Opinion: Safe spaces and trigger warnings are detrimental to education

by Lauren Sanders


El Gato originally published this article in September 2016.

High school and college are about growing up, whether that means discovering your passions, testing your limits, or merely maturing as a person. All of these are necessities if you wish to become a successful, functioning member of society, yet they are sometimes stunted by the babying nature of school administrations which manifests itself in the use of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces.”

To put it frankly, life is too short for young adults to be coddled. There simply is not enough time to avoid your problems. If you live shielded from anything remotely upsetting, you will not mature and develop in a way that will allow you to become an independent individual.

Because ensuring that students feel secure in their environment is crucial, it is difficult to draw the line between maintaining a relatively comfortable learning space and sheltering young adults from the real world. However, I think schools too often err on the side of the latter, which is detrimental to their students’ growth. If students proceed through their teenage and early adult years seeing the world through rose-colored glasses and avoiding anything that upsets them, they will have a difficult time adjusting to situations after college that require them to face a topic that triggers negative emotions.

A recent and controversial example of a learning institution taking action on this subject is the University of Chicago’s letter to incoming freshmen stating that it “does not support so-called ‘trigger warnings’ ” and “does not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” While there is an expected amount of negative reactions to these declarations, I think they are absolutely fantastic and incredibly progressive in terms of educating students properly.

Education is not solely memorizing vocabulary words and conducting laboratory experiments. Rather, it is a complex, nearly arcane process with the goal of preparing adolescents for future careers and social interactions, and teaching the general ability to understand the surrounding world. A student’s education is not successful if it is spent entirely in said student’s comfort zone.

Notwithstanding, young adults who have been subject to traumatic situations do not deserve to be bombarded with reminders of such experiences. However, listening to or discussing related topics is inevitable and will most likely be helpful in these students’ healing processes. If students do not wish to partake in a discussion with the rationale being that they would be “triggered,” then they are not allowing themselves to grow and learn how to handle their problems in a professional and effective manner.

This way of thinking may seem harsh, but today’s society has raised our generation in a way that essentially allows us to hide from our discomforts behind the bulwark of mental conditions and the like. This is a cowardly way to approach life and a waste of the years during which we are supposedly educated. We ought to be utilizing this time in our lives as a period for learning how to cope, as opposed to sheltering ourselves from the harsh reality that is our society.

Categories: Opinion

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