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Temper Tantrums Taint College Protests

The war started on Aisle 4. Somewhere between fresh produce and snack foods a noisy confrontation drove noncombatants to neutral ground near the Deli where we cowered behind shopping carts. That left an open battlefield and things escalated rapidly. While a harried Mom with a toddler on her hip screamed and threatened, a six-year-old clutching a bag of gummy bears pitched a world-class hissy fit and ran sobbing up and down the aisle.

“In my day we would have paddled his little butt.” The gray-haired lady next to me snorted and grabbed a bag of Cheetos off the shelf.

A guy working from a shopping list next to her favored de-escalation. “Just give the kid his damn candy. I got stuff to do…”

“One thing’s for sure…” They weren’t asking for my two cents, but I felt moved to provide it. “That kid has a solid slot at Columbia University when he grows up.” I was about to expand my theme indicating a kid like that would likely also be welcomed on at any number of today’s college campuses—about 80 of them by late count—but peace had been restored over on Aisle 4 by a squad of stock-clerks who interceded.

An embarrassed Mom hauled her sobbing offspring out of the store still kicking and screaming which left me time and space to ponder the current situation on American college campuses where young people have been until recently staging their own version of noisy, sometimes violent, hissy fits because things just aren’t going the way they want them to go over in the Middle East. From my aging perspective it’s all similar behavior among young men and women who arrived at early adulthood without proper parental influence. If that’s a little vague, let me clear it up for you.

Parents of college kids spend enormous amounts of money (Columbia charges about 66 grand per scholastic year) to send their kids to colleges in hopes of giving them a solid shot at surviving and thriving in a post-academic world. Unfortunately, too many of them send those youngsters off to college without good parental guidance and some sort of disciplined upbringing. Discipline is hard, don’t you know? And the proliferating mob of shrinks and social scientists tell us it’s harmful and contrary to fruitful nurturing if we impose outdated rules of good behavior on our kids.

Call me a troglodyte but I think a majority of the kids camping out on campuses and tearing up university property wouldn’t be misbehaving like that if parents had provided a little discipline, a little appreciation for the rights of others. You know, that outdated Golden Rule thing?

Notwithstanding the turbulent and ever-festering politics of the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, there is nothing going on over there that should bring students to vilify American Jews on campus. Nor should it inspire support for a gang of thugs who use innocent civilians as flak-jackets while they launch rockets on their neighbors or murder them in cross-border raids. Yet there it is. Jewish students and lots of others trying hard not to become involved have been—and in some places still are—endangered, harassed, and blocked from classes. Some 2,000 agitators were arrested during the current upheavals at Ivy League and other tony, top-flight colleges. That’s done little to quell the radicals and a clandestine drumbeat continues.

Understood that those student protestors and the non-students who were goosing them on to disruption likely never had a basic civics class in high school—more’s the pity—but they should understand that international problems are not theirs to solve. Not just yet anyway. Debate? Sure, but nothing will be solved one way or another by radicals on American campuses pitching college-level tantrums, staging messy sit-ins, occupying buildings, or shouting slogans. It just doesn’t work that way in the real world beyond academe.

My own college experiences were mostly limited to night school classes on one or another military base, but I realize there is something about a university campus that seems to generate political activity. Maybe it’s just an opportunity to blow off some teenage steam or escape boring classroom lectures. Or maybe it’s inevitable in an environment where so many disparate young men and women are tossed together without much adult supervision. Some of these young adults are thinking beyond the ends of their noses for the first time and the free-wheeling environment of a college campus serves as an incubator for loud and rowdy social activism. The fact that many of the faculty and professors in our colleges are grizzled and jaded veterans of previous protest movements doesn’t help.

There are college professors and administrators who are likely old enough to remember the infamous anti-war/anti-draft demonstrations that plagued many college campuses during the Vietnam War years. Those were fun times for lots of young people in the 1960s. Not so much for those of us who got sent to Vietnam or for the protesters at Kent State who came under fire from Ohio National Guard troops sent in to quell the disorder. Even after that debacle, national polls indicated the American public had more sympathy for the guardsmen doing the shooting than for the protesters who died in the incident.

Much the same sentiment is apparent today. Current polls indicate only 28 percent of those questioned supported such campus protests, while 47 percent were strongly opposed. That means a solid block of Americans believes our colleges should buck up, stop the nonsense, and get on with actually educating students. Except among the perpetual hair-on-fire radical organizers of the world, that’s likely a widespread desire here and elsewhere around the world. Some parents are starting to vote with their wallets for an end to the chaos, claiming quite rightly that their kids are not getting the education they are paying for with such formidable fees. We’re hearing increasingly about parents requesting refunds for classes cancelled due to campus protests. And we’re seeing governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida and others lowering the boom with suspensions and expulsions for unruly protesters who disrupt the educational process for others who are just trying to focus and learn enough to actually have valid opinions.

Opting for things like that in these turbulent and confusing times would require people involved—students, professors and parents—to contemplate our American success formula: hard work, diligence, and solid education equals success in any endeavor. That’s another thing that’s hard but it might serve as valuable perspective on what’s happening today. An anonymous blogger who claims to be a teacher fired a dead-center bullseye when she said our campuses are not daycare centers and teachers should not be babysitters. Right on, Sister!

Click for Books by Dale A. Dye


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