Life is Not a Safe Space

Most people share – or historically, have shared – certain common goals when attending a university. Some of these goals typically have included both broadening one’s intellectual horizons and gaining a more well-rounded view of the world.

Yet these goals are no longer shared by many people on campuses across the nation – yes, including Penn’s campus – and the effects are painful. From “trigger warnings” to “safe spaces,” it is now intellectually fashionable to shut down opinions with which one disagrees by labeling speech as “literal violence” and retreating to a “safe space.” If you don’t like an opinion, then just shout hysterically and shut it down. If you disagree with a viewpoint, label the other person as a bigot and report them to the administration for failing to issue a “trigger warning.” So goes the current trend in academia.

Well, trigger warning: Truth and facts exist, and they do not depend on feelings. Our culture encourages the notion that feelings are ultimate, but that is one of the many great lies it has fed us. Feelings are inferior to facts when it comes to determining truth. In fact, feelings are utterly irrelevant when it comes to determining truth. I can absolutely despise the fact that grass is green, but that doesn’t change the fact that the grass is green.

Furthermore, in the workplace, outside the ivory tower of academia, feelings are correctly thought of as irrelevant. Unless you are employed by a family member, your employer won’t care how you feel about the project. And they shouldn’t. All that will matter to them is whether you complete the project before the deadline. Academics and university administrators actually do a disservice to students when they give them the false impression that truth is subject to their all-important feelings. This does not even slightly prepare students for the real world.

Additionally, the fact that so many on the left side of the political aisle would rather retreat to “safe spaces” than debate the hard facts and merits of particular issues shows that many of the positions held by the left are most likely lacking in the “facts and logic” department. After all, why scream, shout, or retreat to a “safe space” if your position is so much more logically coherent than the position with which you disagree or find offensive? Shouldn’t your opinion, being that much logically superior and coherent, be able to stand on its own, since facts and logic are on its side?

So here’s my challenge: If you’re confronted with an idea or opinion with which you disagree, then explain why you disagree. If someone expresses a view that you find offensive, then explain to that person why that view is offensive. Reject the intellectual cowardice of safe spaces and trigger warnings. Reject the comically-incorrect notion that offensive words are “literal violence.” (Violence is violence, and words are words – nothing more, nothing less.)

At its best, the university system is a wonderful, unmatched experience through which students can be exposed to true diversity: intellectual diversity. They can be confronted with opposing views and made uncomfortable by views that they have never previously considered. This is a beautiful phenomenon, not a dangerous one.

Of course, this may be too much for some people, and that’s okay. The university is not for everyone, and no one is forced to attend college. If you can’t handle hearing certain opinions and instead prefer to scream hysterically and retreat to your “safe space,” then the university is obviously not for you.

Thankfully, people who value intellectual diversity and honest debate are still somewhat common on campus. But the opposite vision peddled by the regressive left – the vision that demands safe spaces, trigger warnings, and speech codes – is becoming much too common.

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