This week, another campus ruckus emerged at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania when the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) put up some posters and flyers to organize a chapter of the organization on campus. The offense taken to this by left-wing students, and their subsequent actions, required the College Dean, Julie L. Ramsey, to issue a public email supporting the rights of all students to have opinions without being subject “to personal attacks and destruction of materials publicizing opposing points of view.” Congratulations to Dean Ramsey, who has more class than most college leaders today.
Unfortunately, her email begins by noting that “the viewpoint conveyed by a group on campus, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), is causing some students to feel personally offended, attacked, and perhaps even unsafe.” And this is the problem today with higher “education” (deliberately in quotes, as education per se seems less and less part of the college experience). Since when do political points of view cause people to feel offended, attacked, and unsafe? More to the point, so what? It is clear that colleges and universities have completely abandoned the goal of preparing young adults to live and succeed in the real world that awaits them.
At the same time, over at Wesleyan University, Bryan Stascavage, a 30-year-old Iraq war veteran and student wrote an opinion piece in the student newspaper critical of the tactics of Black Lives Matter, resulting in another required reminder by Wesleyan University President Michael Roth that “there is no right not to be offended,” and that colleges cannot “demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable.”
What is going on here? How did our colleges and universities get to the point where the defense of academic and speech freedoms must be couched in language about offense, comfort, and safety? It is too easy to complain, however true, that today’s college students are the most protected, coddled, childish bunch of self-entitled youngsters ever raised by the American middle class. The bigger picture is that the decades-long entrenchment of leftist thinking in these institutions has resulted in the notion that conservative ideas cannot be quashed simply because they might be threatening to the leftist power structure (see first amendment to the U.S. constitution); rather, that the entrenched faculties have been able to sell the absurd idea that a conservative or libertarian point of view should be banned on the basis of “feelings.” And now, the leaders and administrators of these institutions are left to deal with the mess created by allowing nutty professors to run amok in so many ways.
Instead of preparing our children for the rough and tumble of the real world, they are forced to worry about the kiddies’ feelings. Instead of scholarship, research, and education, they preside over a vast left-wing indoctrination of liberal, or increasingly, radical left-wing thinking. Instead of the time-honored pursuit of truth and knowledge, which the modern university was founded upon centuries ago, they now administer an environment that freaks out at intellectual differences and demands conformity of thought. Chairman Mao would have been proud.
Higher education in our country is at a crossroads. Real, comprehensive, high-quality online education is going to blow a hole in the business model of colleges and universities (yes, it is a business, even though it does not – yet – pay taxes). What if the Ivy League develops online courses and shares them across its member institutions, and someone can get an online Harvard degree at half the cost of attending on campus, and choose math classes from MIT, humanities classes from Harvard, business classes from, well you get the point. Combine this with the realization across the country that higher education has become higher political indoctrination and feelings-management, and throw in the absurd cost involved, and it’s fair to say that there’s a challenge on the horizon.