The word for some time in the cutting-edge psychological community is that people don’t graduate from adolescence until their mid-20s.
In other words, you can’t expect them to act like adults until they are well beyond college – even beyond master’s-level grad school or several years into their careers.
That would explain a lot.
Especially the apparent catastrophic fragility of millions of young people who we used to call young adults, and who have been classified as adults by the legal system. They can drive at 16, vote at 18 and drink at 21 or younger.
But their psyches are apparently much too delicate to be bruised by any sort of rhetoric that might challenge their worldview, or their individual experience of the world, since having a worldview is something we mostly reserve for adults.
This should not be a surprise, I guess. They have been taught since they were toddlers that they are so, so special. They have been loaded down with trophies, honors and awards just for showing up. And they have been taught that nobody should be allowed to offend them or even make them feel uncomfortable.
Trends like this always start with presumably good intentions: Colleges announce that they will not tolerate “hate speech” that insults or demeans any race, gender, age, religion or sexual preference.
OK, it is a good thing to promote civility. An argument ceases to be an argument if it descends into name calling or personal insults.
But, sadly, like most such initiatives, that is never enough. These days, anyone who simply disagrees with politically correct thinking, no matter how respectfully, is labeled a hater.
And, more and more, it is not simply that those who disagree are criticized. The effort now is to shut them up – to ban their voices from higher education campuses where the leaders used to claim that one of their main purposes was to promote the free and open exchange of ideas, and where students were supposed to learn that not everybody thinks the same way.
No more. Now we have what has come to be called “disinvitation season,” when students and faculty try to force their administrations to withdraw an invitation to speakers whose thinking or political positions they find offensive. This tends to happen at this time of year – around commencement.
Most of these are aimed at conservatives, but occasionally at liberals, as well. One of the more prominent targets last year was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who eventually declined an invitation to speak at Rutgers after loud protests from students and faculty. Administrators held firm on their invitation, at least in public, but it was generally understood that Rice knew they would not object if she withdrew.
And now it has gone even further. Even professors – a generally liberal lot – are complaining about having to tiptoe around anything that might be slightly controversial in their lectures, or to provide “trigger warnings” in advance so that students can seek “a safe place” from anything that might not “validate” their experience.
So, it should outrage everybody, but surprise nobody, that we now have the spectacle of students at Georgetown University and Oberlin College freaking out over the mere fact that a woman who challenges some elements of feminist orthodoxy was allowed to visit and speak on their campuses.
Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Who Stole Feminism?”, was apparently so threatening to Georgetown students that a sign was placed outside of the room where she spoke, warning that her remarks would “contain discussions of sexual assault and may deny the experiences of survivors.”
At Oberlin, before Sommers showed up, more than 150 students signed a letter to The Oberlin Review, the school newspaper, titled ““In Response to Sommers’ Talk: A Love Letter to Ourselves,” which contained this ominous warning at the top: “This letter contains discussion of rape culture, online harassment, victim blaming and rape apologism/denialism.”
In other words, just reading a letter criticizing Sommers’ speech before she even gave it was considered too traumatic for some students.
The letter accused Sommers of being a “rape denialist” and enabling “rape culture to flourish” simply because she has argued that rape statistics are inflated. This after one highly publicized statistic – an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia – was shown to be false.
No matter. The letter writers said that having Sommers speak during “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” was “particularly objectionable.”
It makes you wonder if they worried at all about being guilty of exactly what they were criticizing, since they were “failing to validate” Sommers’ experiences.
That is just one of the farcical results of such loony thinking. It ends up in an absurd circle: If my disagreeing with you makes me a hater, then clearly you disagreeing with me makes you a hater as well.
Anybody whose parents are paying $20,000 to $50,000 per year or more thinking that their progeny are getting prepared to face the real world at places like this should demand a refund.
What good is an alleged worldview if one is protected from ever having it challenged, never mind learning how to defend it, or perhaps even modify it through the free and open exchange of ideas? Those who need “safety” from that shouldn’t be in college.
In fact, they should probably not add to their parents’ debt hangover and just find a safe space in their basement.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at email@example.com