On Sept. 15, President Barack Obama stood before a crowd at a town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa and said some remarkable words during a discussion on free speeches at universities. “I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who, you know, is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I don’t agree with that…I don’t agree that you—when you become students at colleges—have to be coddled and protected from different points of view,” he said.
It’s an interesting point, one that affects us here on a daily basis at St. John’s University. This “coddling” principle, as President Obama referenced, is detrimental to our education and experiences here at St. John’s.
Of all the benefits St. John’s has to offer its students–a 40-minute subway ride to the greatest city on earth, a hidden Starbucks at the law school, unlimited ranch at Monties, etc.– the foremost important reason we have come to enroll at this university is for our education. We have all come here in an attempt to learn, to aspire to be something better than we were before and ultimately we will network through and around the school as St. John’s alumni to make those dreams come true.
This is where this principle interjects itself directly into our personal lives and our investments into our future. Political correctness at an educational institution shelters us from reality. It grants us a false sense of security and ultimately leads to disillusion with how much of the world operates. Most importantly, it censors us from discovering ideas that we might find unappealing as young minds, ideas that could prove valuable to build off of for the future.
Every university is a sanctuary of learning, empowerment and inspiration. Putting a security blanket over young minds to keep them safe in a personal bubble is a shame to all. To state the cliché Socrates quote, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” How can we expect to examine ourselves and the world around us if we’re too worried about what will and won’t hurt someone’s feelings?
There is knowledge in everything, even in books and principles that may be offensive for some people to read. There are arguably more lessons learned from principles unfamiliar to oneself than those already close and comfortable. Moreover, (and again with the cliché statements) the human mind is a terrible thing to waste and it shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of correctness and questionably reassuring comfort.