Monday President Barack Obama spoke at an Iowa town-hall meeting. In fielding a question about Ben Carson’s view of college education, he answered:
It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too. I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.” That’s not the way we learn either.
Obama’s use of the word “coddled” brings to mind “The Coddling of the American Mind,” in The Atlantic (September 2015). Authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt write,
A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said.
Obama’s words might seem unremarkable to those who have long been concerned about American higher education. But given the stilted learning environment of some colleges and universities, with intolerance en vogue under the guise of tolerance, and mental fences constricting freedom, it is important to have a liberal president’s critique.
Quoth The Raven highlights interesting quotes, speech excerpts, or good writing. It may be fiction or non-fiction from a magazine, book, or online.
Recognized by English speakers is the refrain “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore!’” from Poe’s masterful poem, The Raven. This weekly feature is an homage.
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