by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It seems like every week there’s a new horror story of political correctness run amok at some college campus.
A warning not to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes sparked an imbroglio at Yale, which went viral over the weekend. A lecturer asked in an e-mail, “Is there no room anymore for a child to be a little bit obnoxious . . . a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”
Students went ballistic. When an administrator (who is the lecturer’s spouse) defended free speech, some students wanted his head. One student wrote in a Yale Herald op-ed (now taken down): “He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.” …
… Taco bars at sorority fundraisers are considered offensive. A group at Duke University deemed phrases such as “man up” too horrible to tolerate. And so on. …
… What has changed are the students. Yes, there has been a lot of ideological indoctrination in which kids are taught that taking offense gives them power. But, again, that idea is old. What’s new is the way kids are being raised. Consider play. Children are hardwired to play. That’s how we learn. But what happens when play is micro-managed? St. Lawrence University professor Steven Horwitz argues that it undermines democracy.
Free play — tag in the schoolyard, pickup basketball at the park, etc. — is a very complicated thing. It requires young people to negotiate rules among themselves, without the benefit of some third-party authority figure. These skills are hugely important in life. When parents or teachers short-circuit that process by constantly intervening to stop bullying or just to make sure that everyone plays nice, Horwitz argues, “we are taking away a key piece of what makes it possible for free people to be peaceful, cooperative people by devising bottom-up solutions to a variety of conflicts.”