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Cowardly Teachers & Student Struggle Sessions
How social media created students more dangerous than their teachers, many of whom are too scared to call the danger out.
It does not matter if you are “The Cool Gay Teacher” as Harry Winter thought himself to be when attempting to create an inclusive safe space for LGBT students at his school in Rural England where he teaches history.
Writing under a pseudonym for The Daily Mail, Mr. Winter describes how his attempt at this safe space had been "hijacked as a hotbed for gender anxiety and trans ideology.” by students who were already PhD-level in gender identity lingo & turned aggressive when he was reluctant to validate a student’s identity of the day. It was not long till his status as an Ally came into question.
Looking back on it, Mr. Winter deeply regretted his “initial 'affirming' approach” but was left confused as to what could have been done differently.
The difference now is that these ostracised, unhappy youngsters go on social media, where they are given the perfect explanation for their complex problems: they were simply born in the wrong body.
They are then told that it is possible to change their body to match how they 'feel'.
While I personally believe that adults with gender dysphoria who feel they are of the opposite sex should be free to decide to act and dress as they see fit, I think it's not benign to propagandize these same changes to impressionable children as has become the trend.
DEI initiatives and activist academics cater to such trends, but it was through early social media like Tumblr where they grew from the fringe to popular gospel.
In the wild west days before social media, back-n-forth insults and butting heads in online forums came with a kind of mutual strengthening for the most part. If you could take the heat, you were welcome in the kitchen to cook delicious insults with the rest of the chefs.
With social media floodgates opening wide around the time of the smartphone, however, what I suspect happened was an influx of people who did not have to work as hard to get information as their pre-social media predecessors did. With a lack of initiative and curiosity comes a willingness to let others tell you what to think, and how you should react to what is said.
This mix of vulnerable and zealous young people found themselves in a world that was reminiscent of what is known as a “Struggle Session”, a form of public humiliation and criticism seen in regimes like Maoist China. The practice involves subjecting an individual to intense and public criticism, often in the form of a group interrogation or trial, with the goal of forcing them to confess to wrongdoing or to change their beliefs.
One such example of this “Internet as a Struggle Session” that young people like Mr. Winter’s students find themselves in today can be seen back in 2015, when an artist on Tumblr was harassed by rabid zealots over drawing a fat character from the cartoon “Steven Universe” as too thin. This resulted in an alleged attempted suicide by the artist.
In Mr. Winter’s case, a young disturbed female student of his who was self-harming, kept changing her identities so often that neither the teachers nor students could keep up. This perpetuated even more self-harm. Even without the presence of an online hate mob like in the former case (for all we know), saying the wrong pronoun was enough to make a significant impact on her.
As Jonathan Haidt points out, there’s been an extremely high rise in the amount of depression & suicides among teen girls in relation to the rise of social media. Most are along for the ride as victims who want to fit in, thus ripe for exploitation by older manipulative peers.
Most professors & administrators seem to be more along for the ride as well. They hide behind being tolerant & inclusive while nothing is really being done to help the students who self censor or get brainwashed into buying the full woke package. As an example, let's turn to Florida's DEI Culture War.
A recent article in The Atlantic criticized the take-over of New College of Florida by Gov. Ron Desantis’ appointed trustees. It started off by describing the College as some kind of equivalent of the Garden of Eden, not yet sullied by the conservative tentacles of the Anti-Woke Hydra:
“Before this year, life at New College of Florida could feel like a retreat into a pleasantly forgotten corner of the country. Students walked on paths that wound past wisps of Spanish moss and a stately Banyan tree to a park on Sarasota Bay, where the outside world often felt as distant as the sun setting into the Gulf. Then on January 6, Ron DeSantis, Florida’s popular Republican governor, seized control of the college by appointing six new members to its board of trustees.”
It went on to attribute the origins of New College’s relatively recent DEI bureaucracy to “an explicit mandate from a DeSantis appointee” while the historic modus operandi of New College’s academic program has actually been one that “cultivates a fierce and idiosyncratic independence”
That “there was no large DEI bureaucracy at New College running roughshod over dissenters” means diddly squat, however, when any would-be dissenter has to face exclusion from their social group for daring to speak up.
“‘It tends to be the case that moderate or more conservative students had a hard time making friends and connections in groups,” an alum named Eugenia Quintanilla told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2019, “just because the ideas that they believed were considered to be offensive.”
And this is only from students who would have admitted to being moderate or conservative to Ms. Quintanilla. An example of what is left unsaid can be seen in the 2017 survey conducted by The Knight Foundation / Gallup , which found that 61% of surveyed students agreed with the statement "the climate on my campus prevents some people from saying what they believe because they fear others might find it offensive."
While I can believe the insistence that “there is no organized resistance within the New College faculty or its administration to competing viewpoints” and that “Plenty of us would welcome more ideological diversity at New College,” this is the faculty speaking on behalf of people their own age who did not grow up with the watchful eye of social media & radicalized classmates on them at all times.
They, like Prof. Agnes Callard from my earlier Substack article, may believe in academic freedom but remain too scared to call out this watchful eye, lest they also be branded a heretic.
Perhaps like Conor Friedersdorf, the author of the Atlantic piece, they pretend that colleges are these quirky Arcadias of inquisitiveness and the thought of moderate or conservative ideas being silenced through the bottom-up student collective peer pressure will break their illusion.
You can replace the administrators, as well as professors in some cases, but how can you replace the students?
A dictator is powerless without the masses, much in the same way the DEI Bureaucracy and activist professors need the young enforcers and their conformist victims trying to fit in to make the whole thing work.
Building institutions that don't tolerate the intolerance of these red guards, like New College is doing, is one way, as long as we can distinguish between hearing people out and letting "their truth" silence ours.
What do you think needs to be done? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!
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