In September's Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt examine how the embrace of "emotional reasoning" in higher education today "presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm." Instead of challenging them and preparing them to fend for themselves intellectually and emotionally, the notion that "words can be forms of violence" may, the authors argue, be "teaching students to think pathologically."
This is the opposite of how cognitive behavioral therapy works to minimize distorted thinking that leads to depression and anxiety. The object is to teach coping mechanisms, to desensitize patients to what today are called "triggers":
Therapy often involves talking yourself down from the idea that each of your emotional responses represents something true or important.
Emotional reasoning dominates many campus debates and discussions. A claim that someone’s words are “offensive” is not just an expression of one’s own subjective feeling of offendedness. It is, rather, a public charge that the speaker has done something objectively wrong. It is a demand that the speaker apologize or be punished by some authority for committing an offense.
First of all, any criticism of universities must acknowledge the enormous push to de-power the workers and empower the powerful. The very wealthy are paying a lot of money to fight "political correctness" on campuses. The most obvious reason is a libertarian adoration of free speech but libertarianism is little more than a cover for billionaires' causes. The right believes that campuses turn good little conservative children into evil atheistic adults and the Koches are children of a Bircher, but, and perhaps much more important, university research sometimes makes millions for its researchers and the university.
This is the reason Megan McArdle writes so many articles defending campus rapists. She gave the keynote speech for FIRE in 2013. And she has obviously received the memo because she also criticizes helicopter parenting. It's easy for people to join in on the fun condemnation of the young and everyone always thinks the young of today have it easier than they did but one thing has not occurred to any of the pointers-and-laughers.
The kids are right. Not all of them all the time, but their time is no different than any other. They are the victims of sexism and racism. They are abused by parents and relatives and cops and strangers. And they did not learn as we were forced to learn to bury the pain, defend the abusers, wave the flag and salute Mom (who cursed and hit them) and Country (which sent them to an Iraqi meat grinder) and Capitalism (which stole their future and handed it to billionaires to piss away, literally when it comes to $500 dollar bottles of wine).
They were raped and they refuse to shut up about it for fear of being called a slut.
They were robbed and (unlike their parents) refuse to kiss the ring of the thief because he is on tv and f*cks beautiful women.
They are traumatized and want that trauma to be acknowledged and addressed.
What do they get instead? The same thing the young always get when they cry out at injustice.
Mockery. Tear gas. Name calling--spoilt, lazy, entitled, un-patriotic, ungrateful brats.
Listen to what they are trying to tell you.
But no, everybody is listening to the freaking libertarians.
Playing in dirt builds immunity. But as mankind moved from the farm to an urban environment, less exposure at an early age to microbes and microflora has weakened our immune systems. Now universities seem intent on fostering a sanitized, "bubble boy" intellectual environment free of "microaggressions," and one that reinforces hypersensitivity and hypervigilance.
There is nothing more obnoxious in our society than a victim. Whine, whine, whine. It's all they ever do. They're losers. Bubble boys. Social Justice Warrior Tumbler Twitter girls. Sooooo obnoxious! So sensitive!
People don't look up for the source of problems; they look down.
But the creepier part of this trend Lukianoff and Haidt only hint at is the digital tarring and feathering of alleged offenders you can see any day on social media by online mobs. Faculty must worry that their careers can be ruined over some real or imagined offense for which there is no response except to make public obeisance. Callout culture works like that, or #BowDownBernie.
My last semester as an undergraduate, I took a course in Chinese history. Mao had just died. The Cultural Revolution had just ended. I bought a subscription to China Pictorial, one of their propaganda magazines. It was filled with scenes of happy, smiling, air-brushed faces of cadre members merrily harvesting crops, performing in stadium-sized flag routines, and sitting around the commune sternly engaging in daily self-criticism and ritually denouncing counter-revolutionaries Madam Mao, Lin Biao, and the Gang of Four for crimes against the people's revolution.
It was creepy to me then. It's creepy now.
Worry about FIRE and the Koches and the Gates. They are far, far more dangerous to academics and they will prevail. The students will not; they are already dismissed as powerless, whiny cry-babies.