group think and safe spaces

A classic interpretation of the spread of ideas is to point out how analogous the process is to the spread of disease. That is to say that any disease which wiped out millions of people must have its origin in a single individual. Another interpretation of idea spreading relates more closely to Dawkins idea of meme; any given idea swelters fractionally in the hearts of a mob of people, and though a single individual will articulate that idea it is hardly an individual process.

The recent catastrophe known as ‘safe spaces’ has finally reached my own school, and the most interesting thing about this development is pondering just how this pathogenic idea manifested itself inside the minds of students, staff, and larger faculty alike.

The safe space idea itself is, to me, at this point devoid of the potential it originally had to grab my interest for any length of time. As with many ideas borne within the social justice doctrine, peeling back the logic of any particular proposition is always fun at first. Without exception, seemingly benevolent and seemingly simple social justice ideas are revealed to be populated with a bewildering amount of contradictions and inconsistencies packaged in a way that would offer a more than sufficient definition of incoherence; and that doesn’t even mention the incredible socio-economic assumptions that are made to even get there in the first place. But that’s a topic for another time; alas, all of the commonalities such ideas share are present within that of safe spaces; prima facia, safe spaces are a benevolent process which fights back against bigotry and bullying, encourages discussion in the classroom, and makes the learning environment one which students can always feel completely and entirely safe. But, as alluded to earlier, this idea manifests itself in a way that actually runs contrary to all of these supposed benefits. Let me explain.

The safe space idea is roughly this; the teachers of difficult subjects must pander their lessons to the most sensitive students in the class; if at any point and for any duration an excessively neurotic student feels uncomfortable with the subject matter being taught, then they are being effectively discriminated against and violently assaulted, and the professor must then be held accountable for violating the paper thin walls of that single students psyche. It is important to remember that matter trumps manner in deciding safe space cases; if you’re a grade 12 law professor discussing the concept of reasonable doubt regarding rape allegations, and you make a conscious effort to approach the subject as timidly and unobtrusively as possible, your effort would entirely be in vain if a single student feels ‘unsafe’ within the discussion.

And what sort of ‘accountability’ are professors to be held to? For public school teachers this is a new development, but for university professors, such an encounter results in accusations of hate speech and bigotry, hearings in front of human rights tribunals, and social media campaigns launched with the specific intent of villainizing you and ruining your reputation campus wide, and often, nation wide. Put simply, if a student feels uncomfortable in your class, you can expect a swarm of ideologues demanding for your immediate resignation. We can be sure that these same punishments are headed for public school teachers, and it is safe to assume that when they do come their severity will only increase, as high school students are even more emotionally unstable and immature than university students. (though art undergrads are really giving them a run for their money)

The reason safe spaces have managed to once again gain my attention is because, seemingly overnight, they have arisen with a vengeance at my own school. A week ago, I never would’ve believed the amount of staff and students that support this idea. Perhaps I was not paying close enough attention. Perhaps there was an outbreak of lead-filled autism-inducing water in my town that I managed to not hear about. Allah only knows.

The incident I am specifically referring to is not a professor being crucified upon the social justice cross, but a new manifestation of the safe space doctrine, or one that is new to me anyway.

We all know that the last month of high school is equivalent to the first month of MLB; they are both useless and nothing is learned. Teachers and students alike are sick of the school year and day dreaming about summer vacation. Thus, it is common for the last month of high school to be a monotonous succession of student presentations, discussions, and seminars. This is true of Grade 12 Sociology. Students get to choose a topic and give a powerpoint presentation and lead a discussion regarding it. Some of the topics in the class included social phenomena such as the wage gap and the gender spectrum.

In this class, there is a well known kid who we will just call Logan for the time being. Logan, like many young, intellectually confident (dare I say arrogant) high school lads is a natural contrarian; it is nearly impossible to gleam what Logan’s actual political views are, for he can much more accurately be expected to just argue with whatever thesis you are presenting. With the seminar topics listed above, it is easy to see how this is already laying the groundwork for an incident.

To make a short story even shorter, a transgender person gave a presentation on the concept known as the gender spectrum, which supposes that gender is not binary and perhaps not categorizable at all. As one can imagine, this is a theory, nothing more, and it is one that, rightly so, bears an incredible amount of criticism and even ridicule. Logan, during this presentation, tried his best to argue in favor of gender binary, delegitimize the gender spectrum claim, and argue against any thesis presented. Because of this, the transgender presenter broke down, began to cry, and fled the classroom. I am unsure what pronoun is appropriate here, so let’s just call this person a they. They complained to the principal, claimed that Logan had made the classroom, an unsafe space, and a meeting was called between the principal, the teacher, and Logan himself. The presenter was not to attend this meeting. Even more peculiarly, the authorities had already sealed Logan’s fate before he arrived.

He was asked to not come to class for the remainder of the presentations.

Thus, the safe space phenomena has unfortunately reached my own school.

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