We’re Raising a Generation of Ill-prepared Whiners – A Huge Disservice and a Recipe For Failure.
America was first settled by people who crossed dangerous oceans, and set out in wagons travelling across unmapped, untamed territory to establish small towns and fledgling communities.
They endured weather, disease, attack, and childbirth sans electricity, running water, and air conditioning. They fought the world’s only superpower for their independence. Generations later, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, roughly six million people voluntarily enlisted in the armed services. Then we took down the Nazi empire. Our unflinching resolve also put an end to the Cold War and sent us to the moon. Not since the Spartans has there been a culture so fierce and independent.
So what the hell happened to us? How have we evolved into a grievance-centered society full of complainers who seek to drum up controversy where there is none and are offended by things that have nothing to do with them?
Look no further than the astonishing controversy regarding the Washington Redskins whose team trademark was canceled by the US patent office because it ‘may disparage’ Native Americans. This incident also trickled down to thousands of public high schools across the country who used money they likely did not have to rename mascots, change school signage, order new uniforms, etc. And, proving that it is popular to claim offense based on someone else potentially being offended (or not), the controversy became an international one when Members of Parliament (in London) demanded the Redskins change their name or they would be uninvited to play in a previously planned exhibition game. Never mind that 9 out of 10 Native Americans are flattered by the name. After all, the name was chosen in honor of their ferocity.
Last week Case Western Reserve University, located in Cleveland, Ohio—only four miles from the site of the Republican National Convention—prepared a “safe space” for students who were upset by the dialogue at the convention. Keep in mind, at the time the “safe space” was created, the convention had not yet begun and there were no complaints of ‘trauma.’ Though the university expected students (who did not attend the convention) to be so distressed by the mere expression of ideas a few miles away, they would require counseling and soft blankets.
Recently Brown University created “safe spaces” when a debate about campus sexual assault was scheduled. The existence of a campus ‘rape culture’ was expected to be criticized or at least questioned. Students and administrators felt a speaker who held those views “could serve to invalidate people’s experiences” and that it could be “damaging.” To comfort those who might find the comments troubling (instead of simply not attending), a room complete with cookies, coloring books, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets, councelors and a video of frolicking puppies was set up where students could feel safe and recuperate.
In an attempt to keep college students with fragile sensibilities from being offended, university level discourse has been sanitized. What higher learning can be achieved when students cry foul (or claim trauma) if they are exposed to ideas they don’t agree with? Unfortunately, they are unaware that this infantile environment is just plain bad for them and everyone else.
Universities were once a beacon for higher learning and provocative discourse—a place where young people went to broaden their field of vision, become well versed in a variety of subject matters, and sharpen their intellect. By shielding young adults from new or uncomfortable ideas, we only ensure they will be incapable of adapting to or flourishing in situations they will most definitely encounter when they leave the college campus.
How will they fair when they encounter ideas they have been conditioned to run from? How will they persuade anyone to join their cause if they cannot tolerate opinions opposite their own? Having virtually eliminated exposure to thoughtful debate, experience and challenge—which breed maturity—how will true leaders emerge from these carefully crafted and managed environments?
In a world where “the first to be offended wins”, where major grievances are generated from simple, everyday experiences, and where the average citizen fears sharing alternative viewpoints for fear of being labeled “phobic” – where will rational, constructive, and productive discourse and resolution form?
I’ve go an idea, how about we all start focusing on developing character, grit, and courage – as opposed to an avoidance mindset and/or way of life? I love Krav Maga training for these very reasons – where comfort zones are shattered, students find personal growth, and we develop the courage to seek and live the life we want.