Saturday, September 21, 2019

Led by the nose

There is a widely believed myth that young people, especially college students, are "natural rebels" and "non-conformists." Nothing--absolutely nothing--could be further from the truth. I have taught thousands upon thousands of college students in my thirty-four years as a professor. The vast majority (though, of course, there are exceptions) are the opposite of rebels and non-conformists. They believe what they think they are supposed to believe, and they do what they think they are supposed to do.
Genuine independence of mind is not unheard of among the young, but it is the exception rather than the rule. It can (and should!) be provoked, but it takes effort on the part of a teacher or other person to provoke it. Most kids more or less uncritically--indeed unthinkingly--go along with what they hear, or think they are hearing, from opinion-shaping elites (whether it concerns pronouns, climate change, Halloween costumes, or whatever). Their greatest fear is to be "out of step" with the latest thinking or fashionable attitudes and beliefs. They sometimes censor themselves for fear of accidentally committing thought or speech crimes.
The Woke, and especially those in the vanguard of Wokeness, understand this and take full advantage of it. Of course, they don't acknowledge it, for the simple reason that they massively benefit from it politically. It underwrites "cancel culture" which has become a powerful weapon in the arsenal of Wokeness. And it explains the whole campaign to discredit the concept of freedom of speech (as a "right-wing trope") and to establish a climate on campus and more broadly that discourages (to put it mildly) expressions of dissent from prevailing progressive dogmas. It also explains the indoctrination programs that have become part of Freshman (oops! "First-Year") Orientation at most colleges and universities and continue in various forms through a student's four years. Those in the Woke vanguard know these programs work. Many young people are easily indoctrinated--they think what they're told to think. So everything depends on *what* they are told to think and *who* tells them to think it.
If you suppose that young people are "rebels" and "non-conformists," please just pause for a second to consider the sense of embarrassment and even dread fear a typical teenager experiences when he realizes that the sneakers he's wearing are not the ones all his friends are wearing. Horrors!
The problem with so many of our young people today is not that they are rebellious; it's that they aren't--and lack the courage to be.


  1. In the context of many if not most universities, especially Ivy League universities where Robert George teaches, the true non-conformist and rebel who thinks differently and marches to the tune of a different drummer is the conservative. Particularly the conservative Christian.

  2. "Their greatest fear is to be "out of step" with the latest thinking or fashionable attitudes and beliefs." reminds me of C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength. Some member of the secret organization says to our main character that it's the elites that they don't have any problem convincing of whatever they want. They publish it and they believe it. If they don't, then they're out of step and will lose their status. It's the others, the bumpkins, who are the troublesome ones.