Tales From The Safe Space, Part 26 – Literally Shredding The Constitution

There is seemingly no limit to what coddling and overindulgent (or scared and intimidated) university administrators will do to keep identity politics-wielding student cultists happy and quiet

Watch this video.

Late last year, an undercover reporter from Project Veritas posing as a student went to university administrators in several colleges to complain about somebody handing out copies of the US Constitution on campus. The Constitution, explains the student, is having a triggering effect and causing her panic attacks because of the document’s inherent racism and oppression.

We all know what comes next. Naturally, the university administrators tell the student to grow up and stop being silly, and that even if the United States Constitution (with all its brilliance and acknowledged flaws) was not an almost sacred document and the guarantor of every single one of their liberties, they would no sooner ban it from campus than they would ban any other book or document.

Except that that isn’t close to what actually happened. In real life, infantilising student welfare administrators listened with concerned attention to the undercover reporter’s tale about being made to feel unsafe by America’s foundational document, nodding along sympathetically at every turn.

And not only did these professors and equal opportunities directors fail in each case to push back against the reporter’s tremulous plea for their respective colleges to create a safer space by removing all copies of the Constitution from campus, in one case they actually offered – unprompted – to destroy the document there and then as a means of providing catharsis and healing to the student.

At Vassar College in New York state, the “student” told Kelly Grab, the Assistant Director of Equal Opportunity:

Last week something kind of happened on campus that kind of really upset me and I ended up having a panic attack.

[..] They were handing the Constitution out on campus. I don’t know, they were handing it out and as soon as I saw it, you know, I started to not be able to breathe, hyperventilating. My vision went blurry and I just – kind of just lost control.

[..] I didn’t think that this would happen, but I realised that the Constitution is kind of a trigger for me.

And rather than telling the undercover reporter to take a hike, Grab responded:

So what I think you are sharing with me is that your interaction in receiving this was harming, right? And that’s what we certainly want to avoid. We don’t want to limit people in exchanging ideas or having opposing viewpoints, but when it’s disruptive or causing harm…

While at Oberlin college in Ohio, Professor of History and Director of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, Carol Lasser, tells the person she believes to be a student traumatised by the Constitution:

The Constitution is an oppressive document. The Constitution makes change slow, it intends to make change slow.

And then adds, sotto voce:

Right now, given who is in charge of the US House of Representatives, I think it’s a good thing.

Darn that pesky Constitution and its checks and balances for making it hard to impose the latest left-wing thinking on an uncertain America all at once. But at least it is also making it harder for those evil, knuckle-dragging Republicans to kill anyone who is not white, male and on at least $100k a year. Amiright?

But the best response comes from Colleen Cohen, then Director of Affirmative Action and Professor of Anthropology at Vassar College:

It’s horrible that this is something that has caused you such pain. And unless the people are from off campus we can’t keep them from disseminating it.

[..] Can I destroy this? Or do you want to hold on to it?

We already knew that there is a dramatically expanding “equal opportunities” sector within (particularly American) academic institutions, with faculties growing to accommodate ever more impeccably credentialed and highly paid experts brought in to help universities submit more quickly and smoothly to the identity politics revolution.

But until now, many of the horror stories had an apocryphal feel to them – or worse still, they smacked of Daily Mail alarmism. No more. Now, we have hard evidence of exactly how these inclusivity gurus interact with students, and the extreme trade-offs they are willing to make between academic freedom and the rights of the “oppressed”.

And in a battle between the foundational document of the United States government and the rights of any random student to have things which they dislike purged from campus, it turns out there is no contest. The Constitution literally goes in the shredder, while the tearful student (in these instances an undercover reporter) is continually validated and told that they have every right to be upset and to want censorship in response.

Goodness knows how many other similar conversations have been taking place on other university campuses, only with real students. In order to emphasise their own message, Project Veritas deliberately chose very liberal colleges as their guinea pigs – the undercover reporter certainly would have received a much more refreshingly forceful reaction had they attempted the same stunt at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, for example.

But regardless of the obscenity of college administrators actually shredding the United States Constitution (certainly doing so is itself a protected act of free speech), something is seriously wrong when those in authority either buy in to the same identity politics dogma as their students and see eye to eye with them, or when they perhaps vehemently disagree with their students but are too afraid for their jobs to stand up to the students and call them out for behaving in a manner utterly inconsistent with the ethos of a university.

So forget the shredding of the Constitution itself. Far more worrying in practical terms is the fact that when dealing with student complaints, the default response from university administrators is that the student’s feelings, whatever they happen to be, are sacrosanct, and that anything which they perceive as a threat or an insult should be treated as such by campus authorities.

