The Voice: Teens should face reality

Sasha Larson

“That person may not love you back, kids are really cruel, work sucks, it’s hard to be good at something, life is made up of failure and disappointment, you’re not talented.”Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 9.58.44 AM
So begins writer Bret Easton Ellis’ wake-up call for millennials – a demographic he often refers to as “Generation Wuss,” a breed he believes has been coddled for too long.

Indeed, universities across the nation have noticed a fragile sensitivity and, in result, a demand for political correctness from us Gen-Z’ers. Everything from trigger warnings and safe spaces to attempted bans on microaggressions, even an Oberlin College claim that bad cafeteria sushi is “cultural appropriation.”

These calls for sheltered environments and dogmatic political correctness must go. As teenagers, we need to learn to process and grapple with challenging information, rather than shy away from it.

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt studied this cultural phenomenon extensively for their Atlantic article published last September. They noted college students’ urge to be “shielded from words and ideas that make them uncomfortable.”

The duo dubbed the phenomenon “vindictive protectiveness.”
Essentially, the term defines a rabid insistence upon politically correct, “safe” language, with punishment for those who don’t comply.

At its core, the movement strives for positivity, aiming to keep students from topics and conversations that may be emotionally damaging – which can be helpful for those struggling with PTSD and other anxiety-inducing disorders.

For the most part, however, shielding young adults from offensive or contrary language only makes it harder for them to adjust to the real world.

“The systemic silencing … teaches the next generation of leaders that the best way to deal with ideas with which they disagree is to declare the content offensive, disengage from the discussion, ignore the ideas,” Karin Agness wrote for “Forbes.”

President Obama agreed when he addressed the issue during an October 2015 speech. He indicated in particular how liberal college students often boycott conservative speakers visiting their universities.

“You shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say,’” he said. “That’s not the way we learn.”

Judith Shulevitz encountered further pushback from college students in her New York Times article, “In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas.”

Students at Hampshire College, she reported, disinvited an afrofunk band from a school event after social media users criticized the band’s number of white musicians. The students claimed the comments and the controversy made them feel “unsafe.”

Here’s where instances of hypersensitivity border on the surreal.

During a discussion between guest speakers on campus rape, Brown University hosted a safe space for students to “recuperate” from comments they found upsetting. The safe space was ready for them, featuring everything from bubbles and Play-Doh to coloring books and a video of puppies.

“Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being “bombarded” by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints,” Shulevitz said. “Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning.”

She goes on to point out the safe space’s deep irony.

“Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe,” she said.

Our environments will not bend at our will to make us feel warm and invited.

A trigger-free safe space does little to prepare us for careers and environments that may at times prove unsettling and unnerving, even upsetting. To believe that the world will – and must – adjust to our demands creates negative, self-centered mindsets unfit for functioning adults.

While young adults are notoriously egocentric, we need to recognize the unforgiving nature of the world and learn to adapt to work with it.

We shouldn’t require cushioned classrooms. We should explore territory outside the comfort zone.

We should grow up.