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
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
As a Hayek fanboy and champion of localism, I should be quite sympathetic. But this time, I think Drezner's initial reaction was closer to the mark. The notion that the
Taco bars at sorority fundraisers are considered offensive. A group at
The suggestion that the tempest at
So what is going on?
Well, a lot. Many conservatives want to put all the blame on political correctness or cultural Marxism. And though I think such ideologies certainly belong in the dock, political correctness is now quite old.
Lamentations about it were commonplace when I was in college 25 years ago. Does anyone, other than a few campus hotheads, actually believe universities are more intolerant, bigoted and racist than they were a generation ago?
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 micromanaged?
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."
The rise in "helicopter parenting" and the epidemic of "everyone gets a trophy" education are another facet of the same problem. We're raising millions of kids to be smart and kind, but also fragile.
And what happens when large numbers of these delicate little flowers are set free to navigate their way through life? They feel unsafe and demand "safe spaces." They feel threatened by uncomfortable ideas and demand "trigger warnings." They might even want written rules or contracts to help them negotiate sexual relations.
In other words, this is the generation the mandarins of political correctness have been waiting for.