Heather Mac Donald is back, on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Recently attacked at Claremont-McKenna College in California for trying to deliver a speech, she famously defended herself in the City Journal. I dutifully reported on it here.
Today MacDonald argues that Generation Snowflake is not really suffering from helicopter parenting, as some have suggested, but is suffering from ideology. In my less elegant terms I would say that they have been brainwashed to within an inch of their minds.
In truth, the one does not really preclude the other. Children rendered vulnerable for not having had Tiger Moms are ruthless indoctrinated by an educational establishment that wants them to sacrifice their lives for the cause of social justice.
While we are at it, we should also ask how many of these students, suffering from anomie, were brought up in broken homes, in homes where their mothers were not around, in homes where their fathers were treated poorly.
Since I and everyone else has been saying it, too many of today’s college students are acting like junior Red Guards and Brown Shirts—that is practitioners of the art of the pogrom. They are unwilling to listen to any idea that does not echo whatever they hear in their occupied minds. Mac Donald refuses to give all the blame to their parents, who are not, after all, agents of indoctrination:
This soft totalitarianism is routinely misdiagnosed as primarily a psychological disorder. Young “snowflakes,” the thinking goes, have been overprotected by helicopter parents, and now are unprepared for the trivial conflicts of ordinary life.
She continues that we cannot explain it all as a function of emotional well-being. There is more to it that psychological injury, thus to an anomie that seeks to heal itself by joining in with a cause that is greater than itself:
“The Coddling of the American Mind,” a 2015 article in the Atlantic, was the most influential treatment of the psychological explanation. The movement to penalize certain ideas is “largely about emotional well-being,” argued Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and Jonathan Haidt of New York University. The authors took activists’ claims of psychological injury at face value and proposed that freshmen orientations teach students cognitive behavioral therapy so as to preserve their mental health in the face of differing opinions.
Mac Donald argues that if it were all caused by overly involved parents then straight white men would also be looking for safe spaces. But then, she adds that this cohort has been so thoroughly demonized that it does not have the right to do so. If it is suffering, it cannot overcome the pain by signing on to the Revolution:
But if risk-averse child-rearing is the source of the problem, why aren’t heterosexual white male students demanding “safe spaces”? They had the same kind of parents as the outraged young women who claim to be under lethal assault from the patriarchy. And they are the targets of a pervasive discourse that portrays them as the root of all evil. Unlike any other group on a college campus, they are stigmatized with impunity, blamed for everything from “rape culture” to racial oppression.
Might we not suggest that this group has been cowed into submission? After all, these students have been labeled as the root of all evil, thus, as needing to be punished for the horrors they have visited on the human race. Among those horrors, and yes, I know I am repeating myself, are liberal democracy, free enterprise, the Industrial Revolution, the Common Law, modern science… and, let’s not forget, defeating fascism, Nazism and Communism.
As I have opined, the denizens of radical extremes will never forgive us:
Campus intolerance is at root not a psychological phenomenon but an ideological one. At its center is a worldview that sees Western culture as endemically racist and sexist. The overriding goal of the educational establishment is to teach young people within the ever-growing list of official victim classifications to view themselves as existentially oppressed. One outcome of that teaching is the forceful silencing of contrarian speech.
Amazingly, Mac Donald continues, members of self-proclaimed oppressed groups believe that the Western canon threatens their very existence. It sounds slightly hysterical and over-the-top. That’s because it is:
Students have been led to believe they are at personal risk from circumambient bigotry. After the February riots at Berkeley against Mr. Yiannopoulos, a columnist in the student newspaper justified his participation in the anarchy: “I can only fight tooth and nail for the right to exist.” Another opined that physical attacks against supporters of Mr. Yiannopoulos and President Trump were “not acts of violence. They were acts of self-defense.”
In November 2015, a Columbia sophomore announced on Facebook that his “health and life” were threatened by a Core Curriculum course taught by a white professor.
… racist, patriarchal texts taught by white professors who most likely are unaware of the various forms of impact that CC texts have on people of color.”
Because if your group did not contribute as much as the dreaded white males, the only reason must be that prejudice and oppression prevented them from doing so. These snowflakes ought to try to contribute to the Western canon, rather than use it as a whipping boy to cover up the deficiencies of members of other ethnic groups.
The problem, if I may again repeat myself, is that these schools have been accepting too many students who cannot do the work, who have been selected to fulfill diversity quotas. The same schools have been hiring professors for the same reasons, but not only to fulfill diversity quotas but to ensure ideological conformity. How many of these professors would even know how to teach the canon? It's surely better to blame Western civ than to show that one cannot teach it.
Mac Donald is correct to say that a good dose of meritocratic admissions and hiring standards would go a long way toward solving these problems, but that does not seem likely to happen at any time in the near future:
But the graduates of the academic victimology complex are remaking the world in their image. The assumption of inevitable discrimination against women and minorities plagues every nonacademic institution today, resulting in hiring and promotion based on sex and race at the expense of merit.