At universities, the next generation should be learning the skill of argumentation. Why do you have the views that you have? Are they the right ones? Can they withstand scrutiny? If not, are they worth keeping?
Everyone has an opinion, but not all opinions are equal. Some are based on fact, some are based on emotional pleas. How can we be certain that we’re on the path of truth? We need to put our ideas into the crosshairs of scrutiny to find out if they can be defended or not. Nothing is beyond criticism or even ridicule in a free society.
A frightening development at what are supposed to be learning facilities is the rise of so called “safe spaces.” The notion that only ideas that don’t make people feel uncomfortable can be discussed.
But as often happens with ideas that initially had good intentions, there are unintended negative consequences. The idea becomes corrupt. In reality, safe spaces today do not censor opinions that might offend people. Too often the most hateful vitriol can be found in these so called safe spaces. They are simply exploited to silence the other side.
We can say horrible things about the police. Anyone who disagrees is violating our “safe space.”
We can say horrible things about other people’s religions. Anyone who criticizes or mocks our religion is violating our “safe space.”
We can promote our ideology. Nobody else is allowed to promote theirs.
In other words, safe spaces have been used to promote an atmosphere where cowardice, ignorance and hypocrisy can be safe, immune to challenge. When it comes to free speech, the best thing to do is not to mess with it. We can’t sacrifice individual rights and liberties because certain people have a thin skin.
Obviously there are a few limits to free speech. Nobody has the freedom to physically threaten other people. People should also not be attacked based on attributes that they were born with such as country of origin, race, gender, physical disabilities, etc. But when it comes to ideas, they are all fair game.
Shouting down other people and then running away behind a “safe space” will achieve nothing. If you have an opinion that you’re passionate about, do the research and build that opinion on a solid foundation. Be in a position where you can defend it. Be in a position where you’re not afraid of a challenge against your views, you welcome it.
-James Kirk Wall
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James Kirk Wall
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