Campus unrest in Berkeley (Deseret News)
Campus unrest in Berkeley (Deseret News)

Protests, at times violent, have broken out in recent days against provocative right-wing speakers at U.C. Berkeley and NYU.  The initial reaction has been to lay blame on the radical left who remain frustrated with their loss in last November’s election and what they consider the travesty of a Donald Trump presidency.  On the other side, left-leaning conspiracy theorists have posited that the real ring-leaders behind the campus unrest are elements of the far right looking to gin up anti-left sentiment.

There are the two America’s we have heard so much about right there.  One side revels in the Trump swagger in the face of what they see as America’s reduced standing in the world, while the other is frightened by the new administration’s impetuous unpredictability and lack of experience.  But given that these campus protests actually reflect student beliefs, is it possible that what we are seeing isn’t simply a mirror held up to the nation’s political polarity, but more evidence of how overly catered to children now coming of age are, believing any challenge to their sensibilities is beyond the pale, regardless of which side of the political divide they may stand?

Part of what the college experience once offered was a broadening of perspective and challenges to closely held views.  One reason to listen to an opposing argument, therefore, is to better calibrate one’s own hypotheses and conclusions.  It is the same principle that suggests that it is better to train with others, or occasionally alter training regimens in order to avoid getting caught in a rut where growth is stunted.

But kids are impressionable.  If they’ve been told how special they are their entire lives, they tend to buy into that concept, and now use it as their principle measuring stick. But when everyone is a winner, and everyone is special and deserving of praise, if anyone comes along and threatens that world view, the reaction can quickly rear up into expressions of indignation and shock.

So is it possible that these campus clashes may not simply be examples of extreme politic dialogue as much as the consequence of lenient parenting that has not prepared this generation for the bruising battles of the real world, battles that inevitably include losses as well as wins. Just asking.



  1. Well written and thanks for doing it Tony. It is a brave thing to do in today’s environment. That is to take a side. While I agree with you that the way these kids were raised contributed to there actions, it goes much further and deeper than this. In the last month I’ve had two old “friends” threaten me on Facebook while drunk and in the 2nd case my children just for saying it is overreacting to say Trump is “Hitler”! Seriously it’s not only the kids but a lot of people have lost their sense of perspective and the other’s humanity. Scary stuff.

  2. These idiots just want attention…especially with nonsense like this…

    “It’s true that a lot of people who consider themselves liberals or progressives still cling to the idea that you can effect social and economic change in the context of the state, through electoral politics,” Mr. Laursen said. “But more and more, it is going to become necessary for people on the left to think like anarchists if they are going to get anywhere.”

    1. Truedson,

      Like I replied above to Greg Meyer, until more people on the left feel the pain of the political shift to the right in direct rather than in philosophical terms, you will never see a wide enough movement emerge. And efforts of the anarchist fringe will eventually either dissipate or repel potential mainstream advocates of their cause. At some point anarchy must give way to institutional political solutions. Thanks for joining the conversation. Always well served by your additions.

      1. Thanks, Toni, but I’m not Greg Meyer. If only! I think his marathon PR pace is my mile PR!

  3. Oh, and as long as you are asking if this is the result of lenient parenting, the answer is no. This is the result of a racist and white supremacist trying to spread hate. And it has nothing to do with generations because we saw the same kind of protests back in the ’60’s (current college students’ grandparents).

    1. Thanks for the Cal link, Greg. There is usually a counter element involved these days trying to hijack the space opened by the true protesters, a testament to the sophistication of political action. As far as today vs. the Sixties. Having been on a campus back then, there was a much more personal aspect to anti-Vietnam War protests, as not only were we politically against the war, but the chance existed (if you dropped below 15 credits/semester) you could be drafted and taken into harms way yourself. With today’s all-volunteer services that is no longer true. In that sense today’s protests are staged more on political rather than existential grounds. It is one argument for bringing back the draft. When more of the population has skin in the game, we find out very quickly whether a policy has real political backing or not.

      Go Pats!


      1. I agree that these protests lack an existential basis, but there is still a very personal basis for women and minorities fighting for equal rights and equal pay, women’s access to birth control and fair pricing in health insurance, and all students’ concerns about student debt, among many other issues.

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