The Student Federation's tagline is "educate, agitate, organize." WTF? And these people feel Westerners should be more thoughtful of how we practice yoga. They might want to be more thoughtful on their mandate (and they might want to chill out a little. I hear yoga is good for that ...). But the Student Federation has a right to their feelings. We all do. In fact, it’s law. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that our “fundamental freedoms” include:
· Freedom of conscience
· Freedom of religion
· Freedom of thought
· Freedom of belief
· Freedom of expression
· Freedom of the press
· Freedom of peaceful assembly
· Freedom of association
That means we can think and say what we believe (with clauses against hate speech and obscenity). I can like yoga. I can hate yoga. I can, and do, ignore yoga. You can love it or hate it, too. But neither one of us can cancel classes because of how we feel. Because you know what’s not included in our fundamental freedoms? The freedom to censor. We don’t have that. And we shouldn’t.
Bah – does it matter, Shannon, if they cancel some yoga classes? Yes. It matters. Cancelling yoga classes because it offends a small group of people is the same as banning books for the same reason. No yoga today and no J.D. Salinger tomorrow. Too big of a leap for you? Not convinced (even though history proves me right)?
Microaggressions = macro-offenses?
Read about two new terms, “microaggressions” and “trigger warnings” in this excerpt from The Coddling of the American Mind:
“Two terms have risen quickly from obscurity into common campus parlance. Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that are thought of as a kind of violence. For example, it is a microaggression to ask an Asian American “where were you born?” because this implies that he or she is not a real American.
Trigger warnings are alerts professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. For example, some students have called for warnings that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart describes racial violence and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so students who have been previously victimized by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid these works, which they believe might trigger a recurrence of past trauma.”
Oh, Shannon – that’s just a few hyper-sensitive kids. Nope. From the same article:
“This new climate is slowly being institutionalized, and is affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion. During the 2014–15 school year, for instance, the deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools were presented by administrators at faculty leader-training sessions with examples of microaggressions. The list of offensive statements included: “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.””
Fundamental freedoms for me; not for you
These few hyper-sensitive kids matter. Cancelling yoga classes matters. And when new vernacular is introduced that impacts decision-making about university-level learning, it matters.
We’ve over oscillated. We’re on the extreme left, which is just as dangerous as the extreme right. If we don’t allow people and cultures and ideas to be tested because we can’t discuss our differences or similarities, if we can’t have meaningful conversation, how will we learn anything?
For example, if instead of cancelling the yoga classes, the Student Federation hosted a discussion forum about how to be mindful when we practice yoga, we might have learned that, in Hindi, yoga means “to join,” a lovely sentiment applied to joining the spiritual and physical world but also joining people. We might have also learned that we have the right to feel as we wish about yoga, but we do not have the right to cancel yoga classes based on our feelings. That’s censorship, and we don’t have that right. Maybe someone should teach this course in university …