Great piece, Julia, and I agree with you when it comes to PC and comedy, but on college campuses it seems that the trend of censorship is much broader than comedy, and can have serious repercussions for all of us. Many of the examples I’ve seen deal less with the effect on comedians and comedy than they do with the general academic environment, and when speech is stifled in the academic environment, it undermines our critical thinking skills, our ability to have difficult conversations, and therefore our entire system of government.
Comedy, aside, this article — also from the Atlantic — does a much better job of attacking what I see as the real problem. The problem with the college experience isn’t that some comedians are unwilling to perform b/c they think students are too PC, the problem is that when we make emotions sacrosanct, particularly when — in the academic setting — we value them more than fact, we make real actions and real solutions impossible. For example, how will a generation of students who don’t want to read Virgina Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” be prepared to deal with the realities of mental health issues and suicide? The same argument can be made for almost every issue. A good education SHOULD push you, challenge you, and expose you to ideas that make you uncomfortable Even if ultimately you reject those ideas. You’re better off for having to grapple with them.
Furthermore, and finally, I would add that this stifling of conversation in the college setting harms students who should be exiting college prepared for the real world, which cares much less for their emotional well-being than the “safe spaces” they hope to create in college. Almost any job is going to look for proactive problem-solvers, and people with that skill set are much more likely to have been exposed to many different ideas, learned to analyze the validity of competing ideas, and have the mental toughness to work through difficult situations and propose solutions. In other words, fragility need not apply here, but it seems that our college environments are catering more and more to emotional well-being at the expense of a true education. That terrifies me.