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Safe Spaces Hurt Students: What I Learned from Mr. Conklin – edu|FOCUS
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Safe Spaces Hurt Students: What I Learned from Mr. Conklin

“Safe spaces,” or areas where people cannot say things that may be offensive or harmful to others, have become more popular in recent months. And they are quite controversial.

The Controversy Over Safe Spaces

Advocates of these “safe spaces” claim that people have different experiences and thus may be offended by some conversations.  They also say that it is inappropriate to assume people are either males or females, when many students now identify as transgender.

Opponents of these areas say they stifle one’s right to free speech and discourage debate on certain issues. They also believe it goes too far. For example, one student wanted to have a memorial to the victims on 9/11, but was not allowed to due to fear that it would lead to Islamophobia.

What I Learned from Mr. Conklin

I would not be the person with the strong opinions I have if it were not for Mr. Conklin’s AP Government class. Every Wednesday we were supposed to talk about a recent news article, but more often than not, it turned into a debate over political issues.

One day, someone brought in an article about how religious organizations do not have to guarantee birth control to their employees. This became a heated argument over the role of religion, and women’s rights. We discussed how religious organizations have their own beliefs and should not have to comply with government demands, and we discussed the many benefits of the birth control pill.

If I never had this discussion, I would never have been able to understand the other point of view. In fact, it solidified my beliefs about the role of religion in society and about the role of government due to this conversation.

The important thing is that Mr. Conklin never shut down the conversation to create a “safe space.” I’m sure he knew that people were offended, but wanted to use that frustration to have a debate.  In fact, he encouraged people with different views to argue their main points and see if there’s a common ground. Since that class, I now need to understand both points of view before I officially decide where I stand on an issue.

If Mr. Conklin had decided that we needed a “safe space,” where people would not be stereotyped, I never would have learned to understand another point of view. In fact, if people were not okay with the subject, they could just leave the classroom and pretend they needed to use the restroom.

So, I agree that people should not make racist or stereotypical comments; however, I also believe that students should be exposed to a range of different views so that they can better understand themselves.

Melissa Koenig
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