Varieties of Buttercups

November, 2016

Washington -- So now an Iowa lawmaker will introduce a bill into the Iowa legislature to reduce funding for any public higher education institution that uses Iowa taxpayer dollars to provide safe spaces or otherwise "coddles" students who are upset with the outcome of the presidential election. He's got a great title for his bill: "Suck It Up, Buttercup."

Got me; I chuckled. The day before the election, I remarked to many people how bizarre it was for the national higher education trade press (CHE and IHE) to have more articles on the nuances of microaggressions than on the election. No wonder the outcome came as a shock to the higher ed community.

But on reflection, I think the Buttercup appellation needs expansion. The real Buttercups in this election are those tender souls who think they're owed a job in the same industries their fathers worked in, regardless of changes in the economy. These Buttercups are good at complaining about the lack of safe spaces for themselves, even as they drop out of school, take drugs, smoke, eat bad food, and take up all kinds of bad behaviors no one is forcing on them. These are Trump's Buttercups, many of whom are content to have their wives work two jobs while they drink beer down at the tavern and complain about how politicians have neglected them. Suck it up, Buttercup! Take a job, even a menial one alongside immigrants; if your bosses exploit you, form a union as your ancestors did. Go back to school. Economize by cancelling your cable television subscription. Grow a garden. If you're so smart, start a business. Relocate to where jobs exist, if you must. That's how your ancestors did it. Suck it up, Buttercup!

If you actually wound up in my classroom, I'd give you whatever safe space you need to work things out and get your life back on track, politics and all else aside. I've had many a student like you, especially when I taught for a community college under a Defense Department contract. I'll respect your views; you'll appreciate it. If you're a veteran, we'll have something in common. You'll learn a lot; so will I, from you. We'll get along fine. I won't actually tell you to suck it up. You'll figure that out for yourself.