Survey of collegians casts serious doubt on America’s future

Opinion by Quin Hillyer

More than half of U.S. college students are proto-totalitarian ignoramuses.

That’s my admittedly bile-filled takeaway from a comprehensive new national survey by McLaughlin and Associates on behalf of the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale University, which is dedicated to intellectual diversity (not to be confused with diversity of “identity”) and political discourse on campus.

The results show that far too many college students neither understand nor value free speech. Worse, half would punish it, and worse, some think what can only be described as vigilante violence is appropriate to stifle “offensive” speech.

Send these students to North Korea, please, and let’s be done with it. Ingrates who would deny essential freedom to others do not deserve freedom for themselves.

The survey began at least semi-promisingly. More than 80% of the college undergraduates surveyed said the First Amendment, “which deals with freedom of speech,” is “an important amendment that still needs to be followed and respected in today’s society.” That 80% remains too low, however — that means 1 in 5 students won’t even give lip service to free speech.

Unfortunately, things then get worse, because more than half then showed they have no clue what freedom of speech entails.

Only 44.6% oppose “speech codes to regulate speech for students or faculty,” while another 14% are unsure. Only 47.7% disagree with the idea that “political opinions that I find offensive from fellow students — whether in the classroom or on social media — should be reported to school administrators.”

Let’s hit the pause button right there. What in tarnation is wrong with the other 52.3%? Are they so pathetically fragile that they need authority figures to protect them from unwanted opinions? Or have they no souls? Up until, well, approximately yesterday (or at least no more than a half-generation ago), one of the great benefits of a college setting was the freedom and challenge of a rigorous flow of ideas, political or otherwise, and one of the essential lessons of adulthood was that individual relationships and societies can thrive even when people hold significantly different beliefs. At least as important, reasonable and well-adjusted adults, and certainly ones with college educations, rarely take offense at, rather than merely disagree with, opposing ideas.

Not today’s collegians — or at least not half of them. They aren’t adults; they are spoiled children. Depressingly, the survey results get even worse.

An absolute majority, 51.4% to 41% (with the other 7.6% unsure) believe “there are certain issues that school administrators or professors should prohibit from being debated on campus.” More than half (53.3%) either agree (43.7%) or are unsure (9.6%) whether “it is sometimes appropriate to shout down or disrupt a speaker on campus.” A similar number believe that “if someone is using hate speech of making racially charged comments, physical violence can be justified to prevent this person from espousing their hateful views.”

By an astonishing 47.8% to 37.7%, those surveyed actually agreed with this statement: “In some cultures, some types of offensive speech even merit the death penalty. Some speech can be so offensive in certain cases that it merits such harsh punishment.”

The mind reels. The stomach gets queasy. The bile rises. There’s more, much more, that’s bad in this survey, but that’s enough.

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Certain basic values separate free men and women from barbarism. One is that mere words do not merit corporal, much less capital, punishment by the state. Much more needs to be said about this survey and about the dangerous ignorance of half of a generational cohort. For now, though, say this: The overgrown children who believe these things are appalling, and attitudinally, they are deeply and disturbingly un-American.

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