Safe Spaces. Trigger Warnings. I think I have heard the last straw in the downfall of the US higher education system. The University of Chicago has officially declared that having trigger warnings and providing safe spaces is not mandatory for its faculty.
For those of you thinking this is a blog about self-defense and campus shooting alerts — think again. It’s about providing a pre-warning that the faculty member is going to discuss a controversial issue that might be deemed offensive by some students. A safe place is a designated refuge for students to go to so they don’t have to hear it. (In the case of Brown University, an Ivy League school, safe spaces include pillows and Play-Doh.)
How is that for open discourse?
This is an outrage for those of us who care about a liberal (not in the political sense) education in our universities and colleges. When I attended Temple University in the 70s, I was exposed to a myriad of ideas and views. Many were different from my own. Some even challenged me to think deeply about my own positions and beliefs. All of them combined to provide me with an education based upon intellectual vigor and debate. What has happened now that we feel the need to protect the students from such debate? Why is it not mandatory to expose students hungry for knowledge (which is vastly different from hunger for information) to points of view and challenges to their own status quo?
In a word, insecurity.
Safe spaces will just keep our youth from learning and growing.
If you hold a deep-set belief in the correctness of something, you welcome challenges to that very thinking. That’s how you grow. Hopefully, your belief or position has been groomed on a varied exposure of opposing views and an intellectual and emotional willingness to challenge what might even be the foundations of your hierarchy of beliefs.
I hear shouts in the world today to shun political correctness. But that doesn’t seem to be really the case. I guess we simply want and welcome new voices when we fundamentally agree with them.
If the university environment is a conflict free zone, where are those who attend higher education supposed to be exposed to differences? How many times in our world history have minority views, no matter how challenging to the current orthodoxy, become the new normal? Should those seeking to gain knowledge be shielded completely from the findings of Galileo? Is the Earth still the center of the Universe?
Wake up. Our strength as a civilization is in challenging each other and holding rigorous and heartfelt debate. Anything less is coddling our offspring and dooming our civilization to a future in the dark ages.
For those who support safe places, I warn you to provide them in your own home later this month. When the Presidential debates are aired, there’s bound to be an opposing view or two. Better get the pillows and Play-Doh ready.