by Casey Bennett
When I was a little girl, I used to dream about going to college. I was fascinated by the notion that I would be living away from home, carrying my state-of-the-art laptop around to each one of my interesting classes, mingling with other students at the campus bar, and having the time of my life. The moment I reached high school, I began researching colleges in my area, trying to determine which one of those extraordinary institutions of academia and young adulthood I wanted to attend.
College symbolized maturity, and maturity meant I would no longer be an awkward, emotional child.
Finally, after years of waiting, I received my letter of acceptance to a school on the other side of the province.
It was there that my fantasies of young adulthood were shattered.
Post-secondary institutions are no longer about bringing together young adults to learn in a mature, intelligent, and open environment. They are no longer about preparing students to live in the real world as independent, contributing members of society. They are about coddling children in an era rife with political correctness, a scourge that has infantilized an entire generation.
This infantilization takes many forms, but is perhaps most easily understood through the context of “safe spaces.”
“Safe spaces” are areas of college campuses designed to prohibit any and all speech deemed “offensive” or “triggering” by students. At Brown university, these safe spaces include coloring books and bubbles, as well as staff trained to deal with trauma.
Writing in the New York Times, Judith Shulevitz describes safe spaces as,
“…an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being ‘bombarded’ by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints. Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning…”
Ms. Shulevitz goes on to list examples of the kind of infantilization that creates “safe spaces”, including Oxford University’s cancellation of an abortion debate because both participants were men and Smith College’s apology for a panelist using the “n-word” in context of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
In hindsight, I should have known college wasn’t a haven for young adults when my ninth grade English teacher forbade us from uttering the “n-word” in the context of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Both novels are a reflection of the time period in which they are written, and both novels have suffered through historical revisionism in the name of political correctness. History is only acceptable when it’s not offensive, you see.
Most recently, Britain’s National Union of Students requested participants at a women’s conference refrain from clapping and switch to jazz hands, as clapping was “triggering anxiety” in some attendees.
So where did this infantilization come from?
Ms. Shulevitz writes,
“The theory that vulnerable students should be guaranteed psychological security has its roots in a body of legal thought elaborated in the 1980s and 1990s and still read today. Feminist and anti-racist legal scholars argued that the First Amendment should not safeguard language that inflicted emotional injury through racist or sexist stigmatization.”
Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of students haven’t quite realized that college is not forever. One day, they will graduate and be forced out into the real world. If they think their bosses are going to create a safe space at work where they can eat glue and finger paint whenever they receive criticism, they’d better think twice before finding themselves lining up for unemployment.
Because right now, that’s precisely what these people are: unemployable.
They are not mature adults with a wealth of knowledge sealed inside their skulls. They are not rational people capable of handling the often inexplicable cruelty of the world beyond their college classrooms. They are not enlightened individuals craving to learn new things, even if those things contradict their existing beliefs and ideas.
They are children, and if that’s what they’re happy to be, then that’s how we should be happy to treat them.