In response to “How do I adult” and “When we’re too afraid to fight back”

Letter to the Editor

To the editor,

Last week in “How do I adult? Case Western Reserve University doesn’t teach life skills,” Zak Khan wrote, “Despite all of my schooling, I never learned how to function … No programs exist at CWRU to educate us on basic life skills.”

They go on, “The truth is most CWRU kids, including me, are here because we could not function at any other university. We are the kind of folks that eat ramen for a week straight because we have no meal plan and never learned how to shop for food.”

Does Khan want home economics courses and field trips to the supermarket included in the general education requirements? That’s not the point of a formal college curriculum, and I’m sorry, but almost all of us are 18 years old, and a large number of us are over 21. We can buy tobacco, alcohol, go to bars and strip clubs and we have the possibility to buy a car or even a house on our own.

We are not kids; we are adults.

Life doesn’t care whether or not you know “how to adult.” Becoming an adult is a journey of trial and error mixed with (hopefully) learning from mistakes. Becoming an adult means facing this reality and choosing to meet its challenge by proactively working to remedy personal deficiencies. Asking for help or advice is okay, but only those who succeed should get a trophy.

Khan’s desires sound like a throwback to women’s college curricula in the 1950s. While their experiences are no doubt personally valid, we should all take offense to their claim that we are here because we are too dysfunctional to study or survive at another institution.

Does this count as discrimination, or I am a functioning college student who came here for many different reasons? If so when does this bias reporting system take off?

Jokes aside all of these concerns are indicative of larger issues that need to be addressed. This must be done with more than a bias reporting system. Of course discrimination is real and menacing, racism is alive and active and sexual misconduct is occurring. We meet these problems head-on by talking about them and mobilizing against them, but mobilization doesn’t look like cliques on an elementary school playground; it looks like a critical dialogue to facilitate a meeting of minds.

Andrew Breland’s column, “When we’re too afraid to fight back,” published Feb. 27, 2015, in this paper, received two letters to the editor and Khan’s seemingly inspired column in response. I understand the concerns expressed in those pieces. Breland’s piece, while not fully correct, is intriguing and situates the above commentary in a larger context.

Breland wrote, “It is far more likely that the university will overzealously attempt to come after instances of ‘discrimination,’ as if they feel they have a moral duty to protect their students from things they do not want to hear.”

Given all of the racial, sexual and socioeconomic class tensions, this institution has encountered this year, how is this statement untrue? The fact of the matter is CWRU has become a host for the virus of radical political correctness (PC).

A bias reporting system is not a bad thing, to be sure, but it should be established after the tough discussions are had. If it is used merely as a way to go running to someone to enforce your own subjective view of what should or should not be said or talked about, then our academic environment suffers.

CWRU systematically skirts the apparent disparities between the economic haves and have-nots, underrepresented minorities and majority groups. Without having discussions on these issues in a safe, constructive and critical arena, a bias reporting system is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken spirit.

Part of this is the direct influence of an increasingly PC culture, but too much intellectual growth is sacrificed for political correctness. How can one effectively talk about race, LGBT issues, diversity and economic issues on campus if we are always worried about offending someone and being fearful of saying what we believe or think? Universities exist to have these discussions respectfully, not to avoid them behind the guise of political correctness rooted in fear.

I do acknowledge the presence of emotional triggers that may exist in matters such as these, but what Breland is saying is that facing our personal and social problems is the way to solve them like adults. I cannot disagree entirely with Breland despite how difficult facing adversity may be, because it’s time to grow the hell up.

Jacob Martin


**Update: After publishing this note, our editorial board became aware that Jacob used incorrect pronouns in reference to the author of “How do I adult? Case Western Reserve University doesn’t teach life skills,” Zak Khan. We have corrected the letter to reflect Zak’s preferred pronouns and our editors sincerely apologize for this error. We thank the members of our community who brought this mistake to our attention.

***Update 3/30/15: Previous editions of this article missed Zak Khan’s last name. We apologize again for this error and it has been updated.