Phi Beta Cons

Harvey Silverglate on the Assault on Student Sensibilities

In a letter published in today’s Wall Street Journal, Harvey Silverglate, one of the founders of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and co-author of The Shadow University (with Alan Kors) comments on Princeton’s obnoxious freshman orientation:

Sexuality, Sex Crimes and the Single, Unsuspecting College Student Christian C. Sahner understates the real problem in his critique of Princeton’s entry in the freshman orientation industry, a “university-organized, student-performed play designed to warn about sexual assault and alcohol abuse” (“Sexed Up Sex-Ed,” editorial page, Sept. 5).

These programs, ubiquitous today in higher education, are not aimed at redressing real problems nor answering questions that the typical student actually asks. They are, instead, geared toward inculcating freshmen with particular social, political or cultural viewpoints. They fall under the category of mandatory sensitivity or social training, where post-modern academic concepts seeking to define and regulate the relationships between different genders, races, religions and nationalities are forced upon freshmen who typically do not even have the option of failing to show up.
College students, as legally presumptive adults, should not be treated like elementary school students in need of the most basic social training. Until college administrators understand that college is not the modern-day equivalent of a North Korean POW camp with forced political and social indoctrination for new arrivals, our freshmen are going to have to put up with these kinds of tendentious intrusions into their minds and very beings.
Colleges need to return to the task of educating, as Peter Berkowitz brilliantly argues in his essay (“Our Compassless Colleges”) in the same issue, rather than training students.

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

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