Exposure vs. Safe Space

(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

In a recent town hall event in Des Moines, Iowa, President Obama took a shot that the trend of overt political correctness sweeping the nation. With speakers of every color and creed being banned from campuses in fear that someone’s feelings will be hurt, it’s truly fantastic to see the President laying down some good old-fashioned rationality.

“It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side. And that’s a problem, too,” Obama said. “I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women,” he continued. “I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views.”

I truly could not have said it better myself. Education doesn’t stop at graduation. Education is a lifelong endeavor, something that happens to us every single day. The lessons learned in college prepare us for the lessons we will learn the rest of our lives.

Not everybody thinks the same way, and not everybody believes the same things. It’s the diversity in thoughts and perspective that makes humanity truly beautiful, that the billions of humans on this planet all have their own unique way of looking at things.

Understanding that people hold different perceptions of the same thing is the first step to gaining understanding of other people. When people simply dismiss a point of view that runs counter to what they may believe without attempting to understand it, there is no way communication can occur and only conflict can arise. It’s mutual understanding that lets people work together and grow as people.

Setting the precedent that different points of view are something to avoid teaches people that they have zero responsibility to attempt to understand their peers. It’s no different than teaching someone that if they really don’t like math, they have the protected right to remain ignorant of math and it’s the job of society to coddle them.

I’ve never really been a fan of Obama but his words hit the nail on the head so squarely that I can’t help but love the guy. Dealing with different points of view is an integral part of being human and living in a society.

If one wants to be understood by others, the first step is to understand others, to treat people the way one wants to be treated. The trend of protecting people from every single concept they don’t wish to consider teaches people a tremendously terrible lesson, setting them up for failure in the professional world.

How long will someone last in a job if they believe that differing points of view never have to be considered? What boss is going to put up with an employee refusing to listen to them? I would think that the fastest way for someone to get fired is to act like they need to be protected and sheltered from every little point of view that runs contrary to their own.

Education and growing as a person is almost by definition stretching one’s comfort zone, to expand past individual perception and understand the perceptions of others. When modern higher education delivers the message that the single most important thing is to remain comfortable and unperturbed, it utterly fails in its goal to prepare students for the real world.