Monday, April 20, 2015

Is Academe Fostering a Generation of Thin-Skinned Whingers Ill-Equipped to Handle the Real World?

It sure looks that way:
College speech codes, outlawing whole lexicons of politically incorrect words and encyclopedias of heretical ideas, have become infamous, and courts, when asked, have struck them down, only to see them replaced with “trigger warnings”—cautions that Huckleberry Finn or The Merchant of Venice might cause distress to black or Jewish students, for example, who might therefore not want to read them. Oberlin has supplied teachers with a trigger-warning guide, advising them to consider not assigning works that could spark upset because of their “racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression,” such as Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, which could “trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more.” What more? one wonders—and at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the answer is rape. And now we have the campus microaggression hysteria, outrage over instances of supposed—and certainly unintended—racism, sexism, and the like too microscopic to be discerned by any but the most exquisitely sensitive moralist, with a hair-trigger sense of grievance. (See “The Microaggression Farce,” Autumn 2014.) 
If it sounds as though we are back in the days when ladies fainted at the mention of the legs of pianos, which had to wear skirts for decency, and when one couldn’t utter words “that would bring a blush to the cheek of a young person,” as Dickens jeered, we are...

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