And at this point, you have to defer to age – it is the older adults in charge of universities and campus diversity schemes who should exhibit the wisdom and character to push back on ludicrous student demands when they are made, and tell the adult baby students that their own personal feelings are in fact not the overriding concern of the university authorities. Right now, they are failing in this most important responsibility, and the thought of any university administrator dispensing much needed tough love is apparently completely unrealistic at Vassar and Oberlin colleges.

This undercover reporter managed to get at least three separate copies of the US Constitution shredded – literally fed into a shredder machine and destroyed while she stood and watched approvingly – simply by claiming that the document made her feel threatened and oppressed. Imagine the emboldening effect experienced by real students every day when their equally ludicrous demands are taken deadly seriously and cravenly pandered to by those in charge. Imagine the sense of entitlement and self-regard that it must build.

And imagine the almighty collision with reality which these students face when they graduate and (some of them, at least) enter the real world.

 

Postscript: This insufferable Vassar student’s aggrieved response to the Project Veritas undercover filming shows the level of intellectual disconnect here. The student is utterly incapable of understanding the reason for conducting the undercover filming, perceiving it as an attack on the confidentiality of real students (none of whom had anything more than a walk-on bit part) and the mental wellbeing of the very administrators who were so happy to destroy the US Constitution.

I don’t know how one can possibly reason with people like this, or communicate meaningfully with anybody who has percolated for so long in a victimhood culture, and who speaks only in the hierarchical grievance language of identity politics.

While there are things we can do now to change the way we raise kids, like re-learning the importance of building resilience and anti-fragility – what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger – in our children, it is hard to view the current cohort of identity politics practising students (appreciating that they are hopefully just about still a minority among their peers) as anything other than a lost generation, whose best and last hope rests on a harsh but highly instructive collision with the real world after graduation.

That is, if they survive the impact.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 16 – The Prequel Begins Long Before University

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The banning of red ink for marking schoolwork – just one small part of our Prizes for Everyone educational culture – directly feeds the student authoritarianism on our university campuses

Over the course of this “Tales from the Safe Space” series we have seen glimpses of a coddled, fragile yet snarlingly authoritarian generation of young activists who perceive any disagreement with their ideology as tantamount to a physical and mental “assault” on their person.

These students demand not only complete submission from fellow students and university administrators to the arbitrary laws of Identity Politics, they also have the audacity to portray themselves as being so uniquely victimised and oppressed that unlike the generations which came before them, they alone need special protection and validation from an external authority. This, of course, is achieved through the establishment of safe spaces and draconian restrictions on freedom of thought and speech for everyone else on campus.

But students do not suddenly become baby-faced tyrants the moment they cross the threshold of college or university at the age of eighteen. Young people today are acted upon by three key environmental factors: the rise of Identity Politics as a movement, the West’s growing disregard for freedom of speech and the therapeutic culture in which we now live.

Every day brings new examples of each of these areas of civilisational decay. And one key factor in our modern day therapeutic culture is the way in which state schools increasingly pander to the feelings of their pupils rather than seeking first and foremost to impart a rigorous education and a strong character. Of course there are many noble exceptions. But if we ever believed that there would be no negative consequences to our present Everyone Wins A Prize culture, then we were sorely mistaken.

The Daily Mail reports on the latest depressing example:

Teachers have complained about a ‘ridiculous’ marking system which forces them to use pink ink for negative comments because it is ‘less aggressive’ than red.

The bizarre system is being implemented by some headteachers who believe pink is a softer colour which will make children feel less like failures.

Many are also making staff use up to six different coloured pens to give different types of feedback to pupils as part of a ‘triple’ or ‘deep’ marking strategy.

In one example, a school has asked pupils to respond to teachers’ comments in purple or blue, and if teachers want to give encouragement they have been told to use a ‘positive’ green pen.

[..] Lee Williscroft-Ferris, a modern languages teacher from Durham, said that in one school he worked at he had to draw a pink box at the end of each piece and insert positive comments in green ink and suggestions for improvement in pink.

This is not a new phenomenon. The Mail reported a similar story back in 2013:

Tory MP Bob Blackman revealed his anger after being told a secondary school in his Harrow East constituency had banned teachers from using red ink.

He told MailOnline: ‘A teacher contacted me and said I cannot believe I have been instructed by my head to mark children’s homework in particular colours and not to use certain colours.

‘It is all about not wanting to discourage youngsters if their work is marked wrong.

‘It sounds to me like some petty edict which is nonsense. It is absolutely political correctness gone wild.

The University of Colorado study often cited as being behind these ridiculous changes to school grading procedures warns that the colour red evokes “warning, prohibition, caution, anger, embarrassment and being wrong”. But surely that’s the whole point? Where there is error, the teacher’s red pen should be there to bring truth, and do so in an unambiguously clear way.

