THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FUCKING STUDENT BUBBLE

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by Robyn Banks

Once upon a time, a man named Tony Blair looked in to a mirror, turned out the lights and repeated ‘Education, education, education’. Little did he know at the time that this event would herald the eventual downfall of civilisation through the birth of a whole new kind of student totally unlike the hardy and privileged students of old. If you come on to UEA campus at night you’ll see these new students, sleeping peacefully in their incubated pods in the library and the lecture halls, wrapped in blankets of bubble wrap and trigger warnings. They’re a bit like adults, these students, but not quite. They’re certainly adult enough to have a tabloid smear campaign waged against them, but, unlike other adults, these students have never seen the outside world.

Born on campus and kept there in the giant student bubble until fully cooked, they are unable to cope with the realities of life outside, and therefore are not adult enough to make their own decisions about what’s good for them. Yet they keep trying, holding their councils and elections and having unions and all sorts of other childish stuff. And we need to do something to stop them, because these students are the future of the country’s workforce and if we don’t incubate them exactly right we might end up with wage slaves who won’t accept a bit of sexual harassment from their boss or the odd racist joke, and what kind of Britain would that be?

From right wing journalism to working class radical movements, nobody seems to be able to contain their upset at the ideas of trigger warnings and safe spaces. Accusations are continually levelled at the student community that we live in some kind of ‘middle class student bubble’ and that avoiding certain topics at university will lead to us being unable to cope with the outside world. Right wingers would like us to stop avoiding the intellectual challenge presented to us by bigots and racists, and the radical working class see us as class traitors simply for attending university in the first place and daring to learn stuff.

Apparently the problem is that we’re spending too much time with our books learning what we want to learn, and not enough time listening to and giving platforms to people who are bigoted, people who are preaching that the earth is flat or people who just want to use our institutions and study spaces to sell controversy. It doesn’t matter how much Kant and Nietzsche you read, you really can’t call yourself educated until you’ve watched Nigel Farage give a slightly drunken and incomprehensible speech about how he should be the Prime Minister while ducking under the flying spittle from the self-righteous froth that forms around the mouths of those who seek alarming levels of power despite their inability to understand simple statistics (see also; George Osborne, Katie Hopkins).

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( © CurrentEvents.Today )

There’s a gaping, awkward hole in this ‘student bubble’ theory, and it’s that we do live in the real world. All of us had to have come from somewhere, and universities are not in space. Most of us have jobs out in the community, families, friends and neighbours at home who aren’t students. People who complain about trigger warnings, no-platforming and safe spaces think that students are protecting themselves from opposing views for fear of being too ‘intellectually challenged’ or because they don’t want to face the harsh realities of the world. But this doesn’t make sense- trigger warnings are there for survivors of trauma to help them avoid flashbacks and PTSD symptoms in public, so in order for them to need a trigger warning in the first place they have to have existing trauma. Which means they probably know a bit more about the harsh realities of life than some sheltered Telegraph columnist, and all they’re asking for is a heads up if they’re going to have to spend an hour discussing their deepest nightmares. Nothing is taken off the syllabus through the introduction of trigger warnings, it’s just a heads up. Is that asking for a bit too much bubble wrap? Apparently so. What victims of violent trauma need is a good old dose of reality!

And when it comes to the accusation, for those without trauma but with the other rather unfortunate ailment of progressive sensibilities, that refusing to engage with certain arguments and ideas is a form of intellectual cowardice- I think this arguments rests on a few rather untenable assumptions. The first is that the arguments we are expected to continually engage in are somehow intellectually challenging, or intellectual at all. I would argue that, for the most part, they are not. Many of these commentators seem like such educated people, yet I have to wonder what kind of university they attended where listening to Z-list sensation peddlers talk about trans women’s genitalia and foreign people with AIDS was considered a compulsory part of education, rather than somewhat vulgar.

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( © Blogging Shakespeare )

And the second is that we ought to attend these events and listen to views we disagree with so that we might engage with and challenge them, because we actually live in a utopia where if I were to simply present UKIP with a set of statistics and logically infallible arguments they would eventually be forced to agree with me and close down. The truth is that we have already engaged with these arguments, in the age of the internet these speakers coming through universities are not telling us anything we don’t know, and most of them are ushered from the premises before a Q&A has even begun. But that doesn’t mean engaging with them would do any good whatsoever and some people shuffled around the university speech circuit are preaching ideas so old and disproven that you can’t help but wonder if there’s been a concerted effort to lower the bar. Up next, Charlie Sheen, to tell us about his tiger blood and promote his new DVD. Not going? It’s because you’re scared of his fierce intellect, right?

This student bubble fallacy rests on the assumptions that we don’t know what’s good for us, don’t have any interaction with some bourgeois columnists idea of ‘the real world’ and don’t have any access to information about possible opposing viewpoints unless we take that room off film club, who did actually book it last week but never mind, and give someone a nice stage to ramble on to about 4 people. It assumes that students might be against certain kinds of politics simply because we are unaware of them, whereas in reality most of us have to engage with these kinds of politics daily in ordinary social interactions. As a premise for an argument against trigger warnings, no platforming, safe spaces, sugar and spice and all things nice, it’s so full of holes this article could have been three times as long. Forgive me if I don’t heed the warnings of people who think that Douglas Carswell presents some kind of intellectual challenge to me, because that, now that – that really is offensive.

Featured image © VoicesEmpower

One thought on “THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A FUCKING STUDENT BUBBLE

  1. These days students attend university for the experience, in the past it was for an education. therein lies the problem, along with an an uncritical imitation of American culture and thinking i.e. campus. Most students seem yo be in love with American educational systems, hardly ever looking to Europe for ideas, simply from a laziness at having not acquired a second language.

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