Safe Spaces – Then and Now

I was thinking about Safe Spaces the other day, and I realized they have changed a whole lot from when I was growing up. I was in grade school when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. Afterwards, there was a surge in activity in most cities. An Early Warning System was put into place should there be a nuclear attack. In our town, a speaker was set up on top of the tallest building in town. For a few years after that, we would have monthly drills. The siren would go off and if we were at school, we were instructed to get under our desks and wait for the all clear siren. Our school was about three blocks from a building where there was a bomb shelter set up. In case of a real nuclear attack, I’m assuming we would walk to the bomb shelter. If we could all reach the bomb shelter, we would be “safe” from the impending  attack. That was our Safe Space. fallout-shelter-2835496_640 Photo by Lenzius. Courtesy of Pixabay.

I remember walking by that building as a child and thinking about the Bomb Shelter in the basement. I didn’t know anyone in my town who built one in their backyard, so basically we had one shelter for about 17,000 people. Anyone who was lucky enough to be near the shelter when the attack occurred would be safe initially from the radioactive fallout. The whole town viewed that building as their Safe Space.

Fast forward fifty years. Colleges and universities initially set up Safe Spaces for students so that they could talk about their problems in a safe environment where no one would harass them or make fun of them. I see no problem with that. Students need a space where they can go and be themselves without fear of repercussions. Since their initial set-up, Identity Politics have taken over, and some students go to Safe Spaces so that they will not have to listen to divergent opinions. Instead of interacting in a climate of differing ideas, some students have chosen to isolate themselves so that they do not have to hear or think about anything that is dissimilar to their particular beliefs.

The Safe Spaces of my youth were set up to protect us physically from real biological harm. Some of the Safe Spaces today are being used to protect students from Ideological Diversity. Do they really need protection from ideas that are disparate from the ones they espouse at the moment? What kind of thinkers are we enabling if they will not expose themselves to differing ideas? Are we really willing to encourage students to be weak mentally and not expose themselves process dissimilar opinions?

These are questions we need to ask when setting up Safe Spaces on campus. Are they there to help students who really need help or are they being used to protect students from hearing something they don’t like or feel uncomfortable with? What kind of preparation are we giving them for entry into adult society? They will, after all, have to go out into the real world when they graduate and get jobs. On those jobs, they will be exposed to people from many diverse backgrounds who hold opinions that may be quite different than the ones they espoused in college. Will they be able to cope with them? After all, I have never seen a job site yet that had a Safe Space set up for employees who felt uncomfortable listening to their fellow workers’ opinions. Have you?

33 thoughts on “Safe Spaces – Then and Now

      • Definitely not. My son was bullied terribly because he was quieter and slighter. Space muffins (weed Muffins) were used to lure them into the world of drugs. Every weekend, i frantically baked muffins and then froze them. He was warned and taught well. Then a classmate was shot by another mate who brought his policeman uncles gun to school. I read it on Facebook and didnt know who was shot. Rushed home and practically collapsed in relief. Not easy indeed. The teachers try but cant do more than they are trying too. There are too many students 50 per teacher in a class. There is no safety and very rarely people who listen to them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • All we can do is our best…then pray! Thank God we can go to Him and ask Him to protect our children in this lost world! I know you are a good, caring mom and your children are SO fortunate to have you!!! 💖💖🌷🌷

        Liked by 1 person

  1. These kids are also part of the “everybody gets a trophy” generation. It’s sad. Kids need to learn how to lose too and still be a good sport about it. Safe spaces are just like that. It is not preparing them for the real world at all. Any place I ever worked at was filled with people who spoke their views freely…and most didn’t care what people thought either. God bless!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I thought that diversity was supposed to be a virtue and a goal, especially in higher education. It is for me.
    As for the fallout shelters, those were not safe spaces either. This, however, may not be the best venue for pointing out the absurdness of ducking and covering either.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. As a long time employee of three different colleges (two public universities and one community college), I have to say that your understanding of “Safe Spaces” is flawed. Campus Safe Spaces today work exactly as they were created and intended to: as places where members of minority groups can speak freely.

    The only place I’ve ever seen the claim that they are places to avoid “divergent views” is in the right wing media. Most of the talking heads in such outlets (and most of those who repeat their claims, on this topic), I’ve found, haven’t set foot on a college campus in decades, if ever.

