Sunday, November 1, 2015

Shhhhh! You Can't Say That in College!

College, once the bastion of free thought is now the bastion of Political Correctness and "Trigger Words".

Recently, a reader wrote to compliment me on a blog entry.   That's nice.  I read her signature line which listed her as a professor at a major university.   She said she would share my blog with some folks "who might be receptive" to the ideas.

In college?   Oh, you can't do that.  And literally, she might lose her job for recommending my blog to anyone, as it has not been screened for "trigger words" and moreover presents some pretty harsh realities and truths about self-actualization and personal responsibility.

In other words, things they don't teach in college, at least these days, maybe never.

And sadly, college, which used to be a place where ideas could be freely bandied about and discussed, is more and more becoming a repressive place, at least according to some folks, where some ideas are shunned - as well as the people expressing them.   And even just saying things can get you tossed out of class - or even school.

UPDATE:  It appears that the only ideas allowed to be expressed in college these days are extreme ones, whether it is shaming the cafeteria for "cultural appropriation" or having a neo-Nazi speak on campus, only the far-left and far-right may speak.  The rest of you, STFU!  Right?  Wrong.

All of this started back when I was in college.   I remember back in 1985, a classmate of mine explaining how "Political Correctness" worked, or "PC" as he called it.   We had to use certain names when talking about certain ethnic or socioeconomic classes, he said.   I felt it was kind of bizarre.   Not that I am prone to throwing around ethnic slurs, but to be constantly corrected for "Political Correctness" seemed to me to be a step in the wrong direction.   Trying to control thought would surely backfire.

Not only that, but the term smacked of the sort of things the Soviets would do - send a "political" officer around to make sure no one was speaking against the State.  And yet the term "PC" was being bandied about not by its opponents but by its proponents.

It was about this time the whole "African-American" thing started.   Black folks, we were told, would finally throw off years of oppression and discrimination if only we called them by a different name.   Because, everyone knows, us white folks are always called Scotch-Irish-English-French-Swiss-Americans (as I am) which recognizes our heritage.    No, that is not true.  We are called Caucasians or white and the only people legally allowed to ask for some reason, is the Federal Government.

Fast-forward 30 years and has the use of "African-American" really accomplished much?   Is this what got Barack Obama elected President?   Maybe so.   Maybe not.   I am not sure.  But in the 30 years since "PC" became popular, a lot has changed on college campuses.   And some of it, perhaps was a refreshing breath of air.  But a lot more of it, it seems, if not just silly, is somewhat totalitarian.

If you are not up on the "Trigger Words" debate, I'll fill you in.  It seems that some people in college are already positing themselves as victims of trauma.   And to prevent re-living that trauma, the rest of us have to walk on eggs around them and not say certain things or talk about certain topics, lest they have a flashback to their trauma.   And these folks are literally censoring course materials and censuring professors for saying the wrong things or stepping on these political landmines.

Of course, this is classic passive-aggressive behavior, as is most of the PC nonsense.   My late Mother used to play this game.   She was "sensitive" of course, and if you said certain things or words, she would "go off" on a drunken tirade and it was your fault for not walking on eggs around her.   One of her trigger words was "Canada" because my Father's mistress was from Canada, and if you even implied that the US did not have a Northern Coastline, she would "go off" on Canada, Canadians, and particularly their women, who are just sluts waiting to entrap unwary Americans (It's true, Mother never lied about anything!).

I finally realized that it was a stupid passive-aggressive game she was playing - trying to control people by making them walk on eggs around her, being scared and paranoid that anything they might say wrong might "set her off" like a roadside IED.   I went right in her face and said, "Canada, Canada, Canada, Nyah! Nyah!" and left.   To hell with her and that passive-aggressive shit.

And the same should be true of the PC Police and their trigger words.   But sadly, at many colleges today, such as Columbia, NYU, Cornell, Smith, Oberlin, UC Santa Barbara, etc., the PC Police run the campus, or so it seems - and we are treated to stories in the press about how some students want "trigger warnings" placed on classic literature, because it discusses icky things like murder, rape, and war.  In some schools, such as UC Santa Barbara, professors have to screen all of their material and then warn students of icky stuff coming up and allow them to skip class so they don't have to learn icky things.   So, for example, if you are studying the Peloponnesian Wars, or the Holocaust, you can basically skip the entire semester.

But of course, this is a lot of silly nonsense.  As one psychologist noted, if you allow people to avoid unpleasantries in life, they will eventually isolate themselves and become depressed.

Of course, the real damage this sort of far-out left-wing thinking does, is to progressive and liberal movements.   When people take things to these sort of extremes, it makes it easier for people on the far right to mock them and point out how fascist these schemes are.   When you make Fox News look like the rational player in these scenarios, something is far, far wrong.

All I can say is, I am glad I am no longer in college, and I am glad I never taught in college, nor would I want to, even if asked.  I couldn't imagine trying to teach a class today, with kids answering calls on their cell phones as you lecture (if they even bother to show up) and you can't say squat to them, because you might offend their feelies.   And of course, your job as professor is rated online (much as my bother's was, to his dismay) so the poorest performing student can give you a one-star rating as if you were a restaurant on Yelp!    No thank you.

And on top of that, most professors have "non-tenured" positions, so you are paid poorly and then let go the minute they can find someone who will do the job more cheaply.  To those of you teaching college-level courses, my advice would be this:   Become a New York State High School Teacher.  You'll make a ton more money, have tenure, and a union to represent you.

Just don't ask the kids to turn their cell phones off in class.   That's being an unreasonable monster.