Every quarter more and more students are taking classes that deal with social issues.
Regardless of major, some general education and elective courses are deep rooted or touch on sensitive social subjects.
A lot of these classes are geared toward exposing students to social concepts such as gender issues, politics, race relationships and the state of queer rights among other relevant topics.
At the beginning of such a class it is customary for the professor to preface the course or discussion by warning students against using sexist, racist, classist or queer-phobic language.
The need for making classrooms a safe space for discussion without threat of ridicule or offensive language is crucial.
The protection of students who belong to or know someone who belongs to marginalized and minority groups is at the utmost importance to keep classrooms comfortable and safe for all students.
This task sounds like it should be common sense, but it is no easy feat.
Sometimes students find themselves being sexist, racist or otherwise problematic without even realizing it because they were never socialized to be aware of some of the issues facing minority groups in this country.
As a precaution, students should have to take mandatory safe space training every year to prepare them for such situations.
Students have to take Title IX training that clearly identifies the most common forms of sexual harassment. A similar training should be put in place to outline the most basic ways students can be destructively problematic.
For example, the state of race relations today is a hot button debate topic for some people, while others say the problem has mostly been solved by the civil rights movement and its subsequent efforts to end prejudice.
According to a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute 87 percent of black Americans say black people face an unfair amount of discrimination in the United States, but only 49 percent of white Americans agree.
This may cause some students to have different opinions on matters of race that could lead to offensive terms such as “you people” to reference to minority groups. A safe space training would pinpoint key phrases and stereotypes that can come across as offensive and explain to the student why they shouldn’t be used.
There are hundreds if not thousands of offensive trigger words that are seen as harmful to some groups that majority groups don’t know or think about. This could be just one area of the training.
The training should also include commonly offensive stereotypes and prejudices that should be left out of the classroom.
The overall idea is to inform students on ways that they can come across as offensive or intolerant while discussing sensitive matter.
This is not a way to silence their opinions, but to say them in a manner that starts the discourse while using language that doesn’t come off as aggressive or insulting.
Having such a training could be seen as an infringement on student’s right to speak freely, but it is more of protecting other students’ right to not feel attacked or devalued during instruction.
The problem may seem small to some as people believe that college students are more liberal and accepting, however a Gallup survey states that 78 percent of college students are in favor of campuses where offensive and bias speech is permitted.
Being biased is not necessarily bad.
It may upset people and make for a weak argument but it comes down to a matter of opinion.
However, when that opinion is offensive it becomes unacceptable in a place of higher learning. Students need to learn how to voice their opinions without using offensive language.
When students are well informed they make well informed decisions and arguments which would only better classroom discussion.
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