Columbia University is having a campus wide discussion about the offensive and sexually repressive material found in . . . classical literature.  I’m not joking.

You can click here to read the whole article, but an excerpt will probably work for now:

During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.

Warning:  Belief might be offensive to some.
Warning: Belief might be offensive to some.

This is the biggest load of academic garbage I think I’ve seen in a very long time.  What is more, I can’t believe this student’s peers didn’t call her out on it, rather than advocating, as the op-ed continues, that professors be given special training in helping students with trigger warnings about the content of their classrooms.

Let me tell you what I am not saying in this blog post.  One, I am not saying that sexual violence and ethnic diversity are not issues that need to be confronted.  They are.  Universities are great places for awareness, education, and prevention education to take place.  Sexual violence is a real issue and deserves real discussion, rather than this kind of issue avoidance.  Two, I am not saying that Greek and Roman history is the only historical background for western civilization.  There have been contributions to the modern world from all regions of the globe, and a good instructor will recognize this.  Three, I am not saying I like Ovid.  I studied Ovid in college and never really liked him that much because I thought of him as a dirty old man.  I still do.

What I am saying, though, should be noted as well.

1.  Western civilization–literature, entertainment, politics, fashion, economics and religion have an incredible debt to Greece and Rome–classical civilizations that still impact almost everything we say and do in the United States. Therefore, it is reasonable for a university to have as a part of its core curriculum a study of the ancient western world.

2.  The world is hard, and having a bachelors degree from a university tells employers and other academic institutions that the bearer of the degree has demonstrated a certain level of endurance and strength in overcoming obstacles and barriers.  I don’t think we want institutions to hand out diplomas to people who have not demonstrated that toughness.  To create such ‘trigger warnings’ prepares a student to expect this in all avenues of life, and that would be a false expectation.

3.  The Columbia op-ed authors have missed the point.  This young woman has complicated issues that need to be handled by professionals who can help her.  She has been made a victim by someone else, and that is not her fault.  However, It is not the the professor’s fault either.  What they seek to do is pin the responsibility for issues on the classroom environment, and that is a misplaced view.  A classroom is not the place for therapy or comfort.  It is a proving ground, an arena of competition where the individual is challenged, not comforted.

Anything worth reading–or watching–will have trigger points for someone, in some way or another.  That is what makes it great literature.  It is true of Ovid, Homer, The Bible, Suetonius, The Koran, The Bhagavad Gita, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck, Hitchcock and Star Wars.  The first book that ever made me cry was “Fathers and Sons” by Turgenev, which I read for a Russian history class.  A university is not a high school.  A university student is being shaped into someone who can handle the world without kid gloves.  Some students at Columbia University apparently wants to put gloves on everything.

image from wordsonimages.com


I heard about this while exercising this morning:

First, the bad news: Nearly 75% of 2013 high school graduates who took the ACT college readiness exam aren’t fully prepared for college, according to a new report by the organization that administers the test.

Now, the (moderately) good: Student performance has improved slightly since 2009, when just 23% of high school graduates tested met all four of the exam’s benchmarks for college readiness, compared with 26% this year.

The report, out Wednesday from the ACT, shows that American high school students are making slow progress toward college readiness and raises concerns about whether they’ll have the skills necessary to fill jobs in the future, said Jon Erickson, president of educational division of the ACT.

If you’d like to read the whole article from the Wall Street Journal, click here.  But be warned, it is apologetic of the situation and tends to minimize the significance of the results.


It would be very easy to wring our hands and say this is proof that the public education system is inadequate.  Maybe.  I don’t know if I am ready to cede that point just yet, however I admit that my experiences as a parent has revealed a bloated bureaucratic mess more concerned with ‘fairness’ and ‘sameness’ than with excellence and learning.  Yet that is not what this article in the WSJ or these numbers are really about.  Here is some Greenbean analysis.

1.  More people take the test now than ever before, yet college is not for everyone.  I don’t blame people for trying–I encourage people to always pursue a dream, but in analyzing the numbers we must realize that when the amount of test-takers increases as they have over the past two decades it should be expected that many who are taking the test are not prepared for college because they do not have the temperament to succeed in an academic environment.   Trust me, people who go to college are not better than those who do not, they simply have a different skill set.  Many of the greatest, happiest, and most successful people I’ve ever met never went to college and taking an ACT (or SAT) test would have shown ‘unpreparedness’ for college.

2.  This report does what everyone does–it falsely associates college with jobs and the job market.  Let me repeat once again that college is not about jobs.  If a person goes to college in order to get a better job in life, then that person has missed the whole point.  I’ve been thinking a great deal about this lately because my oldest daughter recently began her freshmen year of college.  I do not want college to give her a better job.  I want it to nurture her mind and soul and expand her thinking.  That is what college is designed to do.

3.  Now, having made these two observations, let me add one more that puts things back on the education system.  It seems to me that many students view college as an entitlement, as the next logical step after high school.  People do not work hard for entitlements; they just show up for them.  When I was a high school student, I knew I had to work hard, study, prepare, and make certain I beat out other people who were competing for the same spots.  That forced me to be more prepared than the next guy or girl.  The spirit of competition in academics has been replaced with a spirit of apathy.  Why work hard to prepare when I am going to college whether I do well or not.  This spirit of “why bother” is more societal than educational and has infected most every aspect of our culture.  It seems to me that many students do not ‘try to do their best’ because that might ‘hurt someone’s feelings’ when they don’t make it.

There you go.  That is my analysis for today.