Sticks and Stones

The door has swung open and now we can see what’s really in there. Oh my goodness. We see actual grown people, whom we assume to be somewhat intelligent because they’re college students, but they may not be entirely human because homo sapiens are supposed to be rational creatures who grasp things like cause and effect, fiction and reality, right and wrong. I see, however, very little logic happening – lots of mania and misery, but very little thinking.

In fact, I’m even having trouble figuring out what their problem is. One kid says he’s against white privilege, but his family, which is all black, is solidly part of that famous and much maligned 1%. So if a black man can earn millions of dollars a year in Middle America, what’s his son so mad about? What privilege can he possibly gain from disrupting a major college campus?

Students at Yale and at Ithaca College say they need “safe rooms” where they can hide from words they don’t want to hear. There’s no way to even think about that; my nonsense siren keeps going off like the sound effects in Harrison Bergeron. It’s true that the students at UCC in Oregon could have used a safe room, so could the Parisian revelers last Friday, but none of them would have had time to get to it. Those were bullets flying at them, not just words.

Words actually are the problem, though. You see, we don’t have any anymore. The students in Ithaca, NY, are worried about “covert and overt racism” on campus. The word “racism” by itself has lost almost all meaning, being hurled constantly at conservatives despite the Republican civil rights record, but then to compound the felony by adding “covert?” 

What, on God’s green earth (can I say that?) is “covert racism?” Nothing observable or measurable comes to mind, so how do we know there is any?  Is it just looking at someone the wrong way? Would the recipient of this politically incorrect evil eye have to be a person of color in order for the r-word to apply? And what does it take to be a “person of color?” It seems that people like Ben Carson, or Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz don’t qualify in spite of being black and/or Hispanic and conservative– and yet these people got through life at American universities apparently unscathed, and they had no access to safe rooms.

As far as I can tell very little systemic, racial unfairness is going on in American colleges. If I remember properly, Affirmative Action was supposed to correct any racial discrepancies. At Smith -- one of the colleges hosting demonstrations this month -- 87% of its black students graduate -- that’s a graduation rate 4% higher than its white students. Ivy League schools appear to be enrolling record numbers of blacks, but the number of black males is dropping. Is that “covert racism?” or sexism or evidence that young black males can make more money selling drugs than they can being lawyers?

And what is “micro-aggression?” What can that possibly mean? A raised eyebrow? A snicker? An eye-roll? An opposing point of view? Seems like it could be almost anything, which is convenient if what you want to do is pitch a public fit.

The situation is ridiculous and made even more so by the fact that anyone anywhere is taking these kids seriously. Though maybe we should -- there’s some obvious mental derangement problems on our campuses.

If students of color were entering these colleges and then disappearing, jumping out of dorm windows, or being kicked out disproportionately, then investigations and fit-throwing is reasonable -- but some kid used some language some other kid didn’t like, some feelings were hurt and the reputations of important people have been ruined and what was once a fine university comes off looking like a mismanaged zoo. Is anything of substance going on in these institutions? Is anyone learning any thing real about history? Anything about ethics?  Anything about the rules of logic? What are these kids getting for their money? Neuroses?

Yes, neuroses is another way to say liberal, progressive indoctrination, which produces people with no clear boundaries about anything. No sexual boundaries. No linguistic boundaries -- just a twisted view of taboo language. No awareness that one’s feelings are not the only, or even the best measure of anything. They appear to have no idea that reality is real; that’s what they learn for sixty thousand dollars a year. I guess that would make me mad, too.

We have coddled several generations into thinking that -- in a misunderstanding of Copernicus -- the world revolves around them. That there is only one world and 7 billion individuals is not a reality that breaks through their personal cosmology. They are dead sure that all that happens in this life must be designed and arranged to please them and make life comfortable for them and for anyone else who also hates the status quo. You see, the status quo -- law, morality, the Constitution, the Bible, the American work ethic, the traditional family -- all these, because they not only provide, but demand, are the enemy.

Therefore, there’s room in their boat, leaky as it is, for all the outrages of Islam, of socialism and communism and they’ve been trained to blithely repeat the old saw that we must be “willing to break a few eggs.” In my outdated understanding of numbers, 200 million is a tad more than a “few,” but why quibble -- facts are fungible on American campuses.

There’s also room in this floundering boat for hatred of those who fund the educations these folks are so unhappy with. No one is more despised than the 1% who so generously contribute to the endowment funds that make scholarships and private grants possible. These same rich people, through their tax dollars, also make government largess possible. But it is somehow politically required that college students hate these successful people. I find this confusing because I had always thought that one went to college to join the ranks of the elite and powerful. It must be so confusing to be a student today.

The colleges themselves have caused this and are now reaping the whirlwind. You know, if you don’t take in nutrition for a few weeks your body starts to digest itself. That’s what we’re seeing happen on these campuses; students have not been fed anything intellectually nutritious for decades and now they are digesting their own schools, and their own chances for meaningful careers.

Time was we trained our children to ignore rude speech -- “Sticks and stones may break my bones/But words will never hurt me.” That’s not entirely true, but it helped us raise tough, resilient kids. Now, however, we’re dealing with a generation that has no idea that society is a matter of both give and take, and this lack of understanding has put them and everything around them at terrible risk. The door has swung open and now we’re seeing what utter nonsense is going on in these places we used to call schools.

Deana Chadwell blogs at and is a writing and speech professor at Pacific Bible College in Southern Oregon.