Wednesday, December 02, 2015

How C. S. Lewis Predicted Today's College Campus Craziness in 1944

Monochrome head-and-left-shoulder photo portrait of 50-year-old Lewis
By Tyler O'Neil
December 1, 2015

In the September issue of The Atlantic, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, described a peculiar movement on college campuses, which they named “vindictive protectiveness.”

Haidt and Lukianoff cite Harvard Law Professor Jeannie Suk, who wrote in The New Yorker about law students demanding their professors not even teach rape law -- and in one weird case even to avoid using the word “violate” (as in “that violates the law”) -- because it may cause students distress. This culture of overreaction is being institutionalized, as demonstrated by demands for the resignation of Yale’s Silliman College masters Erika and Nicholas Christakis for an allegedly insensitive email about Halloween costumes.

As Haidt and Lukianoff explain, “a claim that someone’s words are ‘offensive’ is not just an expression of one’s own subjective feelings of offendedness. It is, rather, a public charge that the speaker has done something objectively wrong.”

The idea of “microaggressions” -- small actions or word choices that seem to have no malicious intent but are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless -- twists the objective idea of being “offensive” into a subjective charge on behalf of someone claiming to be offended. Some campus guides denounce as a microaggression the very act of asking an Asian American or Latino American “Where were you born?” because this implies that that person is not a real American.

The craziness of this new morality may seem unprecedented, but C.S. Lewis warned of something similar in his 1944 book The Abolition of Man... the rest image
Modern education, by contrast, teaches the young to debunk morality and follow their own course. It produces what may be called “Men without Chests,” men and women without the grounding in right response to the reality which makes it possible to live a good life.

Instead, they elevate their feelings of being victimized and offended into claims for illegitimate power. Rather than controlling their feelings and using their minds to understand what others are saying, they claim these words are aggressions and demand apologies. Morality abhors a vacuum, and if children are not taught to discover objective right and wrong they will create their own values -- and more often than not, use those values to grasp for power.


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