College, Political Correctness, and Intellectual Stasis

I loved college. Taking classes and monopolizing professor office hours is about as ideal a life as I can imagine. But it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that I got out at the right time. I saw none of this new wave of political correctness when I was a student — and I went to the University of Colorado in Boulder, which you’d think would be on the vanguard of movements like that.

There’s the obvious concern about the wider repercussions of the sort of militant infantilization currently gripping our campuses. I get that, and I am fearful of where this might all lead. More, though, I feel sad for the kids who are robbing themselves and their peers of what’s so profoundly wonderful about attending a university. College isn’t about learning a set of facts or training for a job or earning a credential. If you go into it looking for those things, you’re missing the point. College is about growing as a person, about coming out richer in mind and character than when you started. But for that to happen, you have to let it. Not even seek it out or actively strive for it. Just let it happen. At a good university, it’s in the air.

The trouble is, college kids today seem dead set on fighting personal change, on shutting out anything that might lead to or enable it. It’s like they’ve looked at themselves as they exit high school and said, “This is the best I can be. What matters now is stasis.”

College is by no means the only way to grow and evolve when you’re in your late teens and early twenties. Of course it isn’t. But it’s not like today’s undergrads are availing themselves of the alternatives. They want instead to remain children, and to drive from campuses anyone who strives for more.