Longer analysis found at Current Affairs [currentaffairs.org]
I have been told, over and over and over again, that college kids these days are hypersensitive snowflakes who can’t tolerate opposing opinions and don’t believe in free speech. They are so devoted to Tolerance and Diversity that they cannot take a joke, they think everything is a microaggression, and they want to slap “trigger warnings” on anything that may offend their political sensibilities. We have, on American college campuses, a new generation of spoiled, coddled, and censorious whiners who favor stifling dissenting opinions over constructively engaging with them. (I’m presenting this line of thinking in its most extreme form, but I don’t think it’s wrong to say that this is roughly the kind of sentiment one commonly hears about college students.)
But it looks like it may all be fake news.
More importantly, though, we can see here why reaching broad conclusions from sets of anecdotes is inadvisable. There are around 2,600 four-year universities in the United States. Friedersdorf tried to compile all of the most outrageous instances from a single year, and found about 10 of them. Those 10 were probably roughly evenly distributed according to the political affiliation of the students; i.e. there are more shutdown attempts by liberal students than conservative students, but students are also more liberal.
Non-committal submitter comment goes here->
It’s easy to do what Allan Bloom did in The Closing of the American Mind: extrapolate from the experience of your university (in Bloom’s case, Cornell in the ’60s and ’70s) to diagnose what’s going on with America. But if your method is: scan the newspapers for incidents of censorship at universities, then weave them together into a narrative, without paying attention to which kinds of universities you’re talking about and how many universities there are overall, you’re going to be producing a highly persuasive story (“You don’t believe me? Here’s 20 incidents!”) that has no relationship to the lived reality of most college students.
Here is the upshot, but the whole piece is worth the read, being as it is chock full of facts and studies, and experience at universities, so go take a look.
It’s time then, to stop talking in stereotypes. Students are, for the most part, just like everybody else: they believe in free speech, but they also have an instinct for censorship. The tendencies that critics describe do exist, but their mistake is in taking the tendencies as the rule rather than the exception. Controversial speakers do, for the most part, get to come to speak, and images of millennials as uniquely sensitive and authoritarian are a misleading and unfair slight against a perfectly decent generation.
Get off my lawn, you SJW academic!