Civil political engagement is one of the most important life lessons to be learned in a college setting. Universities were designed to be a free marketplace of ideas, where students of all colors and creeds can respectfully express their opinions.
We, without a doubt, have moved away from that idea. With identity politics and cancel culture ravaging our universities, it is more important now than ever before for us to advocate for healthy levels of political discourse and allow for multiple points of view to be expressed.
According to a study conducted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, slightly more than a third of students strongly agree that it's safe for their peers to hold an unpopular opinion. Similarly, less than a third of students strongly agreed that students are respectful toward each other when discussing controversial ideas. On a separate note, data from the University of California at Los Angeles suggests that college professors are moving further to the left.
As a result, conservative voices are silenced on college campuses. According to the National Conference for Community and Justice, the philosophy of intersectionality, which dominates campus culture, suggests that there is an interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender that apply to a given individual or group. Modern advocates for the idea have taken it to an extreme and as a result have strayed away from the original idea, going so far as to use this idea to limit free speech on campus.
While I agree that all people need to be given a platform and the ability to express themselves, modern intersectionality limits the ability to have a free marketplace of ideas on campus and values one opinion over the other simply on the basis of gender, race or identity.
Sociology professor Bradley Campbell at California State University describes how the ideas of safe spaces, microaggressions and intersectionality have shaped today’s victimhood culture, and how some have misconstrued the original idea of intersectionality to fit their status as a victim. As a result, subscribers to the idea desire to shut down speech that, in their opinion, would otherwise offend designated victim groups through microaggressions.
According to social psychologist Jonathan Haidt at New York University, microaggressions are small word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless. I, as a white male, am committing a microaggression against a white transgender person if I accidentally refer to them with the wrong pronoun.
I support the right of transgender individuals to identify and express themselves freely. However, I also support people’s right to criticize the idea of transgenderism, even if I disagree with those criticisms.
Haidt believes the movement seeks to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from uncomfortable words or ideas. Furthermore, the movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. Lisa Feldman Barrett, Northeastern University psychology professor, wrote an article for The New York Times actually arguing that some speech and microaggressions can be a form of violence.
What does this mean? Essentially, the idea that speech is violence is used to justify silencing conservative voices on campus. Your speech, according to this frame of thinking, is an act of violence that must not be allowed. By labeling certain speech as violence, there is an implication that people should act in self-defense when confronted by this speech. At some universities, students have gone so far as to heckle and assault conservative speakers. This idea is extremely corrosive to our republic and our campus.
As a citizen, I believe we should respect other points of view and how other citizens want to live. The issue with cancel culture, the new “woke” wave of the Democratic Party and its influence on campuses is that it specifically intrudes into our lives and desires to change how we conduct ourselves.
Conservative speaker Michael Knowles at The Daily Wire was openly assaulted by a student during a speech on a Missouri campus while questioning transgenderism. This “physical violence to counter verbal violence” standard is a practice that must be addressed and quashed immediately.
We are currently experiencing the textbook consequence of an echochamber, and people within it tend to utilize degrading attacks that lambaste those with opposing political views. It is time to cancel “cancel culture” and embrace a world with a free marketplace of ideas where students are treated like adults, rather than victims.