American Elephants


Free Speech Has Been Expelled From Our Universities. Students Must Be Shielded from Uncomfortable Ideas. by The Elephant's Child

2012-11-17T015520Z_01_BOS115_RTRMDNP_3_USA

The cries of pain from our coddled college students grows ever more shrill. It would be helpful if the media stopped paying attention. It is not newsworthy. It is largely about a misunderstood First Amendment to the Constitution with which they are seriously, deeply, unfamiliar. Clearly, they have not the slightest understanding of freedom of speech, human nature, nor real life. No wonder they don’t seem to know anything.

The problem is that they are easily offended, and not just that, but they somehow have the idea that they have a right not to be offended. And even beyond that, there is an expectation that they shouldn’t encounter opinions that conflict with their own. And these are supposed to be institutions of higher learning? Jack Kelly wrote at Real Clear Politics:

The Center for Campus Involvement at the University of Michigan recently cancelled a screening of “American Sniper” the Clint Eastwood film about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. It was cancelled after sophomore Lamees Mekkaoui gathered “roughly 200” signatures (out of a student body of 42,700) on a petition alleging that the film “promotes anti-Muslim rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer.”

The Center for Campus Involvement said in a statement “We deeply regret causing harm to members of our community, and appreciate the thoughtful feedback provided to us by students.”

In a recent essay for the Weekly Standard, historian Gordon S, Wood wrote about his own history professor and mentor Bernard Bailyn and the state of history in our colleges and universities. Bailyn got off on the wrong foot from the outset with his “Peopling of British North America Project.” Didn’t he know, his critics carped, that there were people, indigenous people already here before the English came?”

College students and many historians have become obsessed with inequality and white privilege in American society. And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars.

But a new generation of historians is no longer interested in how the United States came to be. That kind of narrative history of the nation, they say, is not only inherently triumphalist but has a teleological bias built into it. Those who write narrative histories necessarily have to choose and assign significance to events in terms of a known outcome, and that, the moral critics believe, is bound to glorify the nation. So instead of writing full-scale narrative histories, the new generation of historians has devoted itself to isolating and recovering stories of the dispossessed: the women kept in dependence; the American Indians shorn of their lands; the black slaves brought in chains from Africa. Consequently, much of their history is fragmentary and essentially anachronistic—condemning the past for not being more like the present. It has no real interest in the pastness of the past.

Back at the University of Michigan, the screening was back on a day later. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he would show “American Sniper” to the football team.”Proud of Kris Kyle and proud to be an American,” Mr. Harbaugh tweeted. “if that offends anybody, then so be it.”

Denying free speech is “a horrible betrayal of everything universities are supposed to be about” wrote Walter Russell Mead, a professor at Bard College. But the worst thing about “PC stupidity and mandatory cocooning on campus is…the catastrophic dumbing down of a younger generation that is becoming too fragile to exist in the current world.”

If you expect to get through life without being offended, you’re going to have a hard time of it. Colleges are offering “safe spaces” to students who are traumatized by “microaggressions.” Smith College President Kathleen McCartney apologized for causing students to be “hurt” and “made to feel unsafe” because she didn’t object when a fellow panel member uttered the “N word” during a discussion about teaching “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Free speech advocate Wendy Kaminer, wrote “It’s amazing to me [students] can’t distinguish between racist speech and speech about racist speech.”

Back at Michigan, the CCI scheduled an alternative film for those who objected to “American Sniper,” a children’s movie about a stuffed bear. When “American Sniper” was screened, the 150-seat room was filled to near capacity. Most applauded as the credits rolled. Only seven students chose to watch “Paddington Bear.”

It is interesting, if appalling, to pay a little attention to the whining students to see just what subjects or what speakers draw the outrage and offense of students, and just who those students seem to be.The Media will not touch that question.They remain unidentified.

ADDENDUM: Christina Hoff Summers of the American Enterprise Institute, also blogs as the “Factual Feminist.” An outstanding scholar, she took on a misleading ad campaign by Verizon which portrays girls as victims of sexism in math and science. Actually, girls are thriving in math and science, and it has nothing to do with sexism. But the precious little girls at Georgetown were “invited to a “Safe Space” if they feel triggered or upset by today’s events. Hate speech will not be appreciated in this space.” Can’t have their ideas questioned. They are victims, and proud of it.


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