Cultural Problems Loom Large On College Campuses

‘I’ ON CULTURE

A key part of the Great Cultural Revolution in China was the destruction of the places of learning. It shocked many of us who thought of the great Confucian tradition of scholars passing down wisdom to the young, watching scholars mocked. Now we have that in our country.

Let us recall two songs. The first is, “It’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.” But that is so early 1950s. A more modern view might be, “Don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology, don’t know much about a science book, don’t know much about the French I took.”

As grades on standardized tests crashed below former limits, many of us of the older generation began to wonder what happened to our children. Schools began to teach far more and many children began to learn far less. There are countless articles on the disaster of the schools. Then the under-educated go on to our colleges where, in some cases, their lack of education continues.

Evergreen State College in Washington State was a product of the 1960s. Using nontraditional means, it turned out (usually) wealthy graduates who were able to avoid courses that might not be a pleasant experience. There were just about no required courses. As someone who was required to take four English classes, two math classes (including calculus), four science classes (with labs), two history classes, an economics class, a speech class and four classes in French, this sounds wonderful. Who wouldn’t prefer dealing with those things you really like rather than classes that would challenge you?

At any rate, Evergreen had a tradition of having a Day of Absence where “people of color” would not show up to demonstrate how they would be missed. A group of students, along with a few professors, thought it would be a good change to have a day with whites gone. One professor decided that he did not like it. His classroom was invaded, he was threatened, and he had to take his family into hiding. Eventually, the college paid him to get him to leave his job.

Distinguished sociologist Charles Murray, who is controversial because of things he wrote years ago about IQ and race, last year faced a mob at Middlebury College in Vermont that actually assaulted a professor who got in their way. Another distinguished professor visited the law school at City University of New York to lecture on the First Amendment. A group of protesters broke up the speech with one of the law students quoted as yelling out “@#$% the law.”

In many of these cases, administrators did nothing, generally defending the poor behavior. And that is the problem. There are stories of students who seem to have no trouble violating the rights of those with whom they disagree, crumbling at the first sign of anything they cannot stop. Many colleges now have “safe spaces” set aside so students can hide from things they fear. That includes huddling in fear when certain TV shows are on. A few years ago, I read that a whole group of students huddled together crying on Sunday nights when Game of Thrones was showing on television. There are stories of colleges providing comic books and coloring books to assist students through hard times, and I recently read that Yale has a whole menagerie of emotional support dogs and cats (and one hedgehog) to help those elite students. Oh, and a crying closet where students can reserve 10 minutes in a small dark place to cry.

As a result, we have far too many spoiled, undereducated kids who are certain they know the answers to everything and resent being told they might not have the answers. On one cable television show, an anti-Israel protester was asked about the Holocaust. The young woman had never heard of it and claimed it had to have been a made-up story.

So, people react as you would expect. A recent Gallup poll suggested that most adults do not feel this generation is ready for college and the work force. Yet at colleges all over the country, they seem to rule. Demanding only one side of an argument be heard, hiding out when faced with facts they do not like, they get administrators to bow down.

Our colleges are a mess, and that is a shame, particularly when the cost to go to some of the most expensive is so high. It may take years to recover.