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Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning

John Donvan
Saturday, June 23, 2018

We’re in Canada this Saturday, debating an issue that’s been rocking university campuses. Here’s the resolution:

“Trigger Warning: Safe Spaces Are Dangerous”

Both sides of the border have heard the argument. In Canada, especially since University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson jumped into it, with his assertion that "If the university is going to make you safe, it ceases to be a university."

It’s an interesting paradox, or maybe an inevitability, that arguments about accommodating diversity are breaking out just as campuses are achieving more deliberate diversity than ever before (at least in certain categories of identity). The safe spaces issue embodies that.
What we’re talking about are the efforts some colleges have undertaken to establish sanctuaries from discourse some may experience as threatening or traumatizing, usually including anything that qualifies as “hate speech.” Supporters of safe spaces see them as enhancements to the learning environment, and as advancing the quality of dialogue. Detractors view safe spaces as a form of ideological suffocation, undermining education by limiting speech and shielding students from having to think critically about challenging ideas.

As always, the conflict is in the details, so we’ll probably get into questions like: How we define “safe”?  Do words ever constitute violence? Is a “safe” classroom a classroom under censorship? If there are safe spaces for women, for LGBTQ people, or for ethnic minorities, should there be the same for, say, straight white men, or political conservatives?

Our four debaters have been thinking and speaking out about these issues for some time. Check out their bios here.

We’re delighted to be putting on this debate in Banff, in partnership with the Templeton Foundation, to get new insight on the issue that has stirred up campuses from Berkeley to Middlebury to Toronto to Missouri. We’re livestreaming at 9:30PM EDT.  I hope you’ll join us.


Yours truly,
John

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