The Education of “Student 1950”

While students have caused a ruckus on several campuses in recent days, one particularly noisy and increasingly popular student coalition has made itself heard locally and nationally.  Collectively called The University of Missouri’s “Student 1950,” they bear a name meant to commemorate the year the first black students were admitted to MU. While all of the behaviors of this “student” cannot be listed here, a summary of his antics includes sit-ins, petitions, strikes, and various other forms of protest all revolving around the same basic idea: he doesn’t like the freedoms laid out by the constitution, so instead he creates his own and forces others to live by them. The freedoms he seeks are emotionally charged, relative, and even subject to change day to day.

Press coverage is first demanded by Student 1950, then subsequently decried, depending, of course, on what he is doing at the time. His airing of grievances is an exercise of free speech, he says, while those grievances themselves contain restrictions on the free speech of others. He seeks fair treatment for some (who, in his opinion, had previously been treated unfairly), by seeking unfair treatment of others (who in his opinion, ought to be punished for no other reason than having been previously treated fairly). Among his demands, for instance, are several points that seem to contradict his own supposedly “liberal” goals. The demands of Student 1950 include:

  • That Tim Wolfe, the president of his school, “acknowledge his white male privilege,” and that “systems of oppression exist.” Couched in this way, as the first among a list of demands, it seems that Mr. Wolfe’s acknowledgment is meant to be something of a guilty plea for being white, for starters, and, furthermore, for even having the audacity to be male. This rap sheet evidently makes Wolfe automatically a prime suspect for any incidences of unfairness campus-wide. It is a good thing, for his sake, that they didn’t include the charge of “heterosexuality,” which no doubt adds to his culpability in the eyes of Student 1950.
  • That all future presidents and chancellors of MU “be selected by a collective of students, staff, and faculty of diverse backgrounds.” This doesn’t sound very “liberal,” if liberal means “free” as it used to, or “democratic,” if democratic means the responsible exercise of power by those naturally authorized and obliged to exercise it, as it used to.
  • That a “comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum” be created, and become “mandatory for all students, faculty, staff, and administration.” Created and overseen by? You guessed it … another board of students, staff, and faculty, but this time the demonstrators demand not simply for a collective of those from “diverse backgrounds,” but instead specifically “of color.” So, authority to create a mandatory program for “inclusion” should exclude all those who are not “of color” from its leadership, design, and implementation team. Hmmm…
  • That the percentage of black faculty and staff be increased to 10 percent. This seems to imply that individuals should be hired (and perhaps fired?) based on race as the sole qualification (or disqualification) for employment.

Sympathizers of Student 1950 have also demanded the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson on campus, literally (with hand-written pieces of paper) labeling him a racist, misogynist, rapist, etc. Student 1950 represents a modern kind of student of history, who may be willing and able to uncover certain incidents from the historical record, but is neither willing nor able to appreciate history, or understand it in context. In The Well and the Shallows, G.K. Chesterton contended that history was “the greatest of all the works of the imagination” because it “magnified our minds” and helped us “feel the futility of allowing lesser and later quarrels entirely to obliterate memory.” Student 1950 lacks, as it were, a historical imagination that allows us to respect someone like Thomas Jefferson and his legacy (the Declaration of Independence, for example, is still important to some of us old-fashioned folks), despite his imperfections.

Student 1950 is quick to remember the faults of Jefferson, but slow to remember the history of his own state, for example. Does the fact that Missouri was once a slave state, as those of us in Bleeding Kansas will never forget, mean that it should be dissolved, and its flag be taken down? Jayhawks, don’t answer that. The irony is that the Missouri protesters claim to want Jefferson removed from campus because of his personal connection with slavery, but perhaps the real reason they don’t want him around is because of his commitment to authentic democracy. Jefferson recognized that “The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.” The student body of leftist agitators at Mizzou who call both for his head and for the suspension of constitutional rights prove his statement true.

 

Student 1950 is not just a problem for Missouri, he is a problem for all of us. We all have to deal with his behaviors, his opinions, and his distorted sense of justice and entitlement. And we can’t just dismiss him and hope he doesn’t cause any more trouble, because there are more coming after him that have been trained by the same school of thought, or, more accurately, school of anti-thought. Recent articles discuss the new trend in political correctness, taking root particularly on school campuses, which has as its goal the removal of anything which, for whatever reason, could give offense or cause discomfort. Recent surveys show that propositions such as “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” are now widely considered to fall into this category. There has been a change in the way we think about and teach liberal democracy, which favors coercive silence to freedom of thought.

This student is a product of the system we have created, and is now in need of remediation. He has been taught to reject tradition, to tear down everything that came before him. He makes decisions always on emotion, subjectivity, and relativity, never on reason and objectivity. He favors a minority over and against any majority, particularly if said minority claims to suffer from hurt feelings. He finds evil in the good, and uses it as an excuse to destroy the good. He proposes evil as good, and ostracizes and seeks the ruin of all those who refuse to conform to his demands.

But political correctness is only part of the problem. By perpetuating adolescence into adulthood, by cocooning children from every conceivable harm, by not fostering moral and intellectual maturity in young people, parents and educators have created a generation ill-prepared to face the harsh realities of life. The inevitable result is the delinquent student we see before us. Now it is up to the sane few to undo decades of poor parenting, mis-education, and indoctrination before more damage is done.

Dusty Gates

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Dusty Gates currently serves as the Director of Adult Education at the Spiritual Life Center for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, KS, and as an adjunct Professor of Theology at Newman University in Wichita, KS, where he resides with his wife and three children.

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