University debates are pointless
We’re all too busy playing the victim
Tomorrow night, there’ll be a debate on campus asking: “Why is my curriculum white?”.
It’s a fairly odd question to ask in a country that has an 87.1 per cent white population but it does give us an opportunity to look at the state of intellectual discussion at universities. We don’t tend to hear a wide variety of opinions in debates anymore. People really seem to be holding back. We aren’t as afraid of being wrong as we are of being provocative, as inaccuracy carries less social consequence than rudeness. This is most blatantly true with issues that offer the greatest potential for offence, in this case, race.
Universities are ostensibly ideologically neutral, but lets face it, universally left-leaning institutions. You’ll be hard pressed to find an open UKIP voter on campus as it carries a stigma that invalidates their perspective. Universities don’t seem to introduce students to ‘dangerous’ ideas; if you study slavery, you will never be given the thorough justification of racism necessary to contextualise the actions of slave owners. This lack of variety of opinion at universities offers some explanation as to why we’re seeing more matted-hair freak-outs, #BlackLivesMatter freak-outs, and good old-fashioned suppression of opinion from our university students; there’s a growing cultural disrespect for dissenting views.
The #Trump2016 Chalk Scandal on Emory University campus shows how this disrespect, combined with a radical victim complex and a total lack of character, can turn into hilarious hysteria over non-issues.
There’s an urge to say, “It’s socially irresponsible to offer opinions that will most likely invoke a harmful emotional response in others”. However, if a contrasting opinion invokes a violent emotional response in you, then you lack the emotional maturity to engage in a debate.
Modern universities seem to be taking a disturbingly maternal role with their behaviour policies. They seem more focused on preventing emotional harm than encouraging intellectual discussion. They seem to have forgotten that we’re paying adults and having your feelings hurt is a part of being an adult, a part that’s being filtered out of universities with safe spaces, pronoun education, word banning and jazz-handing, creating an atmosphere where many students are afraid of expressing their opinions.
The question, “Why is my curriculum white?”, is far less interesting than the social consequences of publicly answering it. Unfortunately, the debate on April 21st will probably be another masturbatory farce. Being branded a racist is social suicide, and all you have to do to be branded a racist is to not have the mainstream opinion on issues involving race. This is my concern – when you cannot freely and honestly express your opinions, free speech and intellectual discussion die. I mean, why even have a debate if it’s just going to be another circlejerk?
It makes sense though, we’re not taught to argue constructively in school. The class is given a topic, told “Argue for or against”, and if you think the truth lies in the middle you’re given an F. We’re taught to establish a bias, gain a sense of moral superiority, never waver in our convictions, and shout down the other side.
Instead of engaging in an unbiased attempt to solve an issue, we’re taught to “win” debates. So, now we focus on finding new ways to be offended as offence allows you to play the victim, which is a position from which you can’t “lose” as no one wants to be a bully. If your logic fails, you can act like a shitty girlfriend and no-platform the opposition. Pathetic.
Let me be explicit: there are no “offensive” opinions. Not racism, homophobia, transphobia or sexism; offence is the burden of the offended, not the offender. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, it’s kind of a human fucking right, and it is your responsibility to respect them. That is what it means to be open-minded: respecting an opinion you disagree with.
You are not “open-minded” because you’re fine with the transgenders. You’re open-minded if you take issue with them, hear an argument against that and then change your mind. Merely changing your mind does not make you “open-minded” either. Entertaining the possibility that you might be wrong and listening to the opposing argument does. But then again, why do anything that requires a shred of humility?