Almost perfectly following up from my last post I came across this article today which expands on what I was saying and looks specifically at the University side of things, and on our growing fear of upsetting people.
I think personal relationships require a lot more delicacy when it comes to offending – these people are your friends and you don’t want to hurt them. But when it comes to higher education, there really should be no question. Challenging ideas and confronting concepts should be part of the experience.
In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas
Probably best to just read the whole article, but here are a few of my thoughts on this:
“I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.
Of all of the things to ‘get used to’, I would think that this would be one of the good ones.
We should not live in a society were we should grow accustomed to murder, or rape or the sight of starving people in the streets. We should rage against these things, and make them disappear entirely from our world experience so that everyone feels shocked and confronted by such sights.
But learning to deal with viewpoints which go against our dearly held beliefs… this is something we should be encouraging in everyone. Everyone needs to develop the coping mechanisms necessary to express and receive ideas which challenge their being.
And a few of my other favourite excerpts:
A junior named Adam Shapiro decided he didn’t want his room to be a safer space. He printed up his own flier calling it a dangerous space and had that, too, published in the Columbia Daily Spectator. “Kindness alone won’t allow us to gain more insight into truth,” he wrote. In an interview, Mr. Shapiro said, “If the point of a safe space is therapy for people who feel victimized by traumatization, that sounds like a great mission.” But a safe-space mentality has begun infiltrating classrooms, he said, making both professors and students loath to say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. “I don’t see how you can have a therapeutic space that’s also an intellectual space,” he said.
why are students so eager to self-infantilize?
And the conclusion:
A few days later, a guest editorialist in the student newspaper took Ms. El Rhazoui to task. She had failed to ensure “that others felt safe enough to express dissenting opinions.” Ms. El Rhazoui’s “relative position of power,” the writer continued, had granted her a “free pass to make condescending attacks on a member of the university.” In a letter to the editor, the president and the vice president of the University of Chicago French Club, which had sponsored the talk, shot back, saying, “El Rhazoui is an immigrant, a woman, Arab, a human-rights activist who has known exile, and a journalist living in very real fear of death. She was invited to speak precisely because her right to do so is, quite literally, under threat.”
You’d be hard-pressed to avoid the conclusion that the student and her defender had burrowed so deep inside their cocoons, were so overcome by their own fragility, that they couldn’t see that it was Ms. El Rhazoui who was in need of a safer space.