The differences between student-led movements in this country and in Hong Kong are striking. One need look no further than their respective demands and the ideas that animate their protests. When American college students are moved enough to organize, they are almost always calling for more “freebies,” not more freedom, as the courageous students today in Hong Kong are doing. The students in Hong Kong are speaking truth to serious power, with all too serious consequences for questioning and challenging their ruthless masters in Beijing. When the Hong Kong protests have subsided, those lucky enough to avoid imprisonment will likely face a bleak future. With their government dossiers stamped “Counterrevolutionary” or “Traitor,” their once-bright job prospects and promising careers will, in many cases, have evaporated.
Our home-grown campus protests, when they happen, are all too predictably shallow in principle and generally involve protests against tuition hikes, cuts in government education subsidies, or something that has to do with maintaining or increasing their level of dependency on the taxpayer. Anything to extend their interminable adolescence at someone else’s expence. Yes, they are occasionally moved to public displays of sanctimony about offensive sports-team names and the obligatory Earth Day tantrums. When all is said and done, student protests in this country are little more than an excuse to party, skip classes, and score brownie points with like-minded instructors. And what are the consequences if they are identified and caught by the authorities? At most, another hangover, and perhaps sweating out another missed period. Of class, that is.
I can’t remember the last time there was a genuine pro-liberty campus uprising on any American college campus. That is, liberty in the classic sense (as in freedom from compulsion, and respect for the sanctity of private property) rather than liberty in the modern sense (as in freedom from want, freedom from the consequences of one’s poor choices, and unobstructed access to your neighbor’s money).
Where are the demonstrations against campus speech codes and “thought police?”
Where are the demands that government not only get out of the bedroom, but out of the classroom, the operating room, and the examining room?
Where are the protests against the massive long-term deficits that will surely be borne by today’s youth and yet to be born? Where are the calls for reform of our Social Security System, the ultimate form of generational larceny? If anything should piss off today’s plebes, it’s the Social Security system. As things stand, they ain’t gonna see a god-damn dime of it.
And finally, why are today’s students silent in the face of the glaring hypocrisy of the pro-choice movement they so blindly and unquestioningly worship? Freedom, we were once taught, was indivisible, you know, pro-choice down the line. Not so on today’s college campuses. Today’s students and their academic mentors are quite selective when it comes to liberty. Pro-choice only applies to abortion and military service. When it comes to education, retirement savings, or health care and insurance, they uniformly embrace the compulsory, monolithic, one-size-fits-all government-imposed solutions that are the antithesis of any truly consistent pro-choice, liberty-based philosophy. And they make little if any effort to explain these glaring inconsistencies. Scholars and critical thinkers one and all.
Sadly, the vast majority of college parents are oblivious or indifferent to the state of American higher education. As such, they can rest assured that they are completely wasting their money, that their kids are learning little or nothing of substance, that they have acquired no critical thinking skills, and will remain lifelong knee-pad government/establishment suck-ups–questioning nothing, challenging nothing, swallowing everything.
The brave kids in Hong Kong are placing “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” on the line for liberty, something enjoyed all too briefly and infrequently throughout history. Liberty is hard-won but easily lost. It has always been the exception rather than the rule. It doesn’t just happen. It is always earned, never given. It is also woefully misunderstood, maligned, and rarely appreciated. American college students have much to learn from their Chinese counterparts, and unfortunately very little from their instructors.