Safe spaces: utility and inappropriateness …

Workout notes: just a 5.1 Cornstalk course run after a rain; it was a bit humid and I didn’t bother with a stop watch. I’d guess I ran at 11-11:15 mpm or so.

Safe spaces

I’ve thought about the “safe space” concept. This has been a topic of discussion on college campuses. In some cases, the “safe space” concept is used to shield students from ideas that, well, they don’t like and to keep away speakers they don’t like (including: Hillary Clinton!). Of course, one can protest a speaker and counter their ideas with other ideas; in the article I linked to, we see one student saying that Clinton ought not to have been permitted on campus.

Ironically this concept has been used against activists (e. g. the very presence of activists might violate the “safe space” of campus staff members).

So I’ll say that I have serious reservations about this concept.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for private conversation for certain groups of people. I’ll give some examples.

Example: I find it useful to have a private place to discuss dealings with students. Faculty sometimes get frustrated and there should be a place to deal with said frustration where one doesn’t have non-academic administrators, parents and students present.

Example: sometimes the self destructive habits of the poor come under fire. This can be an especially sensitive subject when, say, birth rates among unwed and underemployed African Americans is brought up. In fact, this very topic IS frequently discussed in private in African American circles. One famous African American columnist said that the privacy was to “keep the bigots from having another stick to beat us with”, or something along those lines.

Example: it is sometimes useful to have a place where one can discuss their prejudices in private. Sure, some might think that they have no prejudice but I am skeptical. Sometimes a good way to deal with them is to discuss them in private. One example: I was walking to an event and I saw a young man with his pants pulled down below his butt; his boxer shorts were visible. I had some non-flattering thoughts. But, when he saw me, he….held the door open for me. Go figure. 🙂

I admit that I’ve joined a “secret” Facebook group for Hillary Clinton supporters. This doesn’t meant that I am afraid of challenges to my ideas. However, it had gotten to the point where if I posted a Democratic primary election article, I’d be attacked by Sanders supporters. And the attacks were often illogical, factually incorrect, or were laden with hidden assumptions. Correcting basic errors is part of what I do for a living. I don’t want to do that on my off time, especially with people who seem themselves as logical and informed, even when they aren’t.

Now the risk in joining such a group is that one is, by definition, in a bubble when one is in such a group. That is why I value some individuals who, while they might differ on candidate of choice (e. g. support Sanders or a Republican), know the basic facts and understand basic logic. These sorts of friends are also good to discuss science related issues with.

So I’ll say that I value private conversation groups, though it is a very bad idea to turn public spaces into “safe spaces”. Private groups can be joined by choice. The latter affects all of us, and I don’t want someone else dictating what is appropriate for ME to see or hear.

One other comment On social media, I treat people differently. If I know a person (either in person or online) and I’ve had history of interaction with them, I’ll cut them some slack. What I won’t tolerate is some moral scold going onto my wall and wagging their finger either at my friends or at me. I’ll accept (even welcome) correction of my factual errors, my error of omission, or my hasty inferences. I sometimes get things wrong or I sometimes am blind to an important factor. So yes, I’ll accept those from strangers.

But if you want to be a moral scold on my wall, I had better have a history with you, like you and respect you. But until you’ve shown me something, I won’t tolerate it. And no, a high self opinion is not a credential that impresses me.


May 26, 2016 - Posted by | running, social/political | ,

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