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‘Safe spaces’ on college campuses will not create the engaged adults this country needs for a better future

I’ve never been a fan of comedian/entertainer Adam Carolla. So much so, that I can’t even recite to you a list of what he has done in his career to rise to whatever level of notoriety that he has achieved.

But, my perception of the man changed, at least a bit, last week when he testified in front of members of Congress at a House Oversight Hearing. Don’t take this as an endorsement of the man as an entertainer or his personal ideology, but do take it as an opportunity to gain some insight and perspective about what he considers a very important issue.

Carolla gave what I considered to be a very informed and intelligent testimony about how the movement for “safe spaces’’ on college campuses is not helping to produce the type of engaged, productive adults that our society needs.

Before I go on, “safe space” is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

In educational institutions, safe space (or safe-space), safer space, and positive space are terms that, as originally intended, were used to indicate that a teacher, educational institution, or student body did not tolerate anti-LGBT violence, harassment or hate speech, thereby creating a safe place for all LGBT students. The term safe space has been extended to refer to an autonomous space for individuals who feel marginalized to come together to communicate regarding their experiences with marginalization, typically on a university campus. The idea of safe spaces has seen criticism on the grounds that it stifles freedom of speech. Critics also claim safe spaces hinder the exposure of sensitive material that needs to be discussed and explained in an educational environment.’’

It’s the broader definition of “safe space’’ that I want to discuss, and in my opinion, that’s also what Carolla addressed in his testimony. And before I go on, I want it to be very clear. I truly want every person of any age, student or not, to be safe physically and mentally, and also to every extent possible, emotionally as well.

But one of the things that has happened in our country is, as some folks have attempted to stifle free speech, the right to be offended has been significantly elevated in my opinion. We absolutely are granted the right to freedom of speech in this country but we are not given the right not to be offended. We are all offended from time to time, and there is nothing unhealthy about that. In fact, it helps us grow and gives us strength to learn how to deal with being offended and to have tolerance for the opinion of others, not too mention the benefits of us actually keeping an open mind to the possibility we might learn something that could be beneficial to our lives.

Carolla said in his testimony that this generation is raising its young people in a bubble and it’s not working.

“Our plan is to put them in a bubble and keep them away from everything and somehow they will come out stronger when they emerge from the bubble,’’ Carolla said. “Well, that’s not happening.’’

I couldn’t agree with Carolla on this point more and it’s because I’ve made the same mistake in my life as a parent. My son is 26 years old. He recently graduated from college and he is doing very well in my opinion. I’m proud of the young man that he has become and I’m excited for his future.

I believe his mother and I were good parents. We certainly showered him with love and affection and provided him with everything he needed growing up. But, just like so many parents of our generation, we tried to protect him from anything we thought would harm him in any way. A friend and fellow parent, describes it as clearing a path for our children. But, by always clearing that path, we prevented our sons and daughters from learning how to clear their own path. That’s why my son didn’t get his college degree until he was 26. Because we didn’t allow him to learn how to clear his own path as a child and even as a teenager, he was forced to learn those skills as a young adult.

Adam Carolla Testifies in Front of Congress

Adam Carolla testifies in front of Congress, and he's not even trouble. No Safe Spaces MovieHear the entire hearing on tomorrow's Adam Carolla Show. adamcarolla.com

Posted by Adam Carolla on Thursday, July 27, 2017

Comedian Adam Carolla speaks in front of Congress last week at a House Oversight hearing

Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, was the first of five colleges or universities that my son attended. Even though he moved on after one year at Linfield, I fell in love with the college and its wonderful, small, serene campus. If it had been my choice, he never would have left.

I was deeply saddened earlier this year when I learned of attempts by Linfield College leaders to silence free speech in the name of creating “safe spaces.’’ Without going into great detail, the on-campus student organization Young Americans for Liberty had invited University of Toronto Psychology Professor Jordan Peterson to speak on the Linfield Campus.

The controversial Peterson tweeted the week prior to his appearance that he was coming to Linfield to “violate’’ its “safe spaces.’’ Members of the Linfield administration successfully blocked Peterson’s appearance by stating the members of Young Americans for Liberty and the professor had not met the “stipulations’’ they require for a speaker to appear on campus. The students found an off-campus site to hold the event, and Peterson’s appearance took place without incident.

Regardless of what you think of me and the opinions and perspective I share in this space each week, I can say with a clear conscience that I have an open mind to the ideas and insight of others. My opinion and perspective has changed at times because of new ideas that have been shared with me. And, I don’t begin each day with the goal of having others conform to my way of thinking. Changing your mind is something I’ve been passionate about. I just want us to make each other think.

I believe we should be exposed to ideas other than our own. What a horrible world this would be if we weren’t. I agree with those who claim intolerance has grown in our country recently, but I will likely disagree with many of you as to why that has happened and what the solution to that is.

The solution is not shielding ourselves and others from new ideas and opinions. The solution is not asking our young people to grow up in a protective bubble in the name of preventing anything or anyone from offending them.

The solution is, in my opinion, exposing them to as many new ideas and opinions as possible and allowing them to use their own mind and experiences to form their own perceptions of what this world should look like. Let’s let them clear their own path.

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About The Author

Ken Vance, Editor

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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