Sticks and Stones and Snowflakes
B ecoming a full-time college student after age 50 is probably not for everyone, but it has its perks. A few months ago, during my last semester as an undergrad, I enjoyed an opportunity available to few political commentary editors. I offended some snowflakes in one of my classes.
The comment I made was an affirmation of what one of the two professors in the class had just presented, but the snowflakes were not irritated in the least by his remarks. They probably would not have been offended by mine, either, but the way I presented them caused several girls in the class to decide I was being derogatory toward women. So they complained to the profs after the class, and some of them later went to the head of the department.
We live in a delicate society. A great many young people today seem to go around with their feelings on their sleeves, looking for a reason to take offense. It isn’t difficult to find something to complain about, if that’s your goal. Being offended takes very little effort. One seldom even needs to leave home to do it. As a matter of fact, I’m offended just about every day, and I don’t even try.
So offending some delicate snowflakes, as abrupt and abrasive as I am, is no great feat. I probably shouldn’t enjoy it, but I have to admit it’s kind of fun. People often take offense at my politically incorrect comments, although I hasten to point out that the comment that damaged the snowflakes in my class was neither politically incorrect nor misogynistic. They just didn’t like it.
Later that day I received an email from one of the profs, asking me to drop by his office the next day for a chat with him and the other prof. When I walked into the office and shook their hands, I asked what I had done wrong. They both said, “Oh, you didn’t do anything wrong, but since there have been some complaints we have to do something.” This is academia in a liberal society. Complaints, even those based on nothing more than feelings, must be addressed.
Since I have a great deal of respect for both profs, I apologized for causing trouble, but they assured me the issue was not my fault. The snowflakes, however, had to be mollified. The profs decided a blanket apology at the beginning of the next class period was in order.
That was fine with me, but I told them I was not going to apologize to the snowflakes. I said, “We do these young people a disservice when we cater to their whims and apologize every time their feelings are hurt. They’re about to leave here and go out into the real world, which is full of offensive stuff. They need to grow up and learn to get over it.” The profs nodded.
I said, “I’m offended just about every day, and I ignore it and go on with my life. That’s what adults do. These kids need to learn to act like adults.”
My profs both agreed, and pointed out that they had no intention of asking me to apologize. One of them was going to do it. I think they figured I’d say something to make it worse. I think they were right.
To their credit they both agreed that expressions of opinion were perfectly acceptable in class, whether anyone agreed with them or not. Still, the snowflakes needed an apology, or else they might never recover.
Now, academia is not the real world. It’s an artificial society that exists in a bubble, protected from real life. Those who inhabit the world of academia are subject to different rules from everyone else. That’s all fine and good, but a great many of those who live in academia, students and teachers alike, don’t realize these facts. They believe they live in the real world, and that normal people look at things the same way they do. This state of denial causes problems for everyone, most of all for graduates who leave college and enter the real world, expecting to be mollycoddled, the way they were at college.
Most of this problem has been caused by parents who haven’t taught their children that life is not always going to cater to them. They haven’t learned that when people say and do things they don’t like they should shrug and forget about it. Not all parents have so handicapped their children, but this is the case with far too many.
No one, anywhere, has a right not to be offended. When we grovel and capitulate every time someone’s feelings are hurt, we enable perpetual adolescence. We set a precedent that degrades free thought and individualism. We enslave ourselves to political correctness, and send a clear message to those who believe the world must conform to their every desire. The message we send is: ‘you’re right.’ And it’s a bogus message.
No doubt I’ve offended some delicate folks with this column. The truth is always offensive in a society steeped in lies. If your feelings have been hurt by this column, and you need an apology, my advice is to either grow up or become a college professor. You’re not ready for the real world.
Email Kendal Hemphill at email@example.com