On a basic level, the argument being played out on campus today is about what kind of experience a college owes its students. Increasingly, administrators seem to believe that it’s their responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing place for study, free of “microaggressions” and all the rest.
A lot of us would argue, on the other hand, that real erudition demands discomfort, rather than its opposite. Being able to hear and process the points of view that contradict our own worldviews — even when they’re odious or hateful — is an essential prerequisite of knowledge.
But on a much deeper level, the question we’re struggling with here is how a society evolves. One group of people, ascendant on the cultural left, seems to believe that a country becomes more enlightened chiefly by establishing rules and boundaries. In other words, if you issue edicts about the kinds of social views that are broadly acceptable now and those that are not, it will condition people to value tolerance.