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How Much Learning Can Occur in Safe Spaces?

At Oxford, a debate about whether “abortion culture harms us all” was canceled due to student protest. A performance of The Vagina Monologues met with the same fate at Mount Holyoke College because it excludes, and thus might offend, trans women. At Brown University, a group of students organized a “safe space” so that students who found a scheduled debate about how universities should handle sexual assault too upsetting had somewhere to go. One student who availed herself of the safe space suggested that she felt “bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” and so she had to leave the debate.

Safe spaces are places where you can only learn safe things.

Most recently, there have been (and are, as of this writing) protests at the University of Missouri over alleged racism directed at black students on campus, culminating — at least for now — in a strike by the football team and the resignation of the both the university president and chancellor for doing too little to combat racism and promote inclusion.

While creating a safe and inclusive campus climate can be important, so-called safe spaces are often the places where the least amount of actual dialogue and learning take place.

Take a recent comment made by the University of Missouri’s Student Body V…

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