    As has been noted by many researchers (psychology, polisci, sociology), there is really no lack of representation of conservative views of American campuses. That said, what tends to happen is that students who artive on campuses (liberal, moderate, or conservative) are exposed to hundreds of different ideas, are encouraged to think critically, amd are encouraged to test ideas. And in that environment of critical inquiry & variety, conservative ideas tend not to do well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I so appreciate your comment. The reason conservative views do not do well is because the teachers are biased against them. Most universities are filled with liberal professors who will do not hold those views. I have spoken with many parents of students who have been down graded for writing their views on papers. In order to get the grade they are looking for they must “agree” with their teachers point of view. My husband has told many a student “to get along, you must go along.” That is true. We have seen it time and time again.
      It is not as cut and dried as you think it is as an educator. The liberal universities are actually “biased” against conservative views and conservative thinkers.
      Granted, conservative students may not be able to express their views as well as their teachers, but a well informed conservative can hold his own with a liberal thinker.
      The problem is not “liberal vs. conservative.” The problem is that there are different world views colliding and one is trying to crush the other out of existence.
      This summer I picked up 1984 and reread it. I was amazed at how prescient it was. We live in a society where we are told what words we can say and what is politically correct.
      Surely, you don’t think political correctness reflects the ability to express oneself freely. You might believe what you say, but I dare you to take a normative conservative view among your colleagues and see where that gets you. Have you ever watched “Expelled?” This was an independent film done several years ago with Ben Stein moderating. Perhaps if you watched it, you will see what happens to conservative professors who won’t go along with an atheistic world view.
      I appreciate your views, but I don’t agree with them. I have college educators in my family who are liberal and I have seen their disdain for people who don’t hold their world view.

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s amazing.

        Everything in this comment is wrong and appears to be based on ignorance.

        To start, there are no “liberal” universities. At least, not in reality.

        Students rarely have to agree with a professor to get a grade (I say rarely because there are outliers). What they have to do is present their argument with sufficient, credible, and reliable evidence.

        With 16 years of teaching under my belt, yes, it is indeed that “cut and dried”.

        Universities are not biased against “conservative views and conservative thinkers”. They are biased against views and positions that don’t fit with the available evidence.

        I will agree that, to some degree, it is an issue of worldviews. Universities operate with a view that facts, data, and logical reasoning are the basis of knowledge and understanding. Others hold the view that doctrine and dogma, even if demonstrably false, are the be all & end all.

        Fun thing with 1984 . . . It was written with an anti-fascist message. Fascism is a solidly right wing ideology.

        When you say “political correctness”, the rest of us hear “treating others with respect and like human beings”.

        I have many conservative colleagues. They’re treated just like everyone else. Many of them hold tenured positions. And I have many religious colleagues (liberal & conservative). Again, they’re treated just like everyone else, regardless of their Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or other faith. Given his obvious and blatant bias, I’d strongly recommend not taking Ben Stein at his word, or that or any project he’s involved in, without some serious critical thought.

        Rather than relying on blatantly biased sources, many of whom haven’t actually set foot on a campus in decades, it might be good to actually, oh, take a class at your local community college or audit a course at the local university. Maybe hang out & honestly chat with some students.

        (For the record, undergrad students in today’s universities range from age 16 to 70).

        Liked by 2 people

      • I appreciate your comment and your views. I am happy to hear of your experience and your tolerance of others. I am also glad that the world you live in reflects your experience. Thank you for sharing your views!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent article Valerie! A real concern! Critical thinking is important, God gave us a brain to think. I remember my mother saying, “use your brain” – how can people use their brains to think about something if they will not even listen?


    P.S. I’ve tried many times to click the like button, even on some of the comments. Hope it gets fixed. It happens on a few other blogs as well, yet on most blogs it works.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I had not heard of these safe spaces, Valerie, and I don’t know how often students make use of them. I can imagine, however, that in most college classes there is ample time to discuss and dissent, and to learn that not everybody thinks alike. Maybe with all the divisions and conflicts in society this might a location to take a time-out from all that controversy? Considering how depressing reality it, I can relate to a need to take a time out.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sadly, it seems, a huge part of the “new world” has become overly sensitive and unreasonably protective. I think it’s ridiculous, but that’s just me. We need to debate, discuss, and stimulate each other’s minds. I didn’t know about these safe spaces. I sounds rather crazy to me. I’ll take the bomb shelter, I think. 😁

    Liked by 3 people

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