De-sensitivity Training Is Needed on College Campuses

 

shutterstock_141765202The NYT ran an op-ed over the weekend called “In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas.”  In essence, it details all the ways that colleges and college students have been contorting their intellectual environments to make their campuses “safe” for people who find offensive ideas to be “dangerous.”  To me, it appears painfully obvious that a movement toward letting the most offended members obtain a heckler’s veto on speech is a terrible idea. As the author puts it:

Still, it’s disconcerting to see students clamor for a kind of intrusive supervision that would have outraged students a few generations ago. But those were hardier souls. Now students’ needs are anticipated by a small army of service professionals … This new bureaucracy may be exacerbating students’ “self-infantilization[.]”

From my view, you are an adult once you go to college. You may not have the full complement of responsibilities that attend adulthood, but you are a man or a woman, and should start to be integrated into the world as such. This means that you cannot bend the world to your will, and that you accept that some people have ideas that you find offensive. But to equate “offensive” with being “unsafe” — on the grounds that they both make one feel bad — is a dangerous false equivalence.

It offends me when people describe my life as a complete accident of genetics and history in which I have little or no agency; I feel like it undermines important things about who I am. It offends me when people presume things about me because I am a Republican, or a white male; I think it’s unfair that contemporary progressive intellectuals have somehow obtained the power to license what is deemed morally acceptable and what is not. It offends me when people with different ideas about parenting might think I’m doing a bad job with my kids. There are a whole lot of people out there with quite a lot of very strong opinions about what is good and what is damaging for kids, and I am certain that even people close to me will view my decisions askance at times.

But while these ideas might irritate or offend me, they don’t make me feel unsafe. In fact what would make me feel unsafe is if we never had an opportunity to discuss them. Free speech rights are not there because of an accident. We have them because our wise founders could look back at history and found that full, open, and even offensive conversation, as polarizing as it can be, remains one of the best prophylactics against tyranny.

What would be a problem is if I never heard the opinions of anti-Republican bigots who might discriminate against me or — were this a different society — try to have me locked up for being unorthodox. It would be dangerous if libertarians or SoCons were just put onto watch lists, and political discussion was not something we cherish. What would be a problem was if parenting regimes were governed by an officially correct manual, and deviations, undiscussed, were to be reported to authorities for corrective measures, creating a centrally-authorized script against which we have to live and make sure everyone conforms to it. Now that’s a dangerous idea.

Colleges are supposed to be taking new adults and turning them into useful members of society. A useful member of society should have both an open mind and a thick skin. Allowing the most sensitive of students — those who shrink away on contact with offensive or even painful ideas — to control what is heard and unheard hurts everyone. As the op-ed recounts:

One scholar … was particularly insistent that college students not be subjected to “the violence of the word” because many of them “are away from home for the first time and at a vulnerable stage of psychological development.” If they’re targeted and the university does nothing to help them, they will be “left to their own resources in coping with the damage wrought.”

Perhaps schools should look into providing de-sensitivity training for students who show themselves unusually prone to offense.

There are 17 comments.

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  1. user_130720 Member
    user_130720
    @

    Kristian Stout: To equate “offensive” with being “unsafe” creates a very nasty false equivalence.

    Oh I can just hear the cute little college kids chanting this Progressive little ditty:

    Obamacare shall be my shield ‘gainst sticks or stones infectin’ me.
    Hurl hateful words or thoughts my way and speech codes will protect me.

    Followed of course by a chorus of Nya Nya nya Nya nya nya as the thought police cart the offenders away for their re-education and mandatory community service.

    • #1
  2. user_428379 Thatcher
    user_428379
    @AlSparks

    Kristian Stout:

    From my view, you are an adult once you go to college. You may not have the full complement of responsibilities that attend adulthood, but you are a man or a woman, and should start to be integrated into the world as such.

    Before the 1960’s, colleges did treat their students as not quite adults, the latin phrase, in loco parentis, or “in place of the parent” sums up the philosophy, and it was supported by the conservatives of the time.

    Colleges are going back to that.  We, as conservatives, just disagree with the methods of this new parenting.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    One scholar … was particularly insistent that college students not be subjected to “the violence of the word” because many of them “are away from home for the first time and at a vulnerable stage of psychological development.” If they’re targeted and the university does nothing to help them, they will be “left to their own resources in coping with the damage wrought.”

    Yup. Better learn how to deal with it quick, Sunshine, because it won’t get any easier.

    • #3
  4. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Sounds to me like the administrators need the training.

    Besides, if you really want a wake-up call, show them the utility bills for the month. Last I recall, the electric company didn’t give a damn about the damage they were doing to my fragile psyche.

    • #4
  5. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    I don’t mind colleges taking care of their students or treating them as something less than fully mature adults.  I do mind colleges becoming propaganda camps, purging young minds of “dangerous ideas,” and turning students into mindless progressive automatons.  It’s like some dystopian science fiction novel.

    • #5
  6. Zoon Politikon Inactive
    Zoon Politikon
    @KristianStout

    Larry3435:I don’t mind colleges taking care of their students or treating them as something less than fully mature adults. I do mind colleges becoming propaganda camps, purging young minds of “dangerous ideas,” and turning students into mindless progressive automatons. It’s like some dystopian science fiction novel.

    Larry — they are not fully mature, granted.  However, the way to encourage maturity is not to coddle them or pander to them.    It is absolutely a problem when “dangerous ideas” are washed out of discourse for propaganda reasons.  However the soft tyranny of gradually lowered expectations is perhaps more destructive, because it can slip by our notice so easily.

    • #6
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Every life has its moments when the world changes and all that you have known, or more precisely all that you thought you knew, turns out to be different.

