I don’t generally agree with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. But on the issue of ridiculous “safe spaces” and “microaggression” at today’s universities, he got it almost exactly right.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the commencement address at the University of Michigan Saturday morning, winning many cheers, and some boos, when he denounced the creation of “safe spaces” on university campuses.
“The most important knowledge that you will leave here today with, like the importance of teamwork, has nothing to do with your major,” Bloomberg said. “It is about how to study, how to cooperate, how to listen carefully, how to think critically, and how to resolve conflicts through reason. In other words, it is working with others. Those are the most important skills in the working world, and it’s why colleges have always exposed students to challenging and uncomfortable ideas.”
Bloomberg then immediately denounced the steady proliferation of safe spaces and trigger warnings on American campuses.
“The fact that some university boards and administrations now bow to pressure groups, and shield students from these ideas through safe spaces, code words, and trigger warnings, is in my view a terrible mistake,” Bloomberg said, winning a big cheer from the crowd. “The whole purpose of college is to learn how to deal with difficult situations, not to run away from them.”
As Bloomberg continued, some students began to push back.
“A microaggression is exactly that, micro,” he said. “But in a macro sense, one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is the so-called safe space, because it creates a false impression that we can isolate ourselves from those who hold different views. We can’t, and we shouldn’t try. Not in politics, not in the workplace.”
This time, instead of being met with cheers, Bloomberg’s remarks provoked jeers from some of the crowd, who loudly booed even as Bloomberg was still speaking.
Amazing. Just amazing. These same students who do not expect themselves to endure a Republican, libertarian, Objectivist or conservative speaker on their campus can somehow summon up the energy and “conviction” required to boo Michael Bloomberg.
It shows how their absurd demands make no sense on their own terms.
Perhaps even worse, Bloomberg said the “R” word. No, I don’t mean racism. And I don’t mean Republican. I mean reason.
Reason demands things of people that many of today’s college students (and their professors) will not tolerate: independent, objective thought.
Bloomberg takes an unnecessary detour when he equates reason with teamwork. Reason does not require teamwork. It’s the other way around: teamwork presupposes reason.
Reason requires only a single independent, thinking and objective mind. This does not mean that independent and thinking minds cannot sometimes do much more when utilizing their talents cooperatively on joint efforts. But cooperation and teamwork are meaningless and worthless unless you have two or more people engaging in the common language of reason.
To Bloomberg’s credit, he named the actual and fundamental issue involved, which is critical thinking via the use of reason. Reason is necessary to advance science, discover electricity, invent a computer microchip, and even to get through the day. If this isn’t obvious to college students by the time they graduate, then they’re in deep trouble.
Interestingly, reason is the very concept which seems to make many of today’s college students—like a lot of their professors in the humanities—go into the intellectual equivalent of a hissy fit. The perceived need and resulting demands for “safe spaces” brought on by “triggers” of cataclysmic emotional upset when people with dissenting opinions invade their psychological space is the logical outcome of reason’s collapse within a person’s mind. It’s one standard of mental illness. America is turning out thousands of college students who cannot cope with objective reality, nor even the hint of anyone or anything which offends them. We will remain neither free nor prosperous if this becomes the dominant trend.
Elsewhere in his address, Bloomberg gave a shout-out to Omar Mahmood, a Michigan student who was forced to quit writing for a conservative school newspaper after he published an article satirizing triggering warnings.
“I know that one of today’s graduates, Omar Mahmood, has faced threats and intimidation because he dared to write political satire about being left-handed in the Michigan Daily and he refused to apologize for it,” Bloomberg said. “Omar, wherever you are out there, I’m glad you stood your ground.”
Rational, reasoning and thinking people do not have to boo, shout, cry or otherwise intimidate away opinions they dislike. If they knew reason, and grasped that reason was on their side, it would be much easier to remain calm without the intervention of crisis counselors and warm, agreeing collectives to “support” them through their pain. The compulsive, psychologically disfigured demands on today’s college campuses for things such as “safe spaces” reveals a profound insecurity in the minds and psyches of not only many students, but their “progressive” professors in the humanities and social sciences who have trained them to be the way they are (not to mention the public school system prior to that.)
I would not want to live a life without the benefit of reason. I cannot imagine how our culture got to the point where universities not only disparage reason and rationality, but seem to be on the verge of outlawing it. The good news is that at least some were cheering Bloomberg’s remarks, trying to override the boos of the irrational mobs. They are the real intellects upon whom the future depends.
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