Supplemental: College student addresses the Times!

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2015

Paging noble Nestor:
Right there in yesterday’s Sunday Review, the New York Times published seven letters about a piece from the week before—Judith Shulevitz’s essay about “safe spaces” in college.

As we noted this morning, two letters clobbered These Kids Today for their alleged fear of “scary ideas.” In four other letters, college professors defended These Kids and their own professorial practices.

Our view? In principle, there’s nothing wrong with turning classrooms into “safe spaces” for college students who may have therapeutic issues—far from it. This can be overdone, of course, just like anything else can.

That said, the seventh letter in the Times came from an actual college student—from one of These Kids Today! We’ll always defend the younger people until they go cataclysmically wrong. That said, we experienced serious 60s flashbacks as we read this student’s words.

You say you want a revolution? Here’s what the student said:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (3/29/15): Judith Shulevitz’s article about safe spaces on college campuses is a direct assault on my generation and what we find important. My generation has embraced the ideas of safe spaces and safe language. Without these, many victims of trauma or discrimination would be excluded from campus discussions that seek to cultivate and strengthen campus intellectual life. Truly open-minded intellectual growth desperately needs the participation of these groups.

Not all ideas are created equal. Some ought to be unreservedly condemned; consideration of such ideas is not at all helpful in bolstering campus intellectual life. The current generation of college students has denied validity to the failed ideas of the past. We have embraced the knowledge and empathy of the present. We are shaping the wisdom of the future.
We agree with the spirit of that first paragraph, although we’d warn any young person against believing that he belongs to a “generation” in which all the other people his age think the same way he does.

They don’t! Unless he develops strong skills of persuasion, most of them never will.

That said, our 60s flashback began as we read that second paragraph. Back in the day, many members of our generation thought we had debunked “the failed ideas of the past,” that we were effortlessly “shaping the wisdom of the future.”

Doggone it, students! The notion that you’re debunking the failed ideas of the past is one of the failed ideas of the past! Meanwhile, the potential downside to “safe space” thinking begins to appear in this familiar formulation:

“Not all ideas are created equal. Some ought to be unreservedly condemned; consideration of such ideas is not at all helpful in bolstering campus intellectual life.”

Should some ideas be “unreservedly condemned?” Presumably, yes! But who will decide which ideas must be banished? Who will decide which ideas can’t be considered—can play no valid, helpful role in campus intellectual life?

When young people start thinking this way, they could probably use a bit of perspective from their professors and college presidents. In a similar way, headstrong Diomedes once needed the counsel of noble Nestor, the seasoned charioteer, “who always gave the best advice.”

Are professors and presidents playing this role on These College Campuses Today? Doggone it! All too often, these august authority figures seem to be egging These Kids Today on!

Tomorrow: Back to the work of the Times


  1. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such attacks are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

  2. I'm so glad to belong to one of the sciences, where ideas are accepted or rejected based on degree of empirical support.

    1. Which science do you belong to? Does it own you outright, or does it have you on lease-to-own?

    2. Yes,
      It's always easier to invent a new subatomic particle than to rewrite the laws of gravitation.

  3. I am glad Bob is playing Nestor to young Meerwarth. In a rational world his professors would do this, but in our melting intellectual culture such work is left to bloggers of long tooth like Bob.

    Fortunately young Meerwarth has forsworn strawberries, according to his Twitter account, so Somerby will be able to look at him without an accusing eye. Unfortunately the lad wants to be a lawyer, so Bob will have difficulty getting him to choose the path of obsessive honesty he seeks in true followers.

  4. A depressing set of letters. Andrew Meerwarth probably represents the views of a substantial number of mis-educated students. Bob wishes the faculty would see him straight. However, the Times' letters seem to indicate that the faculty will push him even farther into his unfortunate views.

    1. If you and "Bob" find them depressing, then they can't be all bad.

  5. I wish Bob would deliver the tips to liberals and Democrats he promised instead of lecturing to odd individual college student and faculty members whose educational achievement far exceeds that of his own.

  6. The very idea that only a small segment of men actually commit rape, and that those men in particular are responsible for their actions, as opposed to all men in general, is just too traumatic an idea for students to hear? I just go along with that.

    1. The idea that those men should be prosecuted seems to be too traumatic an idea for some men to hear. That is the problem.

    2. TDH should cover more trauma:

  7. I am glad Somerby took those of us who know nothing about the 60's back to share those good times he and Al enjoyed together through the "flashback" device. And I am glad he still remembers the 60's in his sixties. Some in their seventies have trouble even remembering Ike from the 50's.

    Bob remembers Ike and Tina, too.

  8. Way back on Sept. 25, 2001 -- just two weeks after 9/11 -- a certain blogger wrote a brilliant column concerning the ridiculousness of Michele Malkin drawing broad conclusions from what one student said to one newspaper.

    He wrote:


    She starts with unintentional irony. "President Bush urged citizens last week to go back to work and try to restore normalcy to their everyday lives," she writes. And she then gets back to what she does best; she scours the provinces, beating the bushes for running dogs to punish for their corrupt anti-Maothought. And these days, how hard is it to come up with people who won’t accept the current consensus? Malkin is reduced to quoting a Berkeley high school student who dared say what Michelle Malkin doesn’t think:

    MALKIN: Echoing the blame-America pabulum of his Berkeley elders, student Patrick Rizzo of Berkeley High School told the Alameda Times-Star: "I think the United States deserves it. It’s pretty sad for the poor people, but the United States does the same thing." Young Mr. Rizzo’s attitude is typical of the Berkeley kids marinated up to their pierced eyebrows in moral equivalence.

    Malkin uses her national platform to note a troubling fact—one teen-ager has said something she doesn’t agree with. But so it goes when the spirit of jihad bubbles up from our own nation’s soul. Malkin also notes that 100 undergrads at Cal Berkeley "attempt[ed] to shut down the student-run daily newspaper" in protest of a stereotypical cartoon about Arabs. How’s your math? That’s 100 undergrads—out of a student population of roughly 30,000! At a time when we need to solve a thousand real life-and-death problems, that is the sort of thing that deeply troubles Malkin’s Holy War-lovin’ soul.


    Where did that blogger go?

  9. Well, it was way back. Who else but a troll would cover comments made so long ago?

    1. "Who else but a troll ..." ZZZZzzzzz.

    2. You do enjoy that little joke.

  10. Thank you for writing! You are certainly one of the better informed of my critics.

    "The notion that you’re debunking the failed ideas of the past is one of the failed ideas of the past!" - A strong criticism of that line in my letter.

    I would just like to point out that I think a Hegelian/hermeneutic approach to my letter is probably more useful than the Homeric (?) approach. But your rhetoric is on point, and I appreciate that.

    You and your followers can feel free to read and comment on my full essay in response to Shulevitz: