Explaining the demand for safe spaces

Print More
Browning 9×19mm Hi-Power

Wikipedia

Browning 9×19mm Hi-Power

Browning 9×19mm Hi-Power

Browning 9×19mm Hi-Power

Unreconstructed liberal and sometime journalist that I am, I’ve had limited sympathy for the burgeoning demands of college students for safe spaces and trigger warnings and freedom from micro-aggressions. Thus has “the coddling of the American mind” followed helicopter parenting as the latest chapter in the unending narrative of Spoiled Youth.

Kids, ideas of all stripes should be on offer in the collegiate marketplace, and higher education should be a place where you are challenged, inside the classroom and out. Shape up and prepare yourselves for the cut and thrust of the real world!

And yet, on reflection, it seems to me that something more is afoot. The search for safe spaces is hardly restricted to college campuses. From Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to MSNBC and the Daily Show, Americans have embraced challenge-free media environments. Weigh the realities as you like, but both Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump’s keep-them-out-ism are about the creation of safe spaces.

On the religious front, conservatives are working to make their faith-based institutions safe from the new national norm of same-sex marriage. Blogger Rod Dreher has achieved widespread attention for his Benedict Option — a proposal for the creation of traditionalist Christian communities inspired by the Benedictine monasteries that protected the godly from a dangerous world in the early Middle Ages.

The response from safe-space-seeking folks is that we cannot avoid the hostile culture that comes at us 24-7. And that’s just the point. Thanks to hand-helds and laptops, our private lives have become hostile environments, constantly invaded by the aggressions of public figures, strangers, and friends.

We can always get rid of the devices. But living off the grid is hard, and virtually unimaginable for the digital natives of the rising generation. Under the circumstances, is it any wonder that in the cloistered groves of academe where they have been given, for four years at least, a haven from a heartless world, they yearn for safety. We all do.

  • Very nice twist on the conservative meme of “political correctness.”

  • samuel johnston

    I yearn for a community of like minded spirits, who are clean, quiet, and do not disagree with me at any time. Unfortunately, not all of my family members would qualify, and my extended family would certainly have to apply for a permit!
    Seriously, Far too many in your learned profession are more interested in living THEIR privileged lives, than in preparing their charges for their future. One of my more memorable professors told us: “I hope none of you ever figure out how to make a buck from anything I teach you”. I did not, but thanks to him, I missed traveling down many blind alleys.

  • cken

    You simply expanded the concept of safe places. On college campuses the need for a safe space is simply an acknowledgement by the schools that free speech doesn’t exist or isn’t tolerated on campus.
    Without the challenge of reasoned discourse one can not grow mentality, emotionally, or spiritually.

  • Larry

    Nice words if they were genuine. But likely when a “Christian college” kicks out a faculty member for not saying “Jesus is neat-o” in the proscribed manner. You would be the first to defend the school for upholding its standards of belief. Free speech an reasoned discourse be damned.

    The same people who decry “political correctness” are the ones who demand adherence to onerous “Codes of Conduct” which intentionally stifle free speech and in some cases religious freedom.

  • cken

    Personally I would not support said college’s decision.
    As to the “same people who decry”, Yes there are hypocrites on both sides of the political correctness fence and both are wrong.

  • Glenn Harrell

    “Sir, Permission to create safe places!”

    I am still a bit bewildered at the lack of sustained attention given to The Liberty Baptist University Presidential decree. Not even a mention here?

    President Fallwell the Jr. packs his gun to chapel services where the sermon for the day is “Jesus is still the answer but don’t forget to secure your license to carry your concealed 9 mill.”

    When the Jesus crowd begins preaching “Turn your plow shear into a sword” or “hide your derringer in your text-book”, we really have determined that safe places are but a dream.

    Never mind how very unsafe he just made the campus and what a new target he created for people he should not have threatened. More to come from Liberty?

    A delightful, well balanced piece Mark. Thank you.

  • Thanks, Glenn. You’re right: Both pro-gun and anti-gun forces are safety-seeking.

  • Christian colleges need to be what they are. But “secular” colleges that really have an unwritten doctrinal statement limiting what can be said or discussed should be honest about it, and not pretend to be among those colleges where free inquiry and discussion are actually practiced.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    Tell us more about that. You made an assertion: I want to see two examples of what you are talking about.