There is no way to deny that each and every day I wake up on this beautiful campus, I’m proud to be a Cornellian. The opportunities that we all have here are unlike any other, as are the professors that we pay exorbitant tuition to learn from.
However, what I’m not proud of is my peers’ inability to separate themselves from their emotions and political correctness long enough to sustain an intellectual discussion in the classroom.
In an otherwise silent 75-minute discussion for a class (whose name I won’t identify) concerning infants’ social development, the topic was a scientific study about infants’ preference to look at faces belonging to their own race (which, undoubtedly, the majority of the class had not read). I’ll save you the nitty-gritty psychological details, but the basis of the conclusion was that based on these three month olds’ facial preferences, we can infer that they are already racist.
In the spirit of intellectual conversation, one student questioned this conclusion and its implications. The student asked whether a baby’s preference for the face that is the same race as those they see every day really implies racism. Couldn’t it just be a preference for what’s familiar rather than early onset of systematic racism?
Of course, in a class full of apparent social justice warriors, this simple question incited an entire off-topic tangent into the nuances of what constitutes racism. While this could easily have been brought to heel by a word from a TA, she instead fueled the fire, questioning any student who did not agree exactly with her definition of racism and bringing the discussion back to racism when anyone brought up other aspects of the study.
Listening to my classmates echo each other’s opinions while throwing around buzzwords and typical concepts such as “media portrayal of minorities” was sorely disappointing. I go to class each day to learn more about the topics that professors and their graduate student teaching assistants have devoted their life to studying, not to sit in the midst of students who would rather be protesting racial injustices committed by three-month olds.
Without a doubt, there’s a time and place for discussions of race and gender and the media. However, when students are unable to put aside their feelings about race and politics for 75 minutes in a class which is about neither, are we really better than all the other schools that have caught national news attention for similar ridiculous antics, such as at Brown University where students demand less classwork due to their time-consuming social justice activities?
Students such as those at Brown are certainly irresponsible and suffer from poor prioritization in regards to school. However, their inattention to performing well as students doesn’t have a negative effect on their classmates. On the contrary, if they are as unable to focus on the topic at hand as certain Cornell students apparently are, they may even be doing their peers a service by taking themselves out of classes.
After class, I made a point to talk to my classmate who had asked the controversial question. At the very least, it’s nice to know that in a world full of excessive white guilt and students who focus on race and social justice over schoolwork, some of us still have the courage to question the status quo and think for ourselves.