James Shott / November 18, 2015

Higher Education Under Attack From Within

College campuses were once bastions of diverse opinion.

College campuses were once bastions of diverse opinion — a garden where ideas thrived and where contrary viewpoints were freely expressed. But they’re fast becoming cesspools of narrow-mindedness that stifle free speech — where political correctness overrules common sense and where free thinking is discouraged. Colleges and universities are occupied ever more by students offended because someone expressed a different opinion, didn’t pay proper deference or wore the “wrong” costume on Halloween.

Student protests are returning to 1960s-70s levels and arise because some students think there aren’t enough minority professors on campus, while others decry a lack of “social justice.” Some have called for hunger strikes over what they perceive as a lack of support for students of color.

If students don’t like a professor’s point of view, or they detect “microaggressions” in the classroom, they feel led to demand the professor resign or be fired. If you’re a Hispanic kid and someone wears a sombrero and a poncho on Halloween, it’s time for a protest. Heck, the mob claimed the scalp of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe last week, all for imprecise failures to address vague charges of racism.

And did you know that the First Amendment makes some college kids feel unsafe? Would you ever have imagined that such an idea could take hold on an American college campus?

The vice president of the Missouri Students Association, Brenda Smith-Lezama, told MSNBC last week, “I personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here.” Poor little thing must be terrified listening to the radio or watching television or movie drama. And she suffers under the delusion that her comfort is more important than someone else’s rights.

While these kids have yet to accomplish much, they believe the world must work to calm their fears. Their perceptions may be adequate to drive protests and hunger strikes, but they don’t necessarily reflect reality.

Many of the complaints have a racial element, but they really center on hypersensitive feelings about things that have always been normal aspects of life. Suddenly, these normal campus happenings that students — white students, black students, Asian and Hispanic students, female students — have dealt with successfully for decades with little or no difficulty are now scary and threatening.

College once was a place where kids learned to think. Today, many of them seem to know only how to feel; emotion rules rationality. Listening to different ideas used to be enlightening, mind-expanding. Now, it makes the kiddies cry for their mommies.

Missing from these children-in-adult-bodies is even the suspicion that not everything revolves around them, that they are not the be-all and end-all of the known universe.

And they also want someone else to pay off their college loans for them, because … well, just because.

It’s certainly true that tuition has outpaced the rate of inflation for decades, but this is primarily due to the very kind of government subsidies students demand in greater portion now.

Yet, generally speaking, the process of gaining entry to an institution of higher learning is long established and has worked well for decades. Colleges and universities are places where the qualified may go to advance their education, and most of the onus is on the student to fund their education through parental help, scholarship assistance, student loans, the GI Bill, or good old-fashioned hard work. And then it is the student’s responsibility to perform as expected academically to complete their degree requirements, and then go out and get a job and become a productive member of society.

That is called “life,” and life is not a smooth ride, most times. Tens of millions of Americans have successfully navigated the sometimes-troubled waters successfully without being coddled and nursed along the way. Conquering challenges and facing adversity head-on build character.

The whining behavior demonstrated on college campuses recently shows a fundamental failure of thousands of young people to have learned the basic rules of life. Their minds haven’t grown up at the same rate as their bodies.

However, bowing to the whims of students is letting the inmates run the asylum. College is (or once was) a place for learning. Professors led the learning process, administrators ran the school, and the students worked hard and did what they had to do to master the material. If students weren’t happy in a particular environment, or couldn’t hack it, they were free to leave.

As bad as the current state of higher education is, it is much worse for America at large. A generation or two with millions of young people among them who can’t cope with the problems of going to college surely won’t be able to be good citizens, hold down jobs in a productive economy, or staff a strong, able military capable of defending the country — or even make sensible decisions about for whom they will vote. They can hardly be expected to weigh complex arguments rationally when anything that doesn’t agree with their narrow ideas makes them hide under their beds.

This is what liberalism hath wrought, and it will most likely get worse.

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