There’s another ‘interview-college-kids’ video floating around social media that’s getting a fair bit of attention these days. This one takes place at the University of Washington and involves a 5’ 9” white guy asking questions about his identity to a small group of students. It's definitely worth a watch.
Now, keep in mind that videos such as the one below technically reveal only what the students interviewed believe. In no way is it a scientific measurement of student opinions. That said, though, they can reveal trends in thinking.
In all likelihood, this video does reveal a shift in cultural norms. In the past, for instance, we have discussed relativism and the cult of niceness. The logical end of such thinking is exactly what we see in the video: The inability of students to tell a 5’ 9” Caucasian male that he is not a 6’ 5” Chinese woman or seven-years-old.
At a certain point, when one denies that there is any truth, there can therefore be no reality. When a person reaches the point that nothing is real, we generally deem him mentally ill or insane. Such an individual lives in a world of delusion and may be a danger to himself and others.
Are these students truly insane? Arguably, no. But they are likely examples of an educational culture that has taught them to be “nice” or “tolerant” at all costs. Perhaps it is that idea that is insane. As was written in our piece, “The Cult of Niceness”,
’Niceness’ is a rather shallow set of habits and attitudes more concerned with comfort than engagement, ease than excellence, contentment than striving to do one’s best. It was and is the perfect complement to our contemporary liberal insistence on ‘tolerance’ as the chief virtue. Tolerance, after all, means simply allowing others to do and/or say what we may not like. When one takes things like religious faith and doctrine seriously, toleration can lead to spirited debate and vigorous pursuit of the truth, to everyone’s betterment. We accept that others may hold views we believe are wrong, even dangerous, because the only way to truly change hearts and minds is through civil discourse and example.
Unfortunately, when truth comes to be seen as subjective, toleration becomes the chief virtue, and it comes to mean simply ignoring one’s fellows, in essence not caring what others do. If you leave me alone to do what I want, I will leave you alone to do what you want—whatever it is, because truth and virtue do not really matter, and probably do not exist in any event. All we have are our own preferences, so that our chief duty is to ignore one another’s actions. The result is a culture in which religious faith is viewed in the same manner as any other ‘hobby,’ whether it is stamp collecting or group sex. In the same way, ‘niceness,’ as opposed to the discipline of civility, can mean simply not caring whether anyone is right or wrong, reasonable, unreasonable, or simply lazy, so long as no one bothers to challenge anyone else.
What is happening now is that the cult of niceness is becoming a dominant cultural norm and educational institutions are very much behind the shift. The implications are staggering.
Devin is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Charlemagne Institute, which operates Intellectual Takeout, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and the Alcuin Internship. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College where he studied history and political science. Prior to co-founding Charlemagne Institute, he served as the Director of Development at the Center of the American Experiment, a state-based think tank in Minnesota.
Devin is a contributor to local and national newspapers, a frequent guest on a variety of talk shows, such as Minneapolis' KTLK and NPR's Talk of the Nation, and regularly shares culture and education insights presenting to civic groups, schools, and other organizations. In 2011, he was named a Young Leader by the American Swiss Foundation.
Devin and his wife have been married for eighteen years and have six children. When he's not working, Devin enjoys time with family while also relaxing through reading, horticulture, home projects, and skiing and snowboarding.