RCL #2

In a Time article, the administration of the University of Chicago discussed why freedom of speech is important on their campus and why they’ve banned trigger warnings and safe spaces. By censoring various phrases and ideas from being used on campus, they believe that certain people and their beliefs may not feel accepted, and they, as an institution, want to promote diversity. With students from a wide variety of backgrounds, one of their goals is to ensure that everyone can feel safe to practice and discuss their beliefs. With this idea in place, students at the university can also explore their own beliefs by exposing themselves to the other ideas that are out there, rather than keeping themselves sheltered from potentially controversial ideas.

Similarly, Greg Lukianoff and Johnathan Haidt discuss the concept of “The Coddling of the American Mind” and how college students demanding trigger warnings and protections against certain ideas surrounding free speech is extremely limiting. Not only do trigger warnings and the banning of certain topics prevent students from a misguided view on the world, but it can cause them to be ill-prepared for the future. Out in the real world, no one can really control what anyone may potentially say to anyone else, so by sheltering kids in college, they’re not going to be ready for what may come after they leave their bubble.  Controversial and potentially harmful and discriminatory topics are never going to cease to exist. So, instead of creating an environment where these topics are barred from being talked about, they should rather be encouraged to be discussed in order to create these intellectual conversations to occur.

Another point that Lukianoff and Haidt address is the use of trigger warnings to prevent people from reading or listening to something that may give cause them to experience PTSD or anxiety due to past traumatic events. Although this seems like a great idea, there’s actually proof that, psychologically, the best way to treat PTSD and fears is actually through exposure therapy rather than avoiding the problem. Pavlov’s discoveries with people using exposure therapy to get over certain phobias is actually very effective; so, while people think that avoiding their fears will cause less stress, the opposite is in fact more verified.

These articles will ameliorate our second approach of our deliberation where we discuss the positives of the freedom of speech on campus. The idea that the freedom of speech provides suitable conditions for controversial beliefs to be discussed, therefore exposing impressionable minds to new ideas, is one of our main points. Although we believe that some restrictions may be necessary, this section is to focus on why it’s important. By implementing the ideas in these articles to our discussion, we can have a clearer and more justifiable “argument” per say.

Works Cited
Desk, Ideas. “University of Chicago: ‘We Do Not Support Trigger Warnings’.” Time, Time, 25 Aug. 2016, time.com/4466021/uchicago-trigger-warnings/.
Lukianoff, Greg, and Johnathan Haidt. “The Coddling of the American Mind.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 July 2017, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/.

RCL #1: Deliberation

Deliberation title: WE ARE… Free To Speak. Or Are We?

Description of the deliberation: We’re planning to talk about free speech and the institutions of safe spaces on college campuses, specifically Penn State’s campus. We want to question what the definitions for free speech really mean, and where would (or could) any restrictions lie. What right does the school, as a public university, have to control certain aspects of “free” speech, if any, that does not go against the constitution. Of course we are free to speak, but where is the line drawn to where restrictions need to be put in place; for example harassing or harming other students, professors, or faculty members. We will also bring up the idea of safe spaces, and what constitutes a safe space. We’ll start with the negatives of free speech and how the ability to say whatever you want, whenever, can be threatening to others, and can even lead to violence or unsafe conditions. Then, we’ll bring up the positives of free speech and how it’s good to have a wide variety of ideas out and to be able to discuss controversial topics. Then, we plan to discuss current and possible future policies that we have in place, and what is lawful and should/ should not be done about them, especially as a public institution.

Your role(s): Taking on the second approach (positives of free speech), and researching/ forming the ideas surrounding the topic. Also possibly the moderator.

What you’re currently working on (individually or with your mini team): My group (Marinelle and I) are currently working on researching the facets of free speech and safe spaces and the benefits they have, especially on college campuses.

This I Believe: The Power in Language

The Power in Language


During the winter of freshman year, my French class had the opportunity to travel to the charming city of Quebec. We were free to roam around town all we’d like, except we had one rule: we could only speak in French. However, when we were on the spot, simple words such as “please” seemed to slip our minds. Although most people appreciated our attempts to speak French, they would nonetheless laugh, be disenchanted or sometimes even irritated, and would just resort to speaking English.

Just as we decided to give up and attempt to spare our dignity, two very amicable teenage girls standing in front of us in line on top of the snow-capped mountain of the ski-slope whipped their heads around when they heard us talking. With beautiful french accents they emphatically asked us where we were from. We told them where and that we were there in Quebec on a trip with our French class. That information somehow made them filled with even more joy, evident by their beaming smiles, as they walked closer to us and immediately started speaking to us in French, rapidly asking all sorts of questions. My friends and I probably looked like deers in headlights. Our blank stares made it clear that we were oblivious to what they were saying, and the girls just laughed, much like everyone else had.

Except, their laughs were different. They weren’t snickering at our ignorance, but instead delightedly chuckling at the opportunity they had at hand. They told us they wanted to practice their English, and clearly, we needed to practice our French. We hopped out of line, sat down on the icy snowbank, and decided to have a bilingual conversation; they were only going to speak to us in English, and we we’re only going to speak to them in French, respectfully helping each other out along the way.  We talked to each other in depth about what our lives were like. We spoke about things like our hometowns, friends, school and what we did for fun. We were sitting there, in the below freezing snow, for about forty-five minutes just talking to each other, and laughing, just as any other group of teenagers would do. Though I couldn’t tell you their names, and although we did not keep in touch, I’ll never forget the time we shared. It was the most fun we’d had on the whole trip, and getting to know these girls and learn about each other’s lives was an eye-opening experience. Though we learned many similarities about our cultures, learning about everything new and different was so intriguing. Our French skills we’re definitely not as efficient as their English skills, but with both our patience and eagerness, we made the best of it.

The embarrassing language barrier that we had been encountering on our trip up until this moment seemed to fade, almost to nonexistence. Instead, it became a bridge that connected our two cultures. The impact of this seemingly insignificant encounter left me with such a greater appreciation for the ability to have an education in a foreign language. I believe that harboring the knowledge of at least one language other than your primary one, is the key that opens the door to the one of the beautiful wonders of our world that is diversity.

Anyone can travel abroad, or in my case even just five hours across the border, and simply view another culture from the outside. However, until you attempt to actually immerse yourself in the culture, and put in effort to communicate with the people native to the area, you’ll never get the best experience you can truly have. Of course there’s a lot in this world that many people will never have the opportunity to see and appreciate, but exploring other cultures can be a lot easier than it looks. Consider the perspective of the Quebec girls: you could be just fifteen minutes from your home, but when you possess even a basic understanding of another language, you could amazingly be someone else’s foreign experience, and inevitably creating one of your own.