Conservative students will talk about how they’ve been censored or had to self-censor. Liberal students will respond that while their conservative ideas are fundamentally wrong and dangerous, so too is censorship. It will be an exchange that would make Thomas Jefferson proud.
Then, one student will note that it’s ironic that these adults are so worried about the coddling of Millennial minds, while these same adults have created policies that have left this generation very uncoddled economically: saddled with debt, dim wages and no benefits. The class will rise up in agreement and anger, also citing the environment, endless wars, and half a dozen other catastrophes that they are supposed to solve while deep in debt and while older generations wring every last drop out of the system on their way to retirement and death.
This anger and sense of betrayal has, according to a poll by Pew Charitable Trusts, left this generation significantly less trusting than other generations. After teaching for more than a dozen years, this is the biggest change I’ve seen in my students. There is no institution or governance system that these students trust, including, as a Harvard study found last year, democracy. There is no leader who isn’t a hypocrite. No ideals that can’t be picked apart with counterfactuals. And, it is this dynamic that animates their lack of faith in democracy and free expression.
To a generation formed during financial crisis, influenced by social media and witnessing a failing political system, laws are just instruments to be leveraged or ignored for the purpose of the day. In this way, there are shocking similarities between them and President Trump ...
What makes this generation different is not their lack of support of free speech, it is that they simply don’t believe in law or politics as a means to protect it.