In a scathing op-ed, professor emeritus at the University of Kent, Frank Furedi, ripped the decision by the Oxford student union to replace applause with “jazz hands.”
A new nadir was reached last week with reports that Oxford University Students Union is to replace clapping with ‘jazz hands’, where participants signal approval by silently waving both hands at the sides of their bodies, palms facing outwards.
The purported justification for this is to avoid offending those who are upset by loud noise.
In the words of the student union’s welfare and equal opportunities officer: ‘The policy was proposed to encourage the use of British Sign Language clapping to make events more accessible and inclusive for all, including people who suffer from anxiety.’
What’s wrong with “jazz hands,” aside from the fact that blind people can’t see jazz hands, so if it’s an access issue, it trades access for those triggered by loud noises for those who can’t see? Sure, it’s a childish indulgence, but does it hurt anyone (other than blind people)?
The Oxford policy is important because it symbolises our culture’s slide into infantalised decadence, where enfeeblement is celebrated and learned helplessness indulged.
In the current climate of invented grievance, victimhood — no matter how spurious — is a passport to special status on campus.
Students are encouraged to cultivate their vulnerabilities, rather than emphasise their strengths.
By promoting the belief their students cannot cope, universities are robbing undergraduates of their resilience and leaving them ill-prepared for the real world. (Emphasis added.)
There’s the rub (and, for the hard of thinking, the reason for this post). There remains an assumption by those of us who don’t subscribe to this brave new world that such indulgences may be harmless at the moment, but they will create a generation incapable of functioning outside their ivy covered walls in the real world.
Don’t be too sure about that.
Furedi’s assumption, that this infantile elevation of victimhood and misery would be smacked hard in the real world, would have been unquestioned a decade ago. It was the subject of parodies and memes, jokes galore, by adults everywhere who would certainly not tolerate such antics in their world. But as it happens, they not only have tolerated it, but enabled it.
Dear med student who reported me for asking him where he was from during a case: you aren’t a brave hero, you have made me stop allowing medical students into my OR for the forseaable future. Asking this isn’t a “microagression” it’s an ice breaker. Can we stop encouraging this?
This, from an orthopaedic surgeon, reflects not merely the sensibilities of a student, for whom asking the banal question, “where are you from?” but that med students will not receive the practical benefit of being in the operating room to assist an experienced surgeon. Their education will be limited. Their skills will suffer. Not that they are likely to care, since students believe they’re far more capable than those with experience and skills these days.
But there is a med school administrator in the middle, the person to whom this sniveling whiner cried about the trauma of this microaggression, who could have told the student to grow up. And he didn’t.
College deans and presidents have scraped knees pandering to their outraged students. And deeply empathetic academics explain at great length why they must cater to their consumers. In 2012, I implored academics to “take back the classroom.” They didn’t. On the contrary, they rationalized why it was better to fail students and embrace their world of self-indulgence than be the grown up in the room. Perhaps part of the problem was how few professors were adults.
It’s since becoming more apparent that the “real world” will show no greater resistance to the whims of the children than the Academy. In response to the surgeon’s twit, the question was posted as to what to do and who would do it. It’s not that there aren’t adults who recognize that we’re breeding a generation of self-indulgent narcissistic weaklings who lack the grit and resilience to face the problems life will bring them, but few want to be the mean old man who says “no.” As long as no one says “no,” then they persist in their stunted childhood fantasies.
And if one says “no,” the children’s outrage machine cranks up to eleven.
If such childish indulgences like “jazz hands,” and the valorization of victimhood and misery are allowed to fester because the adults in the room won’t say “no,” then it infiltrates the “real world” until it is the real world. It’s already happening, even if you prefer not to see it.
It’s not too late to end this infantilization, but it requires something most of us are loathe to do. Stop tolerating childish demands. The only way this happens is for the grown ups, en masse, to put our foot down and say “no.” But can we do it?