I overheard a college senior say recently that the world expects too much: “I’m still just a child.”
I thought, oh really? When my wife was your age — 21 — she was graduated from college, newly married and running a small photo agency in New York City.
Eric Posner would side with the Peter Pan student. In Slate, he writes that campus speech codes and suchlike are necessary because college students are really children:
And this brings me to the most important overlooked fact about speech and sex code debates. Society seems to be moving the age of majority from 18 to 21 or 22. We are increasingly treating college-age students as quasi-children who need protection from some of life’s harsh realities while they complete the larval stage of their lives. Many critics of these codes discern this transformation but misinterpret it. They complain that universities are treating adults like children. The problem is that universities have been treating children like adults.
A lot of the controversies about campus life become clearer from this perspective. Youngsters do dumb things. They suffer from lack of impulse control. They fail to say no to a sexual encounter they do not want, or they misinterpret a no as yes, or in public debate they undermine their own arguments by being needlessly offensive. Scientific research confirms that brain development continues well into a person’s 20s. High schools are accustomed to dealing with the cognitive limitations of their charges. They see their mission as advancing the autonomy of students rather than assuming that it is already in place. They socialize as well as educate children to act civilly by punishing them if they don’t. Universities have gradually realized that they must take the same approach to college students.
Somehow, I doubt that Eric Posner would favor banning Sex Week on college campuses, to say nothing of co-ed dorms, on the ground that the Special Snowflakes need protecting. (I actually do favor single-sex dorms, on the grounds of women’s safety.)
This is incredible. Eighteen year olds are considered mature enough to vote, and mature enough to be handed a rifle and sent into combat. But Eric Posner considers them too juvenile to hear an opinion without benefit of trigger warning. More Posner:
What is most interesting is that this reaction comes not from parents and administrators, but from students themselves, who, apparently recognizing that their parents and schools have not fully prepared them for independence, want universities to resume their traditional role in loco parentis.
These big babies don’t really want the school to act like Mom and Dad, except insofar as Mom and Dad are enablers of their childish desires. They want to be able to have sex without consequences or guilt, and want to be protected from the Boogie Man’s point of view. Contemptible.
But what is Eric Posner’s excuse? He teaches law at the University of Chicago Law School.