It's official. Political correctness has caused us to lose sight of what going to a university is all about. First professors and now extremist students have hijacked institutions meant for learning and instead are quashing expression.
Recent events at the University of Missouri, or "Mizzou" as any college football fan would call it, have astonished the nation with their audacity. Three people have lost their jobs in the furor at the university, which more notably, has lost its sanity.
Maybe it's because I was a strange young man fascinated and immersed in the world of policy, but I remember idealizing my future college as the Yale that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about. Filled with debate and intellectual discussions of the fundamentally opposed forces of humanity, followed by evenings with, shall we say, revelry. I realized quickly upon graduation that there was a lot more drudgery involved, like statistics classes and formatting margins to be perfectly aligned with A.P.A. guidelines.
I knew that my worldview was unpopular in academia, and imagined that I would face stiff opposition from a professor or two, but I never, ever imagined what's happening at big universities nationwide today.
Claims at Mizzou of a swastika written on a dorm restroom wall in, well you can imagine, sparked an unimaginable furor of progressive indignation. It was revealed earlier this week, however, that there is no record of such an incident. Unless the outraged students took it upon themselves to clean it without taking so much as a photo for the record, the janitors don't even remember such an event.
This isn't new. Countless cases of supposed racial- and gender-related hate crimes have been shown to be hoaxes over the years, but typically they were by professors whose ideologies included the idea of ends justifying the means. Whether it was a professor keying her own car with slurs or trashing the classroom and writing offensive material on the whiteboard before students came to class, they have only served to prove that racism and misogyny, while real in this country, are almost a myth on actual campuses.
Lately, some student activists have learned from their esteemed professors and started taking the fight against their internal boogeymen into their own hands.
It started with speakers. The rich, famous, and accomplished have always been invited to campuses to challenge the ideas that students learn, key to what was left of the classical education system that I have written about earlier. Students needed to be able to defend their positions, which they traditionally decided on their own. Universities were not meant to ascribe an ideology, only equip the students with the tools needed to actually express them. Rather than debate and mount an argument against the ideas that guests brought with them, students today will silence the speakers by pressing administrators to cancel the visits. When and if the administrators (correctly) told the students to essentially "sit down and chill out," students would resort to claims that having guests with varying ideologies was a student safety issue, as the supposedly fragile psyches of students would be irreversibly harmed by exposure to differing ideas.
Not only has this completely changed the traditional concept of university, but it has infected the nation's students with an infantile outlook towards the real world. Perhaps the main problem is that our traditional language for being tough is associated closely with masculinity, which these precious infants have labeled "microaggressions." No longer can you tell someone to "man up" or "grow a pair" on a university campus because that's so obviously misogynist (sarcasm, folks).
Back when reality was a serious part of education, administrators - even of public universities - served as a guide to keep the extremist students respectful. San Francisco State University president and later U.S. Senator from California S. I. Hayakawa pulled the plug, literally, of the speakers that were being used to hold that campus hostage when the Black Panthers teamed up with Students for a Democratic Society with 14 insane demands. The fifteenth, which was somewhat reasonable, was the only consolation that these organizations got when the "strike" ended.
While campus activism is key to the healthy debate that should exist on campuses, it also needs to be focused on reasonably changing minds, not destroying institutions. Even some of the original followers of Saul Alinsky, the infamously effective author of the "Rules for Radicals," are shocked to see how his writings have been manipulated into a toolbox for perpetuating racism and sexism and suppressing expression of all types, from art to science.
Perhaps it was destined to happen, as we flooded our upper education system with people who may or may not be prepared to learn on that level through student aid and constantly lowering standards at high schools? Perhaps college in itself has become a test that inherently limits the number of those students who are prepared to face the world? What if by offering so much student aid, we raised the prices of a university education to the point that the majority of students are those who were foolish enough to start life with an unpayable debt, and have to count on the generosity of the taxpayer to get out of it?
It would seem that university has become a one-party state, full of the same pettiness and extremism often associated with states that become echo chambers. Next they'll be pushing for student IDs for non-students.
Students who see dependence on government as a bad thing and still want to go to college are being either marginalized at state colleges where they feel like ideological hostiles or are being forced into a small but growing number of private schools where they can openly express themselves. These up-and-coming schools are the world's most expensive refugee camps, filled with students unwilling to accept the open hostility towards anything less than Bolshevik at mainstream universities.
What is most upsetting is the effect on students who come into college without predispositions toward a specific worldview. Thinking they have accomplished something great by getting into a respected university, they quickly fall into line as part of the groupthink because they see no opposition. No one is left to call out the crap.
What was I talking about, again? Oh right...
What we need is a revival of tolerance. The universities preach tolerance of every lifestyle, yet are remarkably intolerant of any other worldview or questioning. Education, science, and progress should be helping us solve our national problems, which are all too real.
Devon Minnema is a 20-year-old Woodland College student and columnist for The Ceres Courier.