Saturday, January 9, 2016
There is an interesting article in FEE today titled, “Safe Spaces Can’t Be Diverse.” It is very reserved in tone, pointing out the rather obvious point that “We don’t need to dismiss either ideal to recognize that a space’s safety and its diversity will be inversely related. The more you have of one, the less you must have of the other.”
In case you have not kept up with such things, there is a recent demand by some college students to make colleges and universities “safe” spaces. They are not talking about safety from gunfire. The continuing policies of most universities that prohibit firearms make it a relatively sure thing that evil people who want to gun down others will have an easy time of it on most campuses.
The “safe” places here are places free of any ideas that make people feel offended or even uncomfortable. Like many stupid trends in society, advocates of “safe” spaces have not always realized that “safe” and diverse are in conflict. Long before people were fretting about “safe” spaces, “diversity” had been enthroned as the god of the university. Now people are starting to notice you can’t have both. But what about going for less of both?
What slips between the cracks in this whole discussion is this: there is nothing wrong with a society that mostly, at a purely social level, in some way shuns or socially disapproves those who insist on behaving badly. This is not a matter of governments making laws about such things, far from it. It is about people expressing general disapproval of bad behavior, and even bad ideas.
As Paul the Apostle, Aristotle the philosopher, and many others throughout history have recognized, our wills are weak. Social “nudging” in the right direction can be a very positive thing. This all requires, of course, that we can know what the “right direction” is. But, if we can, such nudging will involve a reduction of both “diversity” and “safety” in the senses mentioned above. And that reduction would be a good thing. I intend to explore this matter in more detail.