Censoring students: why "safe spaces" have gone too far


University is supposed to be a place that liberates freedom of thought, but in the three years that I’ve been at the University of Missouri, I’ve watched the rise of “safe spaces” silence my campus. 

This wave of political correctness is becoming reminiscent of the Red Scare, driving authority from the hands of staff down to the students.

 Safe spaces were created with good intentions, but the way they have been embedded into university culture has led to an unrealistic expectation of the wider world. The fear of not wanting to cause offence has made its way into the curriculum, and those who should be in power fear the wrath of students. 

The day after Donald Trump was elected, my political science class carried only a short discussion about the results, having spent the term dissecting the campaign trails. 

When I later asked my professor about it, he admitted that certain kinds of discussion would lead to a chaotic classroom environment. 

Wider issues This is symptomatic of a culture where professors provide “trigger warnings” on material that may be considered sensitive to offence. One lecturer puts optional class discussion boards online instead of encouraging them in the classroom. 

As a journalism student, I was required to take a course that showed us the right and wrong ways to present information. One day, we were given a list of “forbidden” words, in which obviously derogatory terms sat alongside “Dutch” and “welsh”. 

When one student asked why those words are harmful, my professor answered that if we were to use the phrase “going Dutch”, it would imply that people from the Netherlands were cheap, and if we used the phrase “welsh on a bet”, it would imply that people from Wales were cheaters. 

Conformity of thought among students begins in the classroom. I’ve watched presumed “experts” in politics, history and sociology apologise for their topic rather than explain it in full.

 If those who claim to be the leaders of academic institutions continue to fear controversy, we will lose the opportunity to learn anything beyond a surface level. Education is about being challenged, not coddled – and it is certainly not about being shielded.

Originally published by i news on September 15, 2017

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