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.

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy, Why My Colleagues Are Idiots

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5 replies

  1. It’s not just in universities. The whole country has become childish, believing that if we close our eyes and wish really hard our wishes will become reality. This is well explained here: https://macdonaldlaurier.ca/canada-has-devolved-into-a-childish-country-incapable-of-solving-big-problems-brian-lee-crowley-in-the-national-post/


  2. I noticed this volunteering for my Conservative candidate in the last federal election. (He won.). Those young Dutch Reform Tories are a force to be reckoned with.


  3. “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” —Socrates (469 – 399 BC)

    All y’all wrinkly bastards sound like this philistine from a million years ago. The way you guys talk is, I reckon, what really makes young folks afraid of getting old.


    • Bruce,

      Intergenerational tension has existed as long as generations have existed. One might argue that these tensions are observable in other social species; e.g. old bull versus young bull.

      But two things that haven’t always existed are at play here:

      1)Ubiquitous high-speed electronic social media, and
      2)Peer-reviewed empirical research.

      Jean M. Twenge published (2017) “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood* and What That Means for the Rest of Us.”

      From inside the dust jacket: Twenge draws from, “extensive research, revelatory interviews, and deep analysis of data drawn from more than 11 million respondents over multiple decades….”

      It’s true that one gets a little long in the tooth, or becomes a wrinkly bastard, by working through the long years of an education, conducting decades of research, and then synthesising and publishing the results of that research. (Chomsky?) Studying the effects of this new-fangled social media on youth requires such a broad scope of subjects and time. One could conceivably start this research while a peer to other youths and wrap it up post-menopause.

      If interested, here is link to Twenge’s book (Amazon): https://www.amazon.ca/iGen-Super-Connected-Rebellious-Happy-Adulthood/dp/1501151983

      And to Twenge’s website: http://www.jeantwenge.com/igen-book-by-dr-jean-twenge/

      Note that Twenge devotes an entire chapter of iGen to safety, “Insulated But Not Intrinsic: More Safety and Less Community.”

      (Cf Viminitz, iGenp173, “iGen’ers interest in safety leads them to balk at the idea that college should mean exploring new and different ideas—what if they aren’t “emotionally safe”?)

      Twenge attributes some of the safety-ism in post-secondary institutions many are observing to iGen’s dependence on electronic devices and social media. Hence my hypothesis, which emerged by wondering (i.e. Exploring ideas! Unsafe!) about who might not be subject to the detrimental effects of electronic social media (people *possibly* found in greater numbers on the religious right) and whether it’s these people who will be our future leaders.

      Now. Whether students educated at religious schools academically outperform their public school peers appears (at a cursory glance) a contentious issue in the literature, but the academic advantage seems plausible enough one ought to pay attention since both an academic and (possible) psychologically resilient advantage could very well play out in leadership – which in turn might play out in the social and political realm. One might be thankful-for or fearful-of this prospect.

      Anyway. Maybe you non-wrinkly young bastards should fear the way we wrinkly old ones talk, because what this wrinkly old bastard has to say is a truism: your getting old means you will do so with your peers and NOT us … for better or worse.


  4. It might be too optimistic of an outlook on the Dutch Reformed. Those kids are sheltered too, in religious and intellectual ways. They also have tender egos and can be easily offended (even by each other!). Their communal virtue and cultural strength is dormant. It may be a hundred years before that potential is awoken by their leaders, perhaps it never will be.

    It would probably take a veritable Joan of Arc figure to rouse them from their sleep.


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