George Boardman: Navigating life on today’s politically correct university campuses
The County Fair is behind us and local schools open this week, which means many graduates of our local high schools are getting ready for that great adventure called higher education.
Many challenges await these callow youth during the next four years of their lives, and I’m not talking about finding a roommate who isn’t weird, learning how to do laundry, making your allowance last until the end of the month, or getting up in time for that 8 a.m. lecture.
No, while they’re trying to figure out what it means to be an adult and chart a course for their lives, our incoming freshmen will also have learn how to play the diversity game while avoiding politically correct faux pas that will get them pilloried if not tarred and feathered. Unfortunately, there are no written guides to avoid these problems because the ground keeps shifting and students who are perpetually offended are always on the lookout for new ideological heresies. Don’t expect the adults in charge of the institutions they attend to come to their aid.
There’s one thing you can be sure of: If it is your unfortunate lot in life to be a white male, prepare to be targeted. As a member of a privileged group, you’ll be expected to “check your privilege” and recognize the identify of minority students must be treated as a possession that no one else can “appropriate,” in however well meaning a way.
This in turn has spawned a spirit of grievance, “where it undermines the common search for truth by permeating it with a sense of hurt and wrong on the part of minority students, and guilt on the part of those who are blamed for their suffering,” writes Anthony Kronman, a law professor at Yale University.
White male students are often attacked on the grounds that their comments reflect a smug and privileged view of the world. Thus they are expected to seek forgiveness because people they never knew conquered and oppressed indigenous people, and then exploited their natural resources. The advances of western civilization that gave us the wealth and freedom we enjoy today? You should be ashamed of yourself.
Our beleaguered student will have to look hard to find a professor extolling the virtues of capitalism and the market economy that produced the wealth that make our public universities and private schools possible. Believe it or not, there are still avowed Marxists teaching in some of our universities — it apparently hasn’t occurred to them that the most successful Communist country to date (China) has an economy that more closely resembles that of the United States than of the Soviet Union.
Then there is the sin of cultural appropriation, ironic in the country with the most diverse population in the world and a nation that prides itself on adapting the best other cultures have to offer.
I first became aware of this when I read about an incident at my alma mater, San Francisco State, where a black female student was caught on tape berating a white guy for wearing dreadlocks, apparently unaware the hair style goes back to biblical times. SF State was a freewheeling forum of ideas in my day, but has apparently since become infected with political correctness.
Cultural appropriation is an outgrowth of the multiculturalism some on the left are trying to foist on us, a polar opposite of what has made this country unique. As one former leader put it:
“All of the immigrants who came to us brought their own music, literature, customs and ideas. And a marvelous thing, a thing of which we’re proud, is that they did not have to relinquish these things in order to fit in. In fact, what they brought to America became American.”
Of course, those words were spoken by Ronald Reagan, another old white guy who was — take note Trump supporters — a Republican. The situation has become so bad, Amy Wax, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested we accept fewer nonwhites from underdeveloped countries because multicultural elites “resist the assimilation of immigrants to a uniform American way.” Naturally, she has been condemned for her comments.
It is now common to hear complaints that an assigned text is disrespectful of women, blacks, the gender-fluid or some other oppressed or marginalized groups. A 22-year-old female student at Utah reported a professor for assigning too many classic works on economics written by men. She claimed the selections created a “hostile learning environment.”
Most people have heard tales of trigger warnings and safe places for those who are offended or threatened by harsh rhetoric or ideas they don’t agree with. But if you think it’s just the philistine in The White House who offends the easily offended, you would be wrong. Christian Schneider, a senior reporter for the College Fix, reports several examples of students who heard or saw things that made them mildly uncomfortable. Among them:
A Michigan State University student reported his dorm roommate for watching a video of conservative commentator Ben Shapiro;
When a University of Oregon professor defended the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a female student reported she was “deeply offended” by the “false, ignorant, biased commentary” that “completely discredited sexual assault survivors likes myself …”;
An Asian-American student at the University of Minnesota reported a food service worker for saying hello in Japanese.
Believe it or not, these transgressions can land the perpetrator in front of an administrator or a panel of “diversity” specialists. Complaints go down in permanent records available to future employers, and most schools don’t offer any process by which the accused can clear their names.
My advice? Major in a STEM subject — as far as I know, nobody has challenged the idea that 2 + 2 = 4, probably because it’s an Arabic concept — and spend a lot of time in the library. Whatever you do, don’t get caught wearing a sombrero and drinking Corona — that’s cultural appropriation.
Go ahead, kids. Enjoy the next four years. You’ve earned it.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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