On Tuesday afternoon, a bright beautiful day in San Diego, California, I learned a few valuable lessons about America’s teenagers and our public schools.
Few of them were good.
A local chapter of Young America’s Foundation led by high school students at Otay Ranch High School organized a talk for me; I was scheduled to chat with 450 or so students about the political right versus the political left, and the differences between their fundamental values. Prior to the speech, I received a worried call from the school’s assistant principal and Title IX officer, Dean Nafarrete. He told me that after scheduling the talk, several of the teachers had expressed dismay that I was being allowed to speak on campus – after all, they’d been granted a monopoly on bias in the classroom. I told him that I was obviously a conservative and would be speaking as such; I informed him that the teachers should get used to hearing an opposing opinion once per year.
The students were eager to listen — they packed the hall. A growing Bernie Sanders movement had apparently sprung up on the campus, and so I decided to focus on the moral and practical foolishness of a philosophy that prizes fairness of outcome over equality of opportunity. Many of the students seemed interested.
Until their personal sacred cows were skewered, that is.
Our public school system has been teaching students that they are each members of victimized groups. That became eminently clear when I discussed the left’s apparent dismissiveness with regard to facts if those facts contradict their “equality uber alles” narrative. As an example, I spoke about the so-called wage gap, and explained that women are not paid less than men for equal work, equal experience, and equal jobs. This was met with not-so-subtle tsking from the young women in the audience – few of whom have ever held a job, let alone received a salary, and yet many of whom apparently believe that American society has placed them behind life’s 8-ball.
But that treasured feeling of victimhood truly came to the fore when I discussed income mobility in the United States. I spent a fair bit of time telling them about the fact that Americans gain wealth over the course of their lives, about the fact that the greatest obstacle to economic mobility is personal bad decisions. Asked by one of the students about why we shouldn’t redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor in order to make the poor rich, I explained, “The reason people are permanently poor in the United States, isn’t because they don’t have money, it’s because they suck with money. The reasons people are temporarily poor can vary.”
At this point, many of the students became agitated; later, Nafarrete would tell me that they had low-income parents, and that their feelings had been hurt. I continued, “That’s not even controversial. If you’re permanently poor [in America] for your entire life, you’re not great with money by definition…”
Which is when Nafarrette intervened and dismissed the students, explaining, “I’m sorry Mr. Shapiro, I’m at a point right now, where, quite frankly, I’m going to dismiss the students…With all due respect, Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Shapiro represents a narrative that he’s providing to all you guys based on his opinions, what he believes, what he wants to share with all of you. I know that the education was there for all of you to understand, the left side, right side, whatnot, but also the opportunity was allowed for him to impress some of his opinions on certain things…I think what this is getting into now, it’s starting to cross a line.”
I asked him what the line was; he didn’t explain.
“For those students who would like to be dismissed, I’m going to allow you to go ahead and do so at this time,” he said.
As the students left the room, I asked Nafarrete why his dismissal was necessary. He explained that it was his job to “protect” the students. I asked him whether that “protection” extended to protection of feelings, and if so, why it was his job to protect the emotions of students rather than allowing them to hear facts and differing points of view.
No answer was forthcoming.
Feelings had been hurt; action had to be taken.
After the “offended” students left – many probably just wanted the free period – I sarcastically told the remaining students that I wished I were a taxpayer-paid California state employee, like their teachers, who could force them to stay in the classroom and imbibe my politics.
This is the world we are creating for our children. This is where our taxpayer dollars go. The administrator had no problem with one of the teachers asking a long, flowing question about whether society ought to be run along fully redistributionist lines, like the NBA. Acknowledging that America is a free land of opportunity, however, was taboo.
The “microaggression” and “trigger warning” mentality of students doesn’t start in colleges. It starts far earlier. Conservatives had better recognize that reality, or they’ll be attempting to fight leftism too late for the fight to truly matter.