Most American universities, despite what they may claim, are no longer bastions of lively intellectual debate and diversity of ideas. Trigger warnings, microaggressions, and safe spaces halt conversations, thus killing true education.
Fortunately, not all hope is lost. The University of Chicago recently sent a letter to its incoming freshmen, proclaiming that the university does not promote trigger warnings or safe spaces. In the letter, the university also asserts that controversial speakers will not be cancelled. The letter mentions the importance of “fostering the free exchange of ideas” and affirms that the university has a strong commitment to true “academic freedom.”
This is huge. This letter may seem like a simple statement of university policy, but, in actuality, it is a dagger to the heart of political correctness and a glowing beacon of hope for the future of intellectual dialogue. Such a condemnation of political correctness was desperately needed in the current academic and political climate. Even better, not only was such a condemnation given, but it was also given by one of America’s most prestigious universities.
One can only hope other schools will follow the University of Chicago’s lead. If, instead, this era of political correctness continues, America faces the possibility of losing its core ideal: freedom. If one is not free to voice opinions or even say certain phrases, one is not a free person at all. There is a reason freedom of speech is in our First Amendment: it is one of the most important, perhaps the most important, right an individual has. After all, the free exchange of ideas has served as the foundation of scientific discovery and revolutionary political thought for centuries.
Colleges and universities should be overflowing with free speech. I say this not only because people have the right to speak their mind, but also because it is beneficial for others to hear a diverse set of perspectives. Modern colleges and universities spend so much time dwelling on variations in skin color or sexual orientation that they often neglect the most important type of diversity: intellectual diversity. It is imperative that people have the opportunity to speak their mind, and also investigate new perspectives. True education, after all, necessitates hearing new ideas and critically pondering them. Banning certain phrases or discouraging people from sharing their perspectives harms everyone, and benefits no one.
Additionally, coddling students with safe spaces and trigger warnings can be devastating for professional careers after college. Many students may become so accustomed to never feeling uncomfortable or exploring different avenues of thought that they are grossly under prepared for the real world. The real world requires creativity and investigation. The real world does not warn you when something that may make you uncomfortable is about to be said. The real world, frankly, does not care about your feelings. College should reflect the real world, not create a false one.
While the letter sent by the University of Chicago should be praised and appreciated, it should also be noted that the true burden of responsibility in overthrowing political correctness lies with college students themselves. In order to change the politically correct climate on college campuses, millennials must lead. I truly believe that the millennial generation is not comprised solely of anti-free speech “social justice warriors;” rather, such champions of political correctness are in the minority. Unfortunately, the politically correct are a powerful minority because retaliating against them results in one immediately being labeled a bigot. Hopefully, this letter provides a dose of courage to the silent majority of free-thinking, reasonable millennials in their quest to overthrow the tyranny of political correctness.