Some colleges are offering “safe spaces” and “sanctuaries” where students can 1) Cry about the things they don’t like, and 2) Be sheltered from instructors or fellow students whose ideas they dislike. Those ideas, and the words used to describe them, are called “Triggers.” They allegedly set off a negative emotional reaction in snowflakes, a code name for campus warriors for justice, who refuse to tolerate different ways of thinking. Triggers are also a so-called threat to another population that will soon be addressed. But let’s look at whether or not this line of thinking makes sense or digresses into the absurd, causing more harm than good.
A convoluted commentary on the movement that was created to prevent rape and other sexual assault victims from reliving their experiences during classes, the sanctuary movement and its trigger warnings concept (an excuse to leave any sort of presentation because it offends tender minds) are not only not eliminating miserable memories, they are traumatizing innocent people seeking an opportunity to share and to consider new ideas. That is the time-honored purpose of a college education, after all, to facilitate intellectual and personal growth via the study of controversial and diverse points of view.
The spirit of the Sanctuary aka Trigger-warning movement portrays disparate concepts as actual threats to mental health. It’s as if there’s an underlying assumption that a person’s decision-making skills are been rendered irrelevant by opposing, or simply different, points of view. Sanctuary-enabled colleges are thus, so to speak, putting collegiates onto emotional treadmills, and removing the “Stop” button. The situation has become so extreme that even the term “Snowflake” has begun to distress easily irritated college students. Violent protests have been held to protest the arrival of guest speakers. The overall effect of the situation is that young minds have too often stopped thinking, that self-control has been sacrificed for self-indulgence, and that the path to emotional and intellectual maturity has been hijacked. This What is the Purpose of a College Education? video portrays the problem vividly. That police must be called to prevent social justice warriors from harming invited speakers such as Ben Shapiro, Pam Geller, and Emily Wong is evidence of thought processes and mental health gone horribly wrong, especially in the arena of where thought processes are supposed to mature.
The fact is, humans have childhoods far longer than those of animals. Those long developmental periods allow people to improve their thinking and decision-making skills. People need to learn what to do in times of physical danger, philosophical dilemmas, and spiritual yearning. We also need to know how to expand our consciousness so that we can accommodate new ways of thinking and behaving that improve our quality of life. That allows us to develop skills that we’ve lacked, to enjoy more of life than we did before, and to prevent problems. We need to learn what to accept and what to reject, basing our judgment on what mental health experts call “Executive thinking skills.”
With all the energy and effort invested into the growing child’s body and mind, humanity tends to nurture the advancement of its intellectual life with adult educational efforts, too (e.g., informative lectures, skill-teaching opportunities, and overseas travel that clues us in to the values and appreciation of other cultures). All of that results in increased self-control, and self-led motivation. It turns us “on,” rather than turning us “off.” The life lesson is this: Reviewing issues and figuring out how to better respond to them than you did before, making the efforts to use new ways of thinking and behaving, and coming away with increased self-respect for having made those admirable efforts, lets you grow as a human being. You can step off any sort of emotional treadmill – the ones you stumbled upon, or those thrust upon you, at will. You can proceed at a chosen, optimal (aka “normal”) pace through the rest of your life, doing your own thinking rather than letting someone do it for you.
Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.