    My first moment came when I was 16 and my father took ill with esophageal cancer. In 11 months he went from being a strong-as-an-ox steel worker to quadriplegic to gone. Now when I read about college kids whining about being so psychological and emotionally fragile that they need trigger warnings, safe rooms and veto power over ideas they find “challenging,” well, I just want to slap the crap out of them. Hard.

    I’m with Percival. Grow up, Sunshine. Life sucks.

    We need a sliding scale of vote eligibility in this country: 18 if you finish bootcamp, 21 if you have a full-time job, 26 if you’re off mommy and daddy’s insurance.

    • #7
  8. gts109 Member
    gts109
    @gts109

    College students are free to hang out, eat oreo cookies, and watch puppie videos, instead of engaging in a rigorous academic debate. That’s part of the college experience. You get to choose what to do in your free time.

    But, labeling what you deem to be offensive speech as unsafe is a trend straight out of Orwell. These college students are seeking physical refuge from thoughtcrime!

    I also found it interesting that the use of the term has a legal hook. If colleges and universities are said to have created a “hostile” environment for women or minorities, they risk federal investigation (and I presume) loss of federal funding. The use of the term unsafe is, thus, no accident. Just as the use of the term diversity exploded in use after the U.S. Supreme Court found it to be a compelling governmental interest justifying the use of racial discrimination in higher education admissions in the late 1970s, the use of the word unsafe seems to target rigorous debate as threatening a supposedly legally-mandated placid university atmosphere for women and minorities.

    • #8
  9. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Al Sparks:

    Kristian Stout:

    From my view, you are an adult once you go to college. You may not have the full complement of responsibilities that attend adulthood, but you are a man or a woman, and should start to be integrated into the world as such.

    Before the 1960′s, colleges did treat their students as not quite adults, the latin phrase, in loco parentis, or “in place of the parent” sums up the philosophy, and it was supported by the conservatives of the time.

    Colleges are going back to that. We, as conservatives, just disagree with the methods of this new parenting.

    It’s not so much the methods as the agenda we are most concerned about. PC speech codes are being used to stifle dissent from the Statist utopia being developed by the leftist elites on campus. This business of, “Your speech offends me so you must be silenced” goes only one way.

    • #9
  10. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    It seems to me that the “dangerous ideas” from which college students need to be protected is that by pitching a fit, being inveterate whiners and whingers will get them ahead in life.  The apex of the professional activist pyramid is high but narrow.  Sure the current White House is occupied by such, but that is an abnormality that is unlikely to be repeated.  The prosperous professional agitators are relatively few in number.  They ride on top of a broad base of unprosperous suckers.

    • #10
  11. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    EJHill:Every life has its moments when the world changes and all that you have known, or more precisely all that you thought you knew, turns out to be different.

    My first moment came when I was 16 and my father took ill with esophageal cancer. In 11 months he went from being a strong-as-an-ox steel worker to quadriplegic to gone. Now when I read about college kids whining about being so psychological and emotionally fragile that they need trigger warnings, safe rooms and veto power over ideas they find “challenging,” well, I just want to slap the crap out of them. Hard.

    I’m with Percival. Grow up, Sunshine. Life sucks.

    We need a sliding scale of vote eligibility in this country: 18 if you finish bootcamp, 21 if you have a full-time job, 26 if you’re off mommy and daddy’s insurance.

    Yes! Skin in the game.   I continue to lobby that only tax payers get to vote.  If a citizen doesn’t pay Federal Income/FICA taxes they don’t vote.  Period.  It is the only fair and intelligent way to run a democratic republic.  Think of all the positive incentives it puts in place.

    • #11
  12. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @NedVaughn

    BRAVO! Terrific post, and great closing sentence.

    • #12
  13. Zoon Politikon Inactive
    Zoon Politikon
    @KristianStout

    Ned Vaughn:BRAVO! Terrific post, and great closing sentence.

    Thanks Ned! Much appreciated.

    • #13
  14. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Perhaps schools should look into providing de-sensitivity training for students who show themselves unusually prone to offense.

    You think? I’d go much further and hold women who engage in destructive and frivolous behavior in contempt of court.

    This one in particular: Columbia Student Emma Sulkowicz Still Carrying Mattress.

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @JohnPaul

    Kristian,

    Your comment regarding de-sensitivity training highlights the need for vigorous debate on college campuses. (My God, man, that’s what university is for- learning, debate, having one’s ideas challenged!)  Students must be encouraged to confidently argue for their viewpoints rather than be held captive by feelings of offense. “Feeling offended is not a substantive argument.” (Paraphrasing Greg Lukianoff’s Unlearning Liberty, which is a fantastic yet disheartening book).

    JP

    • #15
  16. user_130720 Member
    user_130720
    @

    EJHill:We need a sliding scale of vote eligibility in this country: 18 if you finish bootcamp, 21 if you have a full-time job, 26 if you’re off mommy and daddy’s insurance.

    Is there a great folly than the idea that if you can drink and die for your country then you can vote? Probably!

    • #16
  17. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    I’d guess young people entering college today are more often, than, say, 40 years ago, the adult children of divorce, and of parents who did not marry.  In family relationships, for reasons that have nothing to do with birth or death, they have more often had to accept changes, and new people, in parent and sibling roles. I think they are more often less certain, than young people in college used to be, of their place, and the security of their place, within families. They are more fearful of the capriciousness of people; more anxious to please adults in power. So, when a professor ( the person who determines grades and gives recommendations) hints that something upsets or offends them, I think they’re quick to take the hint and act as upset or offended as the professor seems to think they should be. I don’t think they’re even fully conscious of how much they do that.

    The great social changes of the past 50 years have given us young people who are more….compulsively compliant.

    • #17

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