Why American campuses have fallen to the angry snowflakes

Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election has set off a wave of hysteria across American college campuses.  From The West Wing levels of righteous indignation before Election Day, the zeitgeist settings at many institutions of higher learning have since been ratcheted up to a DEFCON 1 nightmare scenario. 

Dear reader, just take a look at what's passing for higher education today: the banning of "controversial" speakers, a failed attempt to ban hummus (chickpea paste) from campus dining halls, the creeping trend of "bias response teams" who are thinly veiled thought police thugs, and the filing of a legal brief by nearly 20 U.S. universities against President Trump's executive order suspending travel to the United States by citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries.

And, to quote Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer, "you ain't heard nothin' yet."

While young Americans are being exposed to toxic levels of illiberal education, their Israeli peers are quietly slogging through their studies without the benefits of frat parties, safe zones, or such illuminating courses as "The Art of Walking" or "The Joy of Garbage."

Many American campuses are warping liberal arts education so as to indoctrinate today's naïve students into becoming tomorrow's social justice warriors.  And while approximately 60% of all freshman college students in Israel major in the social sciences and humanities, college life here isn't widely perceived as an ideological training ground for a cultural revolution.  Rather, Israelis tend to regard higher education as just another stage in the long rite of passage from youth to adulthood, nestled somewhere among serving in the Israel Defense Forces, a post-army trip to India, and starting one's own family.

Why is there such a discrepancy between the respective attitudes to higher education in the United States and Israel?

"Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains," Winston Churchill said.  Indeed, age may be a factor in how Israeli and American college students approach their education.

According to a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, Israelis are the oldest college students in the world.  The study shows that in Israel, the median age for obtaining an undergraduate degree is slightly above 27, compared with an OECD average of just over 23.

The good news is that students who tend to be more mature and serious than peers abroad have resulted in Israel having the second highest percentage of adults with a post-high school degree among OECD member states.  However, there's trouble afoot in Israel's halls of academe.  The country's higher education system is fossilized, operating with outdated methods and at an inadequate academic level, ultimately sending many students out into the workforce unprepared.

This disconnect between academia and employment is a problem Israeli students share with their American counterparts.  In the United States, enrollments at colleges and universities nationwide peaked at more than 21 million in 2010 and have been sliding ever since.  Out-of-control tuition, ballooning student debt, and shrinking opportunities in certain professions are three probable reasons for this decline.

If history is an accurate guide, then many of today's student radicals on American campuses will outgrow this acting-out phase and go on to assume prominent roles in business; the arts; and, of course, politics.  Meanwhile, Israeli college graduates will probably have to pursue a good, stable life after receiving their diplomas while under periodic threat of armed conflict.  The former group is hell-bent on wreaking chaos, while the latter can't avoid it.

However, whether guided by dreams of social upheaval or social mobility, today's world-beaters will eventually come to realize that "education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."