Snowflakes in the stratosphere

Monday 12th November 2018

Just to briefly take you away from Jeremy Corbyn’s Cenotaph clobber and Brexit generally – I’d been giving a talk about life and art to a bunch of academics re ‘uni’. We used to call it ‘university’ because we grammar school boys were so happy to have achieved a difficult transition from school to  further education at a seat of learning  , that we afforded our new institutions some verbal respect.

I said  that the snowflake students of today  would grow up with no essential curiosity. They demand ‘safe areas’ where unpleasant challenges of discussion are excluded. For example a law course decided that any ‘rape’ cases were not to be mentioned because it might cause offence.  University lecturers had also been victimised  for having raised questions about anything to do with subjects that the students found challenging to their supposed sexuality and notions of equality. 

Look at these: “Microaggressions “ are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but imply, apparently, some kind of violence. For example, by some campus guidelines, it is a microaggression to ask someone “Where were you born?.” 

Ouch – I was born in Leeds.

“Trigger warnings” are alerts that staff are expected to warn if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. English literature students have complained that  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so that students who have been previously victimised by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid a novella like this, which they believe might “trigger” a recurrence of past trauma.

I did some silly things when I was long haired student in 1968, buoyed by a grant and  Northern arrogance. But I did learn to challenge and was ‘protected’ from nothing. I even read ‘Titus Andronicus’.

At my talk, one crusty from a revered centre of learning challenged my overview saying that this protectionism  was not the case at Oxbridge. I said, indeed, but the explosion in the number of other ‘unis’ meant that many of our potential  influentials who were ‘studying’ in those establishments might  adopt these ‘guidelines’ and take those unchallenged messages into future life.

I opined that what has become vindictive protectiveness prepares students poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. 

I also said that this flight to safety is childish and is a form of mental castration. I didn’t share much  warm white wine with the crusty afterwards.

But  the ‘safe’ thing is already catching on in the real world.

Mrs W and I flew to Turkey via Easyjet four hours of delightful economy – no problem there – but two hours in, our ‘cabin manager’ came up with this :  at least I think this is what she said, because cabin crew now vie with London Underground announcers’ unintelligible gabble – but this is the gist:

“As you can tell,  the flight’s been very busy..so we’d appreciate it if you’d not press your service buttons for half an hour, because your cabin crew need to rest for a little while’

Oh,the poor darlings – how delightful that snowflakes also exist at 35000 feet .

Michael

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