Is Your Site A “Dangerous” Place?

In academic circles there is a lot of discussion these days about “safe spaces.”  The term has evolved to mean there should be places where students won’t be confronted by ideas, concepts, or imagery that might challenge them.  One train of thought says the entire campus should be a safe space.

Some (for sure not all) of college-aged folks have created quite a stir.  There are demands for “trigger warnings” before provocative information is shared.  Some propagate avoiding these “triggers” or “microaggressions” altogether.  Exposure to these challenging ideas apparently causes the students to withdraw or shut down. This has caused some to refer to said individuals as “snowflakes” because they are so fragile.  This is not just in the United States.  In Taiwan they are called “strawberries” because strawberries bruise easily.

This past summer my family and I visited Poland and while there we toured the Auschwitz concentration camp compounds.  I was able to follow up that visit with a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, this past fall.  The Holocaust Museum is one of, if not the best, museums I have ever visited.  At both sites I was confronted with painful images and stories of utter horror.  As hard as it was to take in, it had a powerful impact on me and I shall never forget.

Tilden’s Fourth Principle states “The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation.”  I have always highlighted the idea of provocation.  While provocation may stir up various emotions, it is not about making someone angry or hurting someone.  It is about making us think and possibly shaking us free from an incorrect notion.  My campus and your site would be mistaken if we bow to the pressure of being a “safe space.”  Please, never be afraid of being “dangerous!”

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