Better Watch What You Say
In their September cover story, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt argued that issuing “trigger warnings” in college courses impedes education and emotionally weakens undergraduates.
Whatever their marketing says, universities certainly treat students today like paying customers—and they have convinced us, over time, to pay more and get less. Is it any wonder, then, that students feel entitled to some institutional consideration of their feelings, however misguided those feelings may be?
Chapel Hill, N.C.
How did colleges manage to guide generations of students through offense and outrage, only to founder at the dawn of the 21st century? Haidt and Lukianoff offer some plausible candidates …
But here’s a candidate Haidt and Lukianoff don’t mention: the steady shift toward viewing college as a consumer experience, rather than an institution that is there to shape you toward its own ideal … Cultural and economic shifts have pushed students toward behaving more like consumers in a straight commercial transaction, and less like people who were being inducted into a non-market institution.
Mass education, and the rise of colleges as labor-market gatekeepers, have transformed colleges from a place to be imbued with the intangible qualities of character and education … into a place where you go to buy a ticket to a good job. I strongly suspect that the increasing importance of student loans also plays a role, because control over the tuition checks has shifted from parents to students …