Safe spaces and ‘ze’ badges: My bewildering year at a US university
Fear of causing offence on campus is stifling free thought – as I’ve found to my cost
As a child in Glasgow, I learned that sticks and stones might break my bones but words didn’t really hurt. I’m now at New York University studying journalism, where a different mantra seems to apply. Words, it turns out, might cause life-ruining emotional trauma.
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Well, this brave student, a Glaswegian female, just got on the map, and this was a hilarious article, especially because it wasn't supposed to be.
I guess every generation looks and the next one as the harbingers of the end. I'm no exception, except that I blame my own peers for ruining so many minds.
20 years ago in Boston, I was better at compartmentalizing my belief systems. By day, Mon-Fri, I was a college student, a centrist and somewhat not liked for that, politically, but a reliable environmentalist. Most of my friends from college were to my left, and I was able to mix with them in social functions, and enjoyed it sometimes.
At night, during the week, I was a townie trying to get out. Since I lived in a Boston suburb, I just commuted to university. I drank at the local bar with a friend or two, and mostly hung out with people I had grown up with. I enjoyed very much not having to drink in the local woods anymore. I also pumped gas, unloaded trucks, bounced at a bar and cleaned laboratory spaces to squeak by when I wasn't fishing.
Weekends were for lobstering, playing in a heavy metal band, working and having fun.
I have a STEM degree from my undergrad days. College was not about this weird social police-state encampment that has developed today. For me, college was trade school, where I learned my trade, and learned it well. Biology, chemistry, study, work, write, publish.
I guess I missed out. I was a fair entry-level biologist with a focus on chemical physiology but an interest in better ways to collect and grow swimming animals that could be eaten for fun and profit. Simple stuff, at its' core.
I didn't have to worry about all the ridiculous distractions that are being jammed down modern kids' throats. I learned how to eat while dissecting dead animals, and that I didn't have a mind for laboratory science, but enjoyed it to a point anyhow. I liked getting my hands dirty. Trying to compartmentalize the part of me that felt like my hands were soft and I would become ashamed at not taking the time to practice the masculine arts. Eventually I learned that I very much would take time to learn those things anyhow, out of interest, not obligation. I spent too much time worrying about being perceived as faggy.
I hadn't yet encountered the real world to any large degree. I was very lucky. I treated college as a job. I did pretty well. Along the way I figured out that a truly open mind captures no ideas at all. They just fall right out.
I feel terrible for the kids who spend a fortune of their future earnings in learning critical gender theory and not the Ideal Gas Law or stress moduli. I read the classics at my parents' behest, and I'll admit that an English class I didn't want to take introduced me to T.S. Elliot, Dylan Thomas and Ernest Hemingway and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I also admit that that professor, if he's even alive today, could never teach that material today without being crucified for being insensitive and something-phobic.
No, I'm worried about the kids who are being funneled into a lifetime of menial work by wiping their ass with their future, as taught by some of the same people I went to school with. Kids who go to college looking for direction, and having to learn to recite so many lies in order to proceed that their experience becomes part of their personality.
In retrospect, while I'm not using my degree much beyond volunteering here and there to help with data collection and management, it's an option that is open for me to return to, but approaching-middle-aged-me would be a real crank. I'm more comfortable swearing at someone than debating them, if I'm being honest. You can't be a mariner without having thick skin and a sense of humor, and my sense of humor would get me in trouble on a college campus today, where you can't laugh at someone OR with them. That kind of environment sounds awful to me, and it would have been awful for me. I'm very lucky to have avoided it. I hope that family and friends who have to send their kids to experience that are able to prepare them mentally for it.