Freedom to hate in college shrinks

I tell my college students to feel free to hate.

I try to explain to them that in the context of all the other freedoms of choice they have, like their “spiritual path,” their gender identification, term papers from 253,428 sites and whether their next triple-sized mocha latte will be with or without whipped cream, low- or high-fat milk or soy milk, with chocolate, almond, or hazelnut biscotti at Starbucks or Namaste Coffee and Tofu Emporium, this is one precious freedom they have lost.

This little pep talk is usually inspired by a sign in front of a school building that announces it is “NO PLACE FOR HATE.”

My students look at me like people who have been in re-education camps for 12 years.

In effect, they have.

Today’s students are enjoined from hating from the time they enter school by such organizations as the Anti-Defamation League, Southern Poverty Law Center, Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network, as well as by books, films and talks by teachers, principals and high-priced consultants. They are stared down by ADL’s posters as they turn each corner of the school corridor.

Their teachers act as “guides on the side” for their little groups in which they are forced to expose their feelings and discuss historical examples of “hate.” Creepy “emotional intelligence” consultants make them show all the other kids how they react when they get angry or sad. They are made sissies in front of everyone when a big bearded guy asks them, “What was it doing to your heart?”

Some of them are even graded in a new subject called “Social and Emotional Learning.”

But I declare to my students, “Now that you are legal adults you may hate whomever you please!”

They look at me like prisoners who have forgotten what freedom is like.

Then some of them begin texting furtively, I’m afraid, to the assistant dean of sensitivity at the Department of Campus Emotional Security, Division of the Vice President’s Office of Peace Education and Multicultual, Ethnic and LGBT Affairs.

They may be wondering if one of their classmates might report them to the dorm attendant, if their passivity might become the topic of the mandatory once-a-week “truth session.”

But my anger at this infringement on the freedom to hate is no joke. This goes beyond indoctrination in political correctness. It tells kids what to feel and how to feel. Even an inmate on death row has not had that freedom taken from him.

Yet, a flurry of educators, consultants and government officials has decided to instruct Johnny how to feel, ostensibly in the interests of “safe schools.” Johnny does not merely need to get along with Bobby. He must now like Bobby. And Jeffrey, and Justin, and Jane, and Jameka, and Maria, and Maia. He must get along with everyone and not exclude anyone.

The order is coming down from the federal government, from the assistant deputy secretary, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, Kevin Jennings, who also founded GLSEN. At one of his many speaking engagements around the country, at the Third International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education in Cleveland, in March, he described his plans for “safe schools.”

They now will be free, not only of drugs and weapons, but more importantly (in his estimation) of “uncivil behavior, verbal threats, hate language, and social rejection.”

Social rejection entails choosing one’s friends. The idea of having a “best friend” is going the way of prayer and patriotism in our schools.

A recent New York Times article described the vanishing best friend. Parents who encourage non-exclusivity by scheduling group activities are getting their cues from the schools that try “to prevent bullying through workshops and posters.”

The article also quotes psychologists who say that close childhood friendships help children “develop the skills for healthy adult relationships.”

There is even more at stake. C.S. Lewis in “The Four Loves” writes that it is “easy to see why Authority frowns on Friendship. ... Men who have real Friends are less easy to manage or ‘get at’; harder for good Authorities to correct or for bad Authorities to corrupt. Hence if our masters, by force or by propaganda about ‘Togetherness’ or by unobtrusively making privacy and unplanned leisure impossible, ever succeed in producing a world where all are Companions and none are Friends, they will have removed certain dangers, and will also have taken from us what is almost our strongest safeguard against complete servitude.”

Whether one is a political ruler, teacher or Department of Education bureaucrat, friendship threatens their power. And as I learned at this conference, their ultimate goal is to mold students into “global citizens.”

Their lessons go far beyond civics, citizenship or even political correctness. They want to change the world by changing children.

No wonder my college students look at me as if they had just been released from a Stockholm bank.

Mary Grabar of Stone Mountain teaches at Georgia Perimeter College.