College commencement: A celebration, or a political freakshow?

Conservative speakers like Ann Coulter and Condoleezza Rice bring out the protestors who want to turn commencement into a safe space and an affirmation of closed minds.

"Square academic cap (graduation hats)" by AKS.9955 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

DALLAS, May 12, 2016 — College commencement season is here, bringing out the activists and social justice warriors. At schools across the country, a new generation of credentialed protesters is prepared to shout down speakers they disagree with.

From Occupy Wall Street to Code Pink to Black Lives Matter, nothing brings out a protest like college students. Many college students are not future disruptive drains on society. Among them are engineers, research scientists and budding entrepreneurs. But too many of them are prepared only for lives of whining and entitled grievance.

Universities used to challenge student beliefs. They stretched young minds by exposing students to new ideas. Professors trained future doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, and other solid citizens.

Political correctness and the First Amendment on college campuses

They did this not just by teaching students new skills and information, as many programs still do, but by teaching them to think critically and by grounding them in the western culture and traditions that made universities possible in the first place.

Even during the 1960s, most students did not join the counter-culture. But then the counter-culture began to infiltrate the professoriate. A new generation of Marxist academics dominated the humanities and social sciences (in math, physics and engineering, truth and reality are blithely unconcerned with your feelings of oppression and victimization), depriving colleges of the ideological diversity of views vital to a discussion, debate, and intellectual growth.

Now students complain about micro-aggressions, retreat to their bubble-wrapped safe spaces, and call any speech they disagree with “hate speech.” Conservative speakers are routinely shouted down, and often confronted with physical violence. Ann Coulter had pies thrown at her. Ben Shapiro was hounded into canceling a speech. Jason Riley, as mild-mannered a man as they come, was recently disinvited from giving a commencement speech. Riley is a black conservative, which the tolerant students could not accept.

Even some liberal speakers have come under fire for not being liberal enough. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright is being targeted by students as a war-monger. The dovish Albright is seen as a hawk by those so far to the left that anything short of surrender is war.

The solution is not to shout down speakers. Either everybody has free speech, or nobody does. Since the social justice warriors will not allow everyone to speak, no one should speak.

It is time to eliminate the tradition of college commencements. They are an anachronistic, pointless exercise.

No graduation ceremony is required; diplomas can be sent by mail. Commencement ceremonies are just an occasion for self-important gasbags to congregate and let everyone know how important they are. With a few words on a sunny spring day, they inspire the next generation of self-important gasbags to remain self-important gasbags.

Trump, free speech and Chicago

Too many schools grant students degrees for attendance, listening to lectures on topics like the intersection of weight, race and gender in a patriarchal, heteronormative society. Ceremonies should be reserved for people who actually accomplish things. In today’s narcissistic world of selfies and Instagram, people who have done nothing celebrate their mere being. Even kindergarten children now have graduation ceremonies. Graduating from kindergarten is not an accomplishment.

Graduating from college is also not an accomplishment. Grade inflation has rendered actual grade point averages meaningless. A degree in Transgendered Bathroom Studies is not an accomplishment. Spending four years listening to professors lecture on pop culture and Chilean Anti-Ethnocentrism is not an accomplishment.   

Studying hard to earn a degree is what young people are supposed to do. College graduates now are often far less impressive than young people who join the military or learn a trade. A degree is a piece of paper, but that sheepskin no longer means the ability to do something.

With standards plummeting, many students cannot even climb over the limbo stick when it is resting on the ground. They are too drunk, too stoned, and too tired from attending violent protest marches that they are too drunk or stoned to remember.

It is unfair to blame all students for the behavior of some, but collateral damage is part of life. Back when life lessons and values were actually passed down, young people were taught that life isn’t always fair, and in a society, my behavior has consequences for you.

The ideal solution would be to just shut down universities and declare them the failures they are, but canceling their parades is a good start.

There is not a single, important reason to hold college commencements. Today’s students live a perpetual, social media-driven celebration of themselves. After four or five years of being coddled, they do not need a ticker-tape parade with funny hats. The community will be fine without another protest by intolerant zealots whose idea of civic engagement and a clear, persuasive argument is to shout down the opposition.

An education that doesn’t teach students to listen to other points of view and combat bad ideas with better ones is a waste of time and money. Students who haven’t learned to handle different beliefs and interact in a mature way with the people who hold them have failed at the most important lesson a college can teach. They will soon go on to fail at work, and then fail at life.

Even some liberals have grown weary of celebrating that kind of failure.

It is time to shut the commencement freak-show down. Let the graduates leave in silence. They lived for half a decade in fantasyland. The real world awaits. They should be ushered out without speeches, but instead with the help of well-placed, steel-toed boot.

When those who go on to get real jobs complete their first project and earn their first bonus or raise, they can invite their friends over for a meaningful celebration. Nothing is as validating as an actual accomplishment.

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