My Generation is Just Awful, and Colleges are Making it Worse
Millions of narcissistic little jerks, reared by an uncommonly hysterical generation who instilled in their children the adamantine conviction that they are exceptional and necessarily worthy of respect, enrolled this week as freshman in universities across the United States.
There was a moment when this exercise might have tested these students, made better and new through confrontation with the uncomfortable and occasionally outrageous thought.
Now, instead, they will pass the next four years of pseudo-scholarship as they have the eighteen that preceded them: swaddled in institutionalized political correctness and protected always from the unconventional or provocative.
At two- and four-year colleges and universities all across the nation, administrators have adopted stringent “speech codes” that restrict speech and behavior otherwise explicitly protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The result isn’t simply an emotionally delicate dolt, but a broader culture at jeopardy of losing the most foundational of human rights. Today’s over-sensitivity to offense means these students may be entirely desensitized to the loss of speech tomorrow, even in the face of gross government encroachment.
These speech codes stretch from the ludicrous, like Jacksonville State University’s* policy that students not offend anyone, to the plainly unlawful.
While regarded by administrators as a sort of legal prophylactic — if no one is offended, no one can bring suit against the university, the argument goes — these policies have actually invited serious and sustained litigation by students and civil liberties advocates.
According to a national policy review of more than 400 institutions of higher learning by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a not-for-profit educational foundation, more than half of those schools with speech codes would not survive judicial review.
In the case of FIRE, some 36 schools have abandoned or severely restrained their speech codes after the group brought suit on behalf of aggrieved students and faculty whose right to lawful speech were infringed.
They’ve won, repeatedly, because the privilege not to be offended is no right at all. Moreover, intellectual discomfort is a necessary tool in emotional and scholastic development — and restrictive speech codes actively retard the process.
I should know: it wasn’t so long ago that I advanced from a parochial secondary school, wherein students were taught that man and dinosaur had once coexisted before a great flood washed the earth clean, to a monstrous state university where students learned genuine science.
This science was accepted, corroborated, quantifiable, and yet also deeply offensive to a child whose narrow appreciation for the world around him was fixed in young earth Creationism.
But my offense led to introspection, and in turn growth.
The new climate of institutionalized over-sensitivity that today plagues academia — the accepted belief that one has the right to never be offended — is so acute that dissent of any sort is not allowed. These policies require either conformity or silence, and they result in a dangerous chilling of the free exchange of ideas.
Millennials, the obnoxious selfie-snapping age cohort into which I was cursed to fall, are truly horrible enough without your help, academia. KTHXBAI.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of his employer or clients.
*Ed. note: This article incorrectly attributed the speech code policy of Jacksonville State University to another university and has since been amended.
[Autonomous is a free digital magazine. But you can donate to the mission, and receive a variety of added benefits (including extra content), by visiting our Patreon page.]