January 24, 2017
We’ve heard a lot about the flurry of “snowflakes” on college campuses. But it’s more like a blizzard.
Fragile freshmen took to the streets following the presidential election. But at many schools, the politically-correct are upset about more than who’s moving into the White House. They’re demanding professors rewrite history itself to suit their feelings.
Take the University of Pennsylvania, where NBC reports that students removed a portrait of William Shakespeare and replaced it with a photo of Audre Lorde, a “self-described black lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” They did so to affirm “their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department.”
Evidently this mission doesn’t include the single most important figure in the formation of the modern English language.
But it’s not just colleges. Public schools in Accomack County, Virginia, removed a pair of titles from its libraries and classrooms after one mother complained that they contained racial slurs. The offending books? Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The irony here, of course, is that these books were written to confront and expose racism, not promote it!
But the prize for most jaw-dropping politically-correct purge has to go to students at London University. Apparently, enrollees in the School of Oriental and African Studies are demanding that figures such as Plato, Immanuel Kant, and Rene Descartes be removed from their philosophy curriculum, since they’re white and represent—stay with me now—“the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism.”
Their demand comes on the heels of a nationwide proposal which, if approved, would place student satisfaction in Britain “at the heart of the new ranking system.” In other words, the snowflakes would have more power than ever over schools that dare to challenge or offend them.
On hearing of these politically-correct efforts to rewrite history, Sir Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, said there’s a “real danger political correctness is getting out of control.”
That may be the understatement of the decade.
Look, there are so many problems with this trend, I hardly know where to begin. But the first thing that comes to mind is a message for every student tempted to engage in snowflakery: Your emotions do not trump reality.
That sentence probably requires more than one trigger warning, but it’s true. The facts of history don’t change because they hurt your feelings. And here are some irrefutable facts of history: Plato is essential to an education in philosophy, Harper Lee was not a racist, and if you want an English degree without studying and learning to appreciate Shakespeare, it will not be worth the paper on which it’s printed.
That’s not racist, sexist, homophobic, or colonial. It’s reality.
It’s great to study figures outside the traditional Western canon. But we don’t study philosophers, explorers, or inventors because they agreed with our politics. We study them because they shaped our world, and to understand that world, we need to understand them. That’s what education is all about.
The idea that learning should never offend us, or that college should be a “safe space” free of uncomfortable ideas is destroying modern education. And the institutions and governments that cave to these demands are just as guilty as the students making them. As Christians, we can lead the way by being the first to engage opposing ideas, rather than silencing them.
Failing that, a snow shovel may be in order.