My wife is a conjecturer. The one she offered me this morning – though I’m sure it was already in the ether – has three elements, and they are as follows:
First, the generation of students I’m now teaching were born in the early 2000’s. They encountered other people, replete with fists and smells, not on the playground, like we did, but on a little hand-held device, devoid of fists and smells. So they never learned to deal with the fists and smells that make up what it is to be someone else. Moreover they haven’t had the chance to complete the working out of their sexuality, as we did by the time we came out of puberty. As a result they enter university at eighteen with both the social maturity and the sexual maturity of a twelve year-old, if that.
The second – though this may just be a product of the first – is that their parents, and so their teachers, have taken every effort possible to protect them from any kind of adversity, be it physical, e.g. a punch, or psychological, e.g. an insult. So when they come to university they expect, and they demand, to be as coddled as they’ve always been. And administrators, keen to protect the university’s market share, kowtow to that demand, and so perpetuate this immaturity.
Universities are not particularly dangerous places physically, so this safety-ism centres on ensuring that students not be exposed to anything that might be psychologically upsetting. And that includes anything that might be ideologically upsetting. Whatever the current narrative – be it local, like Truth and Reconciliation, or more widespread, like BLM – might masquerade as upsetting. But that it’s supposed to be upsetting, though it really isn’t, is just built into the narrative. What is upsetting is that the Truth might not be the truth, or that Black lives might not matter, because no life matters save to those to whom it matters.
Much of this is an old saw. But it’s the third element of the conjecture that’s the most interesting. My wife has noticed that there are some members of this generation who seemed to have escaped this social and sexual retardation, because their parents deliberately exposed them to physical and psychological adversity, as a parent should. And who, at least predominantly, are these ‘enlightened’ parents? The religious right. These kids can read and write better. And apart from their kindergarten Christianity, they can think better. And so which of my students are more likely than their classmates to continue to mature intellectually as a result of my unwoke tutelage? The local Dutch Reform kids fresh off the farm.
Are they therefore more likely than their classmates to become the leaders of tomorrow? That depends on who wins the culture war that raging today. Will it be traditional values, in my case the canon? Or will it be the SJW curriculum that’s currently replacing it?
I have no idea whether any of this true. But it’s an interesting conjecture. And in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.