No Safe Spaces

“Safe spaces” are dangerous to the mental health of children and young adults. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “safe space” as:

 a place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The problem is that the world is in fact a dangerous place for those who have not acquired the armor of real-life experiences. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s I often heard this old saying:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!

The Free Dictionary

That was good advice to children in those days! Today children are told that “words do hurt me.” But words in reality can only hurt you if you are not prepared to deal with them – which is precisely what safe spaces do, prevent you from learning to deal with difficult situations in life.

Instead of trying to shield children from every possible verbal threat they may encounter in life, we should instead be focusing on giving children the moral and intellectual means to deal with things they may find disagreeable.

Safe spaces are untethered to reality

Another saying that one might hear is:

Prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child.


It is far better, and much more likely to be successful if you prepare your child to be able to face adversity in the real world instead of trying to shield them from that which is inevitable in life. It is a great disservice to young minds to not give them an opportunity to learn to deal with the difficulties that the real world is almost sure to place in their path in life.

Quoting from the reviews of “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt:

A disturbing and comprehensive analysis of recent campus trends . . . Lukianoff and Haidt notice something unprecedented and frightening . . . The consequences of a generation unable or disinclined to engage with ideas that make them uncomfortable are dire for society, and open the door—accessible from both the left and the right—to various forms of authoritarianism.


The authors … do a great job of showing how ‘safetyism’ is cramping young minds. Students are treated like candles, which can be extinguished by a puff of wind. The goal of a Socratic education should be to turn them into fires, which thrive on the wind. Instead, they are sheltered from anything that could cause offence …

This book is a good read that eviscerates modern obsessions with “microaggressions, identity politics, “safetyism”, call-out culture, and intersectionality.

An example in real life that verifies that “safetyism” can do actual harm is the story of how misguided medical advice in the 1990s resulted in an explosion of peanut allergies. Quoting:

In the U.S., the rate of childhood peanut allergies more than tripled between 1997 and 2008 … Until the 1990s, doctors also recommended introducing allergy-causing foods like peanut early, in baby’s first year of life.

But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, doctors changed their approach. They mistakenly thought that delaying the feeding of peanut for several years was the best approach to preventing peanut allergies. 

Today, we know that this approach to delay peanut introduction actually increases food allergy risk, and that delayed introduction was a major factor that led to the sharp increase in peanut allergies.

Why was there a spike in peanut allergies in the early 2000s?

I think there is a direct correlation between this example of food allergies, and how ultimately “safe spaces” and “safetyism” are making children and young adults less well prepared to face the real world, and ultimately less safe. To quote an old saying:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

One thought on “No Safe Spaces

  1. “A place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.” This concept is nothing new and has been around for a long time. If anything, it is a weakening trend. I find it strange that it’s only being called out in regards to college campuses, when there are much more egregious offenders that need to be acknowledged.

    Take religion/church/faith for example. Religion and faith have been around a long time and are the champions of safe spaces and coddling minds to the point of accepting authoritarian tendencies. Royalty and clergy have had no problem mingling with each other to keep the peasants in line with ideas that help them feel safe but which are ultimately disempowering. The only reason anyone goes to church or has faith is to give themselves a safe space from the uncertainty and darkness of the universe. Rather than engage with and confront reality in a genuine way, they instead adopt a system of beliefs that strokes the pattern-seeking meat inside their brain. It gives them the satisfaction of knowledge and wisdom without any actuality of such. It convinces them that they have a source of higher knowledge but with no obligation to test it. It’s easier to read some stupid bullshit about God creating the universe and getting your feelings all warm and fuzzy from hearing that, than it is to pick up a book on evolutionary biology and realize that life is a long arduous slog of natural selection with no evidence of divine intervention. It’s easier to have a preacher/spiritual teacher tell you what’s what than it is to develop one’s own critical faculties and decide for oneself. Mormonism, for instance, actually believes that sexual predator and expert con artist Joseph Smith was a legit holy man despite all the evidence to the contrary. Sounds like a safe space that needs a good teardown.

    There are no shortage of stories about wide-eyed believers going into university with the intent to preach their version of the gospel, stand up to the evil atheist professors, be a credit to their faith, and take over campus, only to end up having their worldview shattered by the harsh light of scientific reasoning and rationalism. It used to not be that way. Ivy-league universities used to be bastions of the Christian safe space but not anymore, so I’d say that’s a huge victory against safe spaces.

    Another good example are people who reject the notion of man-made climate change. It’s no surprise that people who reject this notion also tend to be libertarians and conservatives, for it is a challenge to some of their most deeply held beliefs, mainly this child’s idea that free market capitalism will always lead to the best outcome (another religious faith-based fairy tale lacking in evidence). In other words, the science of man-made climate change is a threat to the safe space of their own religiously-held beliefs about economy, and to their dangerous nostalgia for the black sludge that they are so infatuated with. The result is they become disinclined to engage their minds with the problem and, instead, regurgitate refuted or outdated science in a desperate attempt to make themselves feel more grounded in the knowledge of the matter. If they can’t do that, then they just concoct these strange conspiracy theories about how climate scientists are in cahoots with some woke liberal agenda to sabotage everyone. Instead of criticizing the science, they criticize Al Gore and think that’s the same thing.

    If you are really against safe spaces, you should extend your reach beyond some petty squabbles on college campuses. You should turn your mind’s eye toward the churches and religious organizations that choke the critical faculties out of their followers and which still, for some reason, have a respected place in society. You should call out the people who reject scientific findings because it inconveniences their politics.

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