In light of the recent election and the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump, there has been an uprising of "safe spaces" spreading across the country. The first time I heard the term I started laughing under the impression that it was some sort of joke. However, the more publicity they got and the more I witnessed college administrations all over the U.S. adhering to them, I started to take more interest. The notion I keep coming back to is what is the point of safe spaces and how are they helping anyone?
One of the best things about being in college is that it is one of the first real opportunities kids have to truly find themselves. They are away from their parents and the comforts that have surrounded them for the first 18 years of their life. There is no better time than now to come to your own conclusions about things like politics, religion and the likes. These conclusions are likely to change as one grows over time but the point is that growth is impossible without discussion and the revival of truths through your own misconceptions. The problem is that safe spaces are suppressing that entire conversation.
Anything that could possibly be deemed offensive or have the potential to create conflict is monitored and banned on many campuses. This is not a way to better society but rather is stunting any possible growth. Take this for example. Say a student has a strong prejudice against a certain culture and voices his opinions both arrogantly and loudly. However, now a days an administration is likely to strictly punish that student and in turn, intimidate any future instances of this occurring with students that share the same prejudice. This sounds good in theory but did it really solve the problem?
I would argue to say that it only makes the problem worse. The school is using intimidation to silence flawed thinking instead of exposing the students to a new light. If that same student were to share their views to a classroom filled with his or her peers while being open to criticism, that is when progress can be made. This doesn't silence prejudice or bigotry or anything of that kind, but rather proves its erroneous nature.
By allowing regulated discussion, students can share their views however biased or flawed they may be. This opens them up to the possibility of being torn apart amongst a debate with educated classmates. I believe this is a better alternative than simply giving them a slap on the wrist and forcing them to sit quietly. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes summed up this notion by once saying "The best test of truth is the power of thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market." If schools take away the conversation in hopes of protecting everyone, in reality it will only lead to more hurt for this generation.
Recent events have also proven that these safe spaces and blinding many to the realities of the world. University of Wisconsin-River Falls released a list of words that are banned on their campus as they are said to be oppressive and offensive to many. While most were exactly that, some of the words and phrases included things like "You guys" and "crazy." Do we really live in a world where saying 'you guys' will ruin someone's day and prevent them from going about their business? My opinion is that if someone truly is offended by that then they are going to have a very difficult time in life and that term in the least of their worries in the long run.
It is my hope that this fiasco will come to a rest in the near future. Safe spaces represent a passive, thin-skinned environment that do nothing for the common good. If someone has an opinion different from your own, don't run away and scream profanities at how awful they are. Speak your mind calmly and maybe you might grow to understand how one could have that view and vice versa. If this process can begin, slowly but surely there will be a bridiging of opinions and acceptance amongst all.