We recently celebrated the administration at the University of Chicago declaring that trigger warnings and safe spaces were counterproductive in the education of young minds and students should not expect to find them on campus this year. Not long thereafter, John noted some liberal thought leaders who clearly weren’t ready to embrace such a radical idea and spoke out in defense of not defending free speech. The professors at the school obviously had two choices to consider in terms of their support for the new policy, and based on a letter they just issued to the student body they seem to have made their choice. Free speech is totally overrated, you guys. (Time Magazine)

More than 150 faculty members at the University of Chicago are pushing back on a controversial letter from the school’s dean of students that told incoming freshmen not to expect trigger warnings or intellectual safe spaces on campus.

The letter, published Tuesday in the Chicago Maroon, does not explicitly endorse the use of trigger warnings, but it criticizes efforts to prohibit them. While acknowledging that they have a range of opinions on the topic, the professors asked students to “speak up loudly and fearlessly” with requests for trigger warnings, which provide advance notice of content that could be upsetting to students.

“Those of us who have signed this letter have a variety of opinions about requests for trigger warnings and safe spaces. We may also disagree as to whether free speech is ever legitimately interrupted by concrete pressures of the political. That is as it should be,” they wrote in the letter.

This seems to fly in the face of the basic concept of free speech and rigorous intellectual debate, but the authors have an explanation for that as well. They include the following caveat: “To start a conversation by declaring that such requests are not worth making is an affront to the basic principles of liberal education and participatory democracy.”

So rejecting a warning before hearing something disagreeable or demanding a place where you will only be exposed to people who hold the same opinions is, in order:

  • An affront to liberal education
  • An affront to participatory democracy

I won’t argue much with the first point. I could debate that of course, were I relying on the classic definition of liberalism as it was expressed as recently as the sixties and seventies. But if we choose to follow the model of modern liberalism, then yes… insisting that college is a place where all ideas can be explored and debated is most certainly not in line with getting “a liberal education.” The very definition of liberalism these days seems to be not only shutting down the speech of any non-liberal, but punishing them to the fullest extent of the (new) law for attempting to voice an opinion in the first place.

As to being an affront to participatory democracy, what is there left to say? One is the complete antithesis of the other. Is this what passes for fact among those assigned to deliver an education these days? Send your kids off to learn the trades, folks. The universities are a barren wasteland, robbed of their original purpose.

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