When I was in college and grad school, other students — mostly the “jock” and fraternity crowds — called me all sorts of names because, being the lead singer in a popular campus rock band, I sported long hair and wore flamboyant outfits. This being BPC (before political correctness), the reader can imagine the epithets in question.
On today’s college campus, incidents of that sort are called “acts of bias” and students are encouraged to report them to the presiding Bias Response Team — constituted of administrators, campus law enforcement, faculty, and perhaps even students — which will then investigate. If the investigation supports the contention of the offended party, the supposed offender will be hauled up before the BRT and might suffer even expulsion. This, mind you, because one student hurts another student’s feelings by, say, looking at him the wrong way, whatever the “wrong way” might be.
At the University of Michigan, for example, students are advised that “the most important indication of bias is your own feelings” and are encouraged to report — anonymously if they prefer — any “bias incidents.”
I often tell my audiences that I am a member of the last generation of American children whose feelings didn’t count for much. Occasionally, one’s feelings would count for something, but not for long. When I had an outburst of self-drama, for example, my parents usually told me to rein it in, and if that appeared beyond my immediate ability, to go to my room. The overwhelming number of people my age and thereabouts report that they do not remember their parents ever talking to them about their feelings.
Children are soap-opera factories by nature. They are inclined to over-dramatize, over-emote, and generally take themselves far too seriously. Once upon a time, parents understood that in the raising of children, they were responsible to their neighbors, broadly defined, and that one of said responsibilities was to teach their children to bring emotion under the dominion of intelligent thought.
Then, in the 1960s, mental health professionals began advocating for letting children express their feelings freely, lest their emotions become “bottled up” inside and possess them like demons. Said professionals told parents that children’s feelings contained deep meaning that needed to be properly interpreted and properly responded to. Thinking that people with impressive credentials must know what they are talking about, parents began giving relatively indiscriminate credence to their children’s emotions and thus began growing children whose hearts rule their heads in perpetuity.
These same kids eventually go off to college and can’t deal with the very sort of stuff I had to deal with (because no one would deal with it for me). University Bias Response Teams are fifty years too late for me, and I am clearly better off as a result.
Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.