According to the same researchers, “in the context of communication, writing in red seems to shout in the same way as writing in all caps or writing which is underscored”. In other words, the current drive to eliminate red ink from schools stems from the same self-absorbed social media culture which frets that someone doesn’t like us because they failed to put a smiley face or a kiss at the end of their text message. But do we really want to be applying the neuroses experienced by the first generation to grow up with the internet to the current crop of students going through school?

While some of us might like friends, colleagues and bosses to validate us at every turn and sugar coat their feedback to us in warm and constructive ways, real life will not always be so kind. And children should be made ready for the world as it is, not as some naive idealists wish it should be.

School is the place where it is possible to fail in a safe and relatively consequence-free environment. Many people that students meet and collaborate with in the real world will not take the time to encouragingly point out the good parts of a report, presentation, product or other piece of work that generally failed to meet expectations. In some cases, the feedback may be quite harsh, often deservedly so.

This criticism is not usually an attack on the person, or an attempt to “invalidate their experience” or whatever other therapeutic phrase du jour is being used to pathologise everyday life. It is simply a statement that the work produced is incorrect, or in some way not up to specification. And children need to learn how to handle such feedback at a relatively early age. Young minds must be prepared for the challenges of life, not coddled and protected before being released unprepared into the wild.

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We in the West increasingly live in an environment described by Rod Dreher as “a culture of autonomous individualists who don’t order their lives toward a common religion, or anything higher than what they desire”. And to that I would add that there is also an ascendant culture in which no longer values truth, where changes in how a person chooses to “identify” are taken to instantly overwrite reality.

In this brave new world, where even deluding oneself into thinking that one is an animal trapped in a human body is increasingly common among certain people, the awkward fact of a human birth certificate is just an inconvenient bureaucratic error to be erased as a new identity is created.

No wonder then that the teacher’s red pen is so hated – it stands as testimony to the despised idea that there is an objective reality, and often a right and wrong answer. For children who are raised to believe that everything they do is special and praiseworthy, and that their feelings are somehow sacrosanct and never to be trodden upon.

As my Conservatives for Liberty colleague Sara Scarlett puts it:

For years, children have been artificially insulated from any form of loss or emotional upset. The common practice of everyone getting a prize for taking part in sports regardless of how good they are, or how much effort they have put in. The reasoning being that no one’s feelings should get hurt. Whilst I appreciate that adults want their children to have happy childhoods, this has been taken way too far. It is not just the job of parents and educators to make children’s lives as happy as possible. It is the job of parents and educators to make their children into adults who can thrive in the adult world.

The rise of students who cannot exist outside of a ‘safe space’ shows that parents and educators have failed in many respects. Children should be exposed to competition and tests, offered incentives for doing well in them and working hard because that builds resilient adults who are ready for a world where not everyone gets a part in a blockbuster movie or a book deal. In trying to create a world where children are never subjected to rejection or losing, they are unprepared for an adult world where so much of life is about how you deal with rejection, loss, grief and disappointment and avoiding it is impossible. This is, after all, precisely what school is for; a place to fail when the stakes are low.

So as we can see, today’s young adults are uniquely susceptible to the toxic brand of Identity Politics coursing through universities, starting from the moment that they arrive on campus.

From birth, parents and teachers have instilled in these young adults the belief that they are special, unique and beyond reproach. And from there, it is only a small step toward internalising the language of Identity Politics to paint oneself as an oppressed or privileged individual who must be constantly mindful of – and responsible for – the slightest impact that their words or actions have on others.

That’s how you go from grading essays using friendly purple ink to a coddled, incredibly privileged black Yale student aggressively screaming at her college master because he refused to establish dictatorial, school-like rules governing what other adult students were allowed to wear at Halloween.

And that’s how abandoning red ink in schools today helps to create the baby-faced student tyrants of tomorrow.

 

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We Have Created A Generation Of British Students Scared Of Clapping

Trigger Warning
Trigger Warning

 

“They say cut back, we say fight back!” shouted the angry horde of LSE students, some wearing face masks as though expecting trouble, as they marched down London’s Kingsway earlier today in protest of tuition fees, austerity, UKIP and the usual shopping list of lefty student grievances. These young students – women and men – were loud and purposeful; they certainly didn’t seem like the kind of people who would wilt at the first sign of disagreement or confrontation.

110 miles northwest of this rabble, however, a very different group of students was gathering in Solihull for the National Union of Students Women’s Conference 2015. And at this gathering, the delegates were deemed so sensitive and vulnerable that the simple act of clapping was discouraged for fear that it would “trigger anxiety” among them:

 

This isn’t the first time that clapping has caused controversy on university campuses. In February, Spiked Online published a damning report detailing growing illiberalism at British universities:

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