Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Safe Spaces

Disheartened to read in a recent issue of Philosophy Now of an attempt by the student union at Bristol University to prevent Sir Roger Scruton from speaking there on the grounds that his offensive views on gay marriage (offensive, that is, to those who support the idea) render gay students less safe (due to their sheer offensiveness. I think that's the way the argument goes.) It seems this is known as no-platforming, a ghastly neologism for a spectacularly dumb idea.

Astonishing. If I were a gay student supporting the concept of gay marriage, or a straight student supporting the concept, or an asexual student supporting the concept, I surely would want to listen to such an accomplished speaker and thinker to hear his arguments and engage with him to show where he is going wrong and creating the offence I might be feeling. I might even be humble enough to accept the idea I might learn something from him, even if it's only learning exactly what his perspective is. Who knows, I might even find I'm no longer quite so offended. Sometimes those whom we regard as being in the wrong can be in the wrong in interesting and illuminating ways. Isn't this the kind of civilised dialogue and exchange of ideas that universities were created for?

It worries me that in seeking to keep students safe we may render them safe from actually learning anything.

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