ones talking. I’m 100 percent sure of it.
I don’t agree with Chu, therefore, that the Yale or the CMK controversies are mere contretemps.
But I do agree that the tendency to conflate what is going on there with what happened at Missouri is a mistake because what is going on at Missouri appears, at least from the outside, to be greater in intensity with greater levels of threats and violence directed at black students there. And, btw, if you are out there flouncing around about how inexcusable it is for a black kid to go on a hunger strike and NOT screaming about death threats made against black student protestors, then you should probably look in the mirror and note that behavior makes you part of the problem. Even if you think racism is long gone and the students are wrong, the idea that, somehow, talking about race is more threatening to the world, and thus more worthy of our consternation, than death threats is some seriously -effed up thinking.
But, still, Chu’s essay is a worthy one. Some choice quotes:
What’s really going on, of course, is an argument over what outrage is justified and what outrage is not. The word “outrage” isn’t actually related to the English word “rage”; it comes from the French outré, meaning something that crosses a line or violates a boundary. Our argument over “outrage” is our argument over where the boundaries are, and where they ought to be–and anyone who tells you they don’t have any lines that piss them off if you cross them is lying.
No one at Yale was having their “right” to wear blackface taken away. They were having their “right” to wear blackface and not be made to feel uncomfortable about it by being scolded by members of the community taken away. Just as, in past years when blackface was culturally normal, black people were having their “right” to not be made to feel uncomfortable by being constantly mocked and degraded taken away
As in, you may have free speech, but the rest of us also have free speech, too, and if we use that free speech to say what you say is offensive, then who is the one who should suckitup? If me saying that something you do is hurtful, is that “bullying”? If you are such sensitive widdle flower that you can’t deal with critiques of your Halloween costume, well, I just don’t know what America is coming to.