Enough “Trigger Warnings” and “Safe Spaces.” Grow Up, or Step Aside.

Posted on June 8, 2015


We are supposed to be ready for full adulthood upon graduation from high school. Instead, our best universities now act like nurseries for weak-minded, simpering crybabies. We are doomed.

There is a dangerous – yes, dangerous – and growing tendency to insulate college students from the least bit of stress, controversy, mental discomfort, or any other experience that might be more difficult than cuddling in their mothers’ wombs. Or, more accurately, to allow college students to insulate themselves, hiding out in playrooms and clutching children’s toys to evade any contact with this thing called real life.

You think I am exaggerating? Ha! I am not. Witness an episode from Brown University this past academic year: a guest speaker was invited to an on-campus debate on the topic of “rape culture.” She was expected to criticize the term. It’s a debate, people. That means opposing ideas. But no, no, no. As the New York Times reports, this was so scary that some students felt the need to set up a “safe space” for anyone troubled by the horror of it all. Here’s Judith Shulevitz’s description:

The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

Gaaaah, I cannot stand this anymore. Brown used to be academically well-regarded; maybe it still is in some quarters, but I cannot take seriously any institution of learning that allows adults, scholars, future professionals, to behave this way!

It’s not just alleged crime victims with possible “triggers” who are claiming all this “trauma.” Recall that some law students at Harvard, Georgetown, and Columbia requested exam deferrals because they were “traumatized” by the police killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. Really? Really?? Were these their personal friends? Relatives? Did they personally witness the events? No. Sorry, but a law student who can’t sit an exam because of what’s in the news is not going to be much of a lawyer when he’s working up close and personal on cases involving murder, maiming, mayhem, rape, and all the other sordid things human beings get prosecuted for. It’s kinda like that silly girl who wants to be a nurse even though she can’t handle stress. NO. Just, no.

And you know what? This whole trend makes me so angry, so disgusted, that I actually don’t even care that rape “survivors” might be feeling “traumatized” by an organized debate on “rape culture.” If anyone is so traumatized by anything that they have to take refuge with children’s toys in a nursery room, then they are not going to be able to function in normal society, and they need to do the adult thing, get therapy, and get functional again. Or… in some cases… get functional for the first time ever. To expect that everyone else around you should bend to your personal sensitivities – no matter how valid or specious they may be – is the height of selfishness, childishness, and unreality.

Childhood used to be about adapting to the real world, becoming competent in the absence of your parents, and developing into a young adult ready to make one’s own way in life after graduation from high school. Today, it seems like a radical new concept that we should “world-proof the child, rather than child-proof the world.”

I said that this is a dangerous trend, and it is. These students might be competent in their academic subject matter, but they are not competent at something far more important: real life. The headlines are filled with stories of “failure to launch,” “boomerang kids,” and adolescence extending into our 30s and beyond. These people are supposed to be building our economy, running the country, they are supposed to be the future of America. How will they hold jobs, build businesses, own property or raise their own families, if they are coddled, accommodated, living in their childhood bedrooms, and afraid to face a world that – surprise, surprise – doesn’t put up with their crap? Who will take down criminals or provide sometimes gut-wrenching first response to accidents, attacks, fires or floods? Who will stand against ISIS, or Russia; who will compete economically with China or India; how the hell would we ever get through another 9/11?

If Brown, Harvard, Georgetown, and Columbia can’t turn out well-prepared adults, then maybe college should no longer be our source of professionals. Maybe we should turn to apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Give me a confident, honest, and reasonably intelligent job applicant with a decent work ethic, and I can train her to do the job. A fully trained, degree-carrying professional clutching a teddy bear and sucking her thumb is only a liability, and no use whatsoever to an employer.