The most dramatic display I ever witnessed in this regard occurred at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) shortly after a speech I gave on the topic of campus speech codes. During the Q&A, one student asked whether I supported reinstating slavery. Another student asked whether I was in favor of straights beating gays with baseball bats. My responses to both questions were similar: I asked each to sit down after letting them know they should be ashamed of themselves for asking such absurd (and accusatory) questions.
The response to my response was interesting. First a young man got up and told me that he felt I had been too harsh on the two women who had accused me (respectively, but not respectfully) of supporting slavery and aggravated battery. When I asked whether he had a substantive remark he sat down. But he got up again, stood in front of the microphone, and shared his feelings about my rebuke of the two aforementioned women.
A few minutes later, he made his way to the microphone for the third time for another emotional outpouring. Then, after the speech he interrupted my book signing to share his feelings for a fourth time. It was really weird. I mean, it felt really weird. And my feelings count, too.
I walked out of the auditorium that night surrounded by five armed police officers. We passed a glass display case that had been shattered by students who spray-painted a swastika on the flyer advertising my speech. Just as we were passing that shattered monument of left-wing emotional sensitivity an assistant dean caught up with me. He shook my hand, and thanked me for coming to UNH. But then he ruined the moment by saying that he felt I needed to be “more sensitive towards the students who did not share (my) views.”
I guess some college administrators feel a need to protect students who throw bricks through display cases and spray-paint over speech that offends them. Personally, I think they need to be incarcerated.
That night at UNH a good discussion of an important topic was hijacked by self-absorbed students who could not stop talking about their feelings. One could almost say that higher education is over-run by students who are possessed of an endless range of emotions and a boundless desire to share them with others. But one emotion is notably lacking from their repertoire: Humility.
It’s really easy to sit around and talk about your feelings. It means never having to defend an idea on its own objective merits. It means our nation can continue to feel smarter while its collective mind continues to atrophy.