In a concise little op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, James Freeman, one of the directors of Yale University’s William F. Buckley, Jr. Program, answers the question of whether or not there’s bias on college campuses (spoiler: there is) by sharing the results of a national online survey of 800 full-time undergraduate students, conducted from October 8th to 18th, and including students at both public and private four-year universities.
What they found was predictable given what we know of campuses today as hotbeds of closed minds and standardized thinking, but astonishing nonetheless.
In a sentence (the headline of Freeman’s piece in fact): most college students are afraid to disagree with their professors.
When students were asked if they’ve had “any professors or course instructors that have used class time to express their own social or political beliefs that are completely unrelated to the subject of the course,” 52% of respondents said that this occurs “often,” while 47% responded, “not often.”
A majority—53%—also reported that they often “felt intimidated” in sharing their ideas, opinions or beliefs in class because they were different from those of the professors. A slightly larger majority feared expressing themselves because of differences with classmates. On this question 54% said they often felt intimidated in expressing themselves when their views conflicted with those of their peers, compared to 44% who said they didn’t often feel this way.
What this could mean in practice is that college students are either going to raise their hands to agree with the professor for brownie points or never raise their hand to ask a question out of fear that they may run afoul of the “liberal” environment mandated by the tyrant, er, teacher at the front of the class.
Freeman points out that the datapoint he found most uncomfortable was this one:
In perhaps the most disturbing finding in the poll results, 33% of U.S. college students participating in the survey agreed with this statement:
If someone is using hate speech or making racially charged comments, physical violence can be justified to prevent this person from espousing their hateful views.
Pretty easy to see where the violence of antifa, and the borderline chaotic “protests” at the Supreme Court during the Kavanaugh hearing, and the rhetoric encouraging incivility gets its start. When young people, full of questions about the world as they set out on a journey to figure out how to navigate it, are told that they should shutter those questions and just nod their heads in agreement, and further that those who disagree should feel fear, it’s a small step toward promoting violence as punishment for thoughtcrime.
As society wrings its hands over reaching the millennials and subsequent generations, perhaps a place to start addressing the communication problem lies in education. Making that industry attractive again to conservatives and those who do not fear differences of opinion or debate seems like a worthwhile longterm project for this nation’s leadership.