Kindergarten or Real Life? Which Will It Be for Millennials?

As Robby Soave of Reason.com pointed out in a March 22 article, students today come to college with a basic problem.  They are scared on ideas that challenge them.  Soave gave an illustration of this from a debate between a left-feminist, Jessica Valenti, and a libertarian feminist, Wendy McElroy at Brown Univesity.  Apparently some students were so frightened of the libertarian that the administration set up a “safe space” for students who opined that the event would “invalidate people’s experiences” (from Sexual Assault Task Force member Kathryn Byron of Brown).  What was so frightening?  Well, read the description from the New York Times of the safe space and the debate:

“The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments ‘troubling’ or ‘triggering,’ a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and ‘sexual assault peer educator’ who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. ‘I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,’ Ms. Hall said.” (emphasis added)

Ms. McElroy was merely pointing out that the rape and assault statistics thrown around by the media (and actually contradicted by the Justice Department itself) were vastly overstated, and led to vast over reaction by campus decision makers, that put others in danger of ruining their lives without a shred of evidence.  For that inconvenient truth, the Brown people set up what is essentially a kindergarten playroom for “victims.”  If I were a woman I would have been insulted that I was treated this way.  But after thinking a bit more, I realized that the women (perhaps men too) who went to the room went voluntarily because they felt traumatized by ideas they had not heard before.  That is just sad.

Where and how did our young people (since I am now considered old) get this mind-set.  It seems obvious they picked it up in their schools or universities in the students’ early career, also from the media, and possibly even to some extent from over-protective parents.  I go for schools as first choice.  But that is for another day.  The fact is, it is there.  What can we do about it?

It is not an easy task for the Christian, who believes both that we cannot endorse every idea that comes along and that we do owe some compassion to all people.  So I am not comfortable at all with “coddling” by insulating them from uncomfortable ideas.  We are about truth and sometimes truth hurts, to use an old saying.  But it is necessary if we love others that we not leave them in intellectual darkness.  But on the other hand, I do not advocate that we allow any and all ideas to pass as equally true or valid.  But on the other hand (if I had another one) I do not advocate insulating students from hearing all those ideas.  Our obligation as Christian teachers is to ensure they know them well, but also to be sure we do not leave students in uncertainty as to the truth.

But one thing I cannot imagine is what Brown University did.  We do students no favors if we try to keep them from hearing or reading about ideas, or encourage reactions more suited to children when they are exposed.  Our society cannot survive without a willingness to face truth and engage in discussion and even debate on ideas.  And by the way, this especially includes a willingness to face the truth of the Scriptures over rational autonomy.

Some (David French in National Review for example) have argued that at least a good portion of those we label “fragile” are really “vengeful and malicious.” (NRO, march 24, 2015).  He may be correct if he means those behind the movement, but still there thousands of “victims” of its propaganda.  But though I oppose such silly attempts to police and stifle speech, I do not believe all speech is “created equal” because I do not believe all ideas are equal.  Nevertheless, I will defend the right to express those ideas by those who hold them, hoping they will defend my right to oppose their ideas with other (Biblical) ideas.

7 thoughts on “Kindergarten or Real Life? Which Will It Be for Millennials?”

  1. “We do students no favors if we try to keep them from hearing or reading about ideas, or encourage reactions more suited to children when they are exposed. Our society cannot survive without a willingness to face truth and engage in discussion and even debate on ideas. And by the way, this especially includes a willingness to face the truth of the Scriptures over rational autonomy.”

    But that is what Cedarville does, no? That is in part its mission: to protect students from dangerous ideas, such as liberalism, literary criticism of the biblical text, evolution, etc. If those ideas are discussed at all, they are done so in a way that is intellectually dishonest in the form of strawmen which are easily blown over with a half-hearted puff.

    Considering the unfortunate changes–many of which were seemingly forced– in the faculty in the School of Biblical and Theological Studies in the last three years or so, it would seem to me that even conservative scholars who are dedicated to the integrity of the biblical text are not welcome to minister to Cedarville students.

    I agree that some universities who profess to believe in academic freedom do so selectively. And some should just let their students grow up already. But Cedarville does so more than most. At least at those other universities, tenure actually means something.

    All the best.

    1. Mr. Adams,
      I am a new frequent visitor of the blog Bereans at the Gate, and I have not read all of your responses to the blog postings, but I have read many of them. They seem to carry a hostile theme towards Cedarville University. For instance, you mentioned above (and not for the first time either, according to your other posts) that you believe Cedarville to be overly protective of students, and unfair towards beliefs that do not match their own. I have to wonder if you understand what a Christian University is for. The purpose is to equip students with a firm belief in the Bible so that they can become effective teachers of the Bible. (Obviously, universities equip students for success in their chosen majors, but that is beside the point). Having major disagreements of Biblical beliefs, amongst staff members would contradict the purpose of the university. The university is not trying to “protect” their students from various beliefs, it is helping them to understand the truth before it turns the students out into life after school. This is exactly what Christians need to do. You will not find a single passage of scripture that supports the idea of gathering multiple beliefs under one roof, pouring over those beliefs, considering some and rejecting others and then maybe bringing the Bible into the discussion now and again. You will find in scripture the urge to be strong in the faith, to be rooted in faith, to be able to give a defense for your faith, and to be a teacher of your faith. This is the goal of Cedarville University. If you are a fellow student of this university, and a fellow Believer, I do not understand why you are opposed to this goal.

    2. OK we need to come to a clear understanding of what Cedarville University and other similar Christian colleges are about–and not about. It is evident that you don’t like what we do, although you have mis-characterized substantially. But I do hope you understand that not every university aspires to your vision of higher education. In fact, until roughly the Enlightenment, nearly all universities of Europe were strongly influenced by Christianity. Not all did that as well as others did and none did it perfectly, but you see an intimate relationship between the Christian religion and the content of the curriculum. I don’t think on balance that that has proven to have hurt us. many great men–who were either Christian or operated within a Christian worldview–have contributed to the world’s well-being. And many did that relying explicitly on Christian theology as a basic foundation. I am not saying they achieved all their specific knowledge content from the Bible, but the Bible acted as a sort or parameter that guided and limited their assumptions and conclusions. Knowledge was not autonomous, as you seem to desire.

      At CU we introduce and expose students to the full range of ideas, Christian and non-Christian. BUT we do not create a mere cafeteria of ideas. We do consciously guide our students by explicitly pointing out the flaws in many ideas. Now we also indicate ideas that are consistent with a Christian worldview and we welcome those. But though we believe all knowledge is God’s knowledge, the epistemological problem remains as to how one determines whether any given ideas are true in God’s economy. So we must have parameters that limit how far we go and we teach those. By the way, I would say you do too–just by being so critical of the conclusions we reach (e. g. young earth, etc.) you have shown that you too have your own assumptions guided by your own worldview. And it appears to be the rational-naturalist one if I am correct. Already you dismissed Scripture out of hand because you began with the presumption that your worldview is correct and others are not.

      So there is is. You accuse us basically of propagandizing our students, but don’t you do the same? Would you for example actually teach the “theory” of young earth creation (accurately) along with other theories, even if you would then go on to try to debunk it. Please answer that example. If you say you wouldn’t, you are more narrow-minded that we are.

  2. One of the things I hate most about my generation is helicopter parenting. Millenials aren’t forced to make their own decisions and loaf around in our parent’s houses, while our grandparents were already toiling in a steel factory or fighting in a war. A good example is the Obama Care provision that kids can keep on their parent’s plans till they are 26. Minus medical school, most people should already be well established in their careers.

    There was an article in the Economist about helicopter parenting last summer that is worth reading.One of the things I hate most about my generation is helicopter parenting. Millenials aren’t forced to make their own decisions and loaf around in our parent’s houses, while our grandparents were already toiling in a steel factory or fighting in a war. A good example is the Obama Care provision that kids can keep on their parent’s plans till they are 26. Minus medical school, most people should already be well established in their careers.

    There was an article in the Economist about helicopter parenting last summer that is worth reading.One of the things I hate most about my generation is helicopter parenting. Millenials aren’t forced to make their own decisions and loaf around in our parent’s houses, while our grandparents were already toiling in a steel factory or fighting in a war. A good example is the Obama Care provision that kids can keep on their parent’s plans till they are 26. Minus medical school, most people should already be well established in their careers.

    There was an article in the Economist about helicopter parenting last summer that is worth reading. http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21608753-middle-class-parents-should-give-their-children-more-freedom-relax-your-kids-will-be-fine

  3. I think at some point in our learning when we were young we were taught “right and wrong” answers. For example: The word on the spelling test is either spelled right or it’s not. One of my coaches works with 2nd graders. She told us that teaching them how to make an “estimate” on a math problem was nearly impossible. None of the students were comfortable just guessing… (For example: if the question said “Estimate how much 7/3 is” the students would be scared to just guess/estimate.)
    I think this ties into our inability to listen to things that we haven’t thought about or don’t agree with. Listening to other viewpoints presents too many options for what could be “right”…
    We’re trained as young kids to “get that A” on the test. So, when we’re finally put in a situation where there’s no grade involved, it’s our decision to chose what we’re going to believe and stand by it. We don’t know what to do.
    I think Cedarville does a good job of encouraging us to listen to any opinion or viewpoint and then comparing it to what God’s Word says and then making our own decision from there.

  4. It is sad that a university that should be the place where students go to have their world view challenged has this attitude. Conflict of idea and debate is a great way for us to grow strong in our beliefs. For Christians, being aware of what is going on in the world is essential. We must learn about new ideas and be ready to have strong an biblical arguments who do not follow the gospel. Knowing different world views is extremely useful for ministry and should be appreciated for all Christians.

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