Teaching the Wrong Lessons
College has become outrageously expensive, leading many to question if higher education is worth it.
But not so fast.
After witnessing the events at the University of Missouri this past week, it’s apparent that college can still teach priceless lessons – lessons that are reverberating around the nation, and sowing the seeds for more to come.
Unfortunately, they’re all the wrong ones.
Both the president and chancellor at Mizzou resigned this week due to pressure from a small group of students who were – what else? – "offended." Their issue was a perceived lack of action by the administration in dealing with a few "racial injustices" on campus.
Like clockwork, the demonstration grew, since the new modus operandi in America is joining the dissent du jour, protesting against every damn thing under the sun that isn’t to one’s particular liking. Once upon a time, our protests actually carried relevance (civil rights movement, Vietnam), where people of all races united behind common-sense ideas rooted in fairness. But now, demonstrations have devolved into it’s-all-about-me affairs, with the professional protesting class more concerned about getting on TV and becoming "viral" social media sensations than fighting for anything of substance. It doesn’t matter that objectives are usually vague pie-in-the-sky rhetoric, or that many protesters don’t actually know what they’re protesting. As long as the protesters’ narcissism quota is met, life is good for the "aggrieved."
As the media exposure at Missouri grew, so did the ranks of the offended, including one student hunger striker, a football team that went on "strike" by boycotting team activities (actions condoned by the coach), and some faculty threatening a walkout, all with the goal of forcing President Tim Wolfe out the door.
Well, they succeeded, and then some. But not because of admirable goals, but the cowardice of university officials who redefined "caving in." It’s bad enough to capitulate, but to do so because you think appeasement will solve anything – while getting zero in return – is not just naïve, but idiotic. And it sets the bar higher for the next protest, where it’s a certainty that even more ludicrous demands will be made – and met – to the benefit of a few, and the detriment of everyone else.
Let’s look at the "lessons learned" in the Missouri debacle:
1) Cluelessness: It’s great to be anti-administration, but A) specifically, what did the protesters expect the president and chancellor to do, and B) did they really think their resign-or-else demands fit the "injustices" that occurred?
Let’s talk about the white elephant in the room: The incidents on campus, which, while unfortunate, were mere words:
• People in a pickup truck yelled racial slurs at a student. (Which brings up a not-so-insignificant point: Since we don’t know who they were, it’s possible they weren’t even students, rendering President Wolfe with no recourse).
• An allegedly drunk white student used racial slurs against the Legion Of Black Collegians. While abhorrent, does that really merit calling for the president’s ouster? (A president who had already ordered diversity and inclusion training, and whose administration called racial bias deplorable and "totally unacceptable.")
The biggest impediment to closing the racial gulf is the feeling of resentment among many that protesters don’t want equal opportunity for all, but special treatment for some. We will never progress as "Americans" until we view each other through color-blind glasses, and no amount of protests will change that immutable point.
• There was a swastika smeared on a dorm wall; that is a crime (defacing property), and should be dealt with by both the university and law enforcement.
Reports Wednesday indicated a longer series of incidents that have troubled the campus community for years, but specifically that’s what the current focus erupted over.
Not to downplay those acts, but that’s it. This whole uproar is because of a few insults. That’s an ugly part of life, and thankfully only a very small percentage of people stoop to that level, but ousting a university president and chancellor over them is not keeping the situation in its proper perspective.
And while we need to teach the values of justice and equality to our children, people need to grow a thicker skin. What’s next? Protesting bosses who don’t ooze compliments every five seconds, but instead may use harsh language to demand accountability? Calling for coaches to be fired who use colorful (but not racial) words to motivate a team?
Should the president have banned certain behaviors and imposed a speech code? And who would determine what that censorship should entail? If there is a zero-tolerance for racism and insults, will it still be acceptable to play music with questionable lyrics, and those calling police "pigs," and glorifying the killing of cops? Should single-race fraternities and clubs still be permitted? Or will those things be acceptable because they don’t "offend" the protesters?
Censorship and selective "justice" solve nothing, and only throw gas on the fire. Yet clearly, we still haven’t learned our lesson.
2) Cowardice: Instead of resigning with a whimper, the president should have come out strongly with the following message: "Any football player who boycotts a team activity loses his scholarship – immediately. You want to protest, do so on your own time, and own dime. But under no circumstances will you abuse the taxpayers’ money; since the university is publicly funded, your scholarships are, in fact, subsidized by the people. And if you lose it, you pay your own tuition bill (just like everyone else), or you’re gone."
(Out of curiosity, one wonders how many football players who went on "strike" continued to eat university-provided food, sleep in university dorms, and enjoy the lavish benefits afforded them. If they really believed the president presided over a racially insensitive campus, they should have manned-up long ago and eschewed those things in "protest." I’m guessing none did.)
The same message should apply to teachers: Protesting is your right, but when it affects your job (and disenfranchises tuition-paying students), you need to go. Period. There should be zero tolerance for that type of behavior.
3) Hypocrisy: Good thing the protests were about racial equality, and that the media was a godsend in broadcasting the demonstrators’ message. Except it became abundantly clear that neither were true.
After "winning," protest organizers turned hostile to the media, trying to boot them from the protest area – except that, since they were on public property, that request held no weight. And the hunger striker who was given headlines across the country? Sorry. He couldn’t be bothered giving any more interviews.
Protesters sent out a number of tweets lambasting the media for not "respecting black spaces."
Gee, with leadership like that, it’s great knowing the systemic oppression of racism and inequality at the University of Missouri will finally be banished. Except, of course, when it comes from them. But since they are part of the offended entitlement movement, they can do no wrong.
Before rushing blindly into the next misguided protest – and fawning over narcissist organizers – maybe the media should keep both eyes open so it doesn’t get burned again by the very people it puts on a pedestal.
When are we going to wake up and realize that appeasement doesn’t work? That double standards are wrong? And that attempts to solve racial discontent with solutions rooted in race will continue to backfire?
Evidently, not anytime soon. And that’s the most tragic lesson of all.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]