Phi Beta Cons

Explaining the ‘Snowflake’ Phenomenon

Cal State professor and Hoover Institution fellow Bruce Thornton has written a very sharp essay entitled “What University ‘Snowflakes’ are Really About” and I strongly recommend it.

One key ingredient in this absurd development is the presence of speech or (as they’re often called instead “anti-harassment) codes on many campuses. Thornton writes, “Any protected class, which includes selected minorities and sexual identities, is given protection from behaviors deemed offensive to their identities. Expand this proscription of ‘hostile’ and ‘intimidating’ to politics and ideology — a natural progression of such open-ended law given the prevalence of multicultural identity politics — and you get the snowflake phenomenon.”

To that, we must add a federal bureaucracy straining at the leash to get at any school that isn’t in perfect compliance with its dictates. “Alleged infractions,” Thornton writes, “must be investigated and punished, unless a school wants the federal EEOC or Department of Education, backed by the coercive power of the state, to get involved.”

And one more point about the students, who aren’t just a bunch of “spoiled, immature, entitled neurotics” but mainly, as he states, “savvy progressive activists who know that … most administrators are careerist invertebrates fearful of bad publicity and blowback from trustees and the media.”

The “snowflake” phenomenon is just one of the many bad consequences we suffer for having transformed higher education from a good that some people thought worth striving for into an entitlement that attracts a lot of people who aren’t really interested in education at all.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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