As someone who identifies as a conservative, my political views are often at odds with President Obama’s. There are many of his ideas that I simply do not agree with, however recently he made headlines for his stance on political correctness in education. His stance is one that I vehemently agree with. In a speech during a town hall meeting in Iowa he stated: “I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.” That’s not the way we learn either.” Of course, this drew a lot of discussion, especially at a time in which everything seems to offend one person or another. As conservatives, we are often the targets of such backlash. Colleges are known for being fairly liberal and when something disagrees with those views, it is labeled as “offensive” or “uncomfortable” and soon banned. This catering to those who find something offensive creates a culture in which no one is challenged to think differently. The worry of offending someone takes away a primary goal of education, which is to expose the student to situations that enhance their understanding of the world and themselves.
It’s not hard to see the extent to which this has come. Our generation has made great leaps when it comes to social issues, but it seems that in an effort to try to make everyone feel okay to be themselves, we took it to an extreme. The term “social justice warrior,” originally meant in a positive way, has come to describe people who take it upon themselves to pick something apart until they find something to feel offended about. Colleges have always been the hub of social change so it’s not that surprising that it’s especially easy to see how far trying not to offend someone has come. Books have been banned, conservative speakers are cancelled, trigger warnings on syllabi are becoming more and more the norm, etc. Outside of the college sphere, celebrities or shows are ripped apart for making a comment or showing a scene that might be misconstrued as an insult to a certain subset of people. What people need to realize, especially those of our generation, is that by making sure that people are always comfortable makes it so no one is ever challenged in their thinking.
Many people today see college as a sort of necessary evil in order to be able to succeed in the world, however most people seem to forget that while a good job may be the outcome, most people in college go there to expand their knowledge and explore their interests. College is a way to learn more about the world that awaits, a way to push boundaries and learn to be away from the safety that has surrounded someone since the moment they were born. In short: College is not meant to be comfortable. Of course the environment of a campus should be welcoming enough to foster learning, but this should not come at the cost of learning. Students in college are there to learn and think about the world around them. If they are asked to read a book depicting sexual assault, view a video clip of violence during the civil rights movement or attend a talk by a conservative speaker, the purpose is to make them feel uncomfortable enough to spur critical thinking. By not having any of these things present in the classroom, it stifles this burst of critical thinking by making sure that nothing is ever too uncomfortable for a student so that their learning is not disrupted.
Personally, I have always had a very particular sense of humor and a very particular sense of what I find offensive and what I don’t. The thing is I don’t really get offended all that easily. Growing up, my parents made sure I knew the world wouldn’t cater to me if I got my feelings hurt. The world is a tough place and they always told me that no matter how hard I tried people might not agree with me and yes, that might make me angry, but trying to force them to conform to my world view would benefit no one. As I began to delve into politics, I began to see a pattern. What most people tend to forget is that making people “uncomfortable” often brings about social change. Suffragettes made the politicians uncomfortable to give women the right to vote, Martin Luther King, Jr made the country uncomfortable to bring about the civil right movement, the feminists of the 70s produced much of women’s rights legislation. Being “uncomfortable” has made the world what it is today and there is still so far to go, so why would anyone want to make sure that society is “comfortable” with how it is?
As conservative women, we know what it is like to be that “uncomfortable” person every once in a while. The person that shakes up the room, but there shouldn’t be any shame in that. As President Obama said, different points of view are how we learn. That’s the point of college. Here at Future Female Leader, we want to change the world and oftentimes change comes from thinking of things in a new way. We might make people uncomfortable, but hopefully we open someone to a new point of view. Similarly, we should be able to learn from others whose opinions differ from ours. And we should be able to do this in a safe environment. The world is an unforgiving place and there will not always be warnings or people accommodating you to let you avoid something. While bringing these issues to light on college campuses it is important and vital that students must learn to be able to handle difficult topics. College is a time to think and develop opinions and reactions to different issues and grow in understanding of the world. This understanding will become narrower and narrower as students are granted the ability to choose what they want to understand. Being politically correct may have begun as an attempt to broaden understanding, but in it’s current implementation, it’s only stifling it.