There are few things I regret in my life, not having attended college is one of them. I had the option to go, I had the opportunity, I just chose a different path. I was an average athlete, average (slightly below) student. I wish I had attended college so I had a better understanding of what happens there. So that I could speak about the environment from first-hand experience, instead of what I think it should be. Instead, I chose to join the military at 17.
I remember the day that my parents signed my enlistment paperwork, I was still a minor and it required their approval. As a parent myself, I can only imagine how my mom and dad felt. Instead of voicing objection, regardless of their own hopes and aspirations, my parents supported me in pursuing mine. They signed on the dotted line and never made a single attempt to talk me out of my decision. Shortly after high school I left Santa Cruz, and have returned for only a few months out of the past twenty years.
I realize that I, and my background are anomalous. I am aware that I hold values and beliefs that are abnormal to many, and that my experiences are not commensurate with most. My beliefs are founded in what I have experienced and seen with my own eyes, not what I have read. Reading is essential, but it is the beginning, not the end. Book knowledge, absent experience, risks a very skewed perspective. To quote General Mattis “It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.” Truer words could not be said.
One of the most vital lessons I learned during my time in service: It doesn’t matter what I want. I cannot shape the battlefield to my will, any attempt to do so is futile. Success is achieved by reading the terrain, the environment, the people, and adapting your plan and actions to fit into the reality of the situation, not what you want the situation to be. Combat is fluid and dynamic. Plans shift, all the time. You expect adversity, you prepare for it, you train for it. That training is the key to your survival.
Training should replicate the demands of the environment you WILL operate in, not the environment you WANT to operate in. Training should exceed the demands of what is likely to be experienced in “real life”. Those tasked with running our training evolutions were individuals from the community who were seasoned with experience. They constantly shifted training evolutions to replicate the demands actually being encountered, not the demands we wanted to face. Reality was never suspended in favor of inclusiveness. Are we meeting this standard with how we are preparing our future generations?
When I was young, my safe space was my home. My safe space was created, curated, and defended by my parents. It was there that I received my moral compass, where it was calibrated, where it was restored. My parents did not prohibit free thinking, they encouraged conversation, they made sure I understood that “I” was safe. They sent me out into the world to have my beliefs and ideas challenged. We owe it to all of our children to do exactly the same thing, and our educational system should support this, not inhibit it. Our educational system should be an insurgency against the mind. An environment where your ideas and beliefs are challenged, stretched, and inspected from every angle. An environment where you are exposed to ideas you do not understand, and potentially do not agree with.
How are we adequately preparing future generations when we strip them of this environment? What lessons are we reinforcing when they are told it is ok to turn away, to actively avoid adversity, hardship, opposing ideas, discourse and failure, only to seek a location where they can take a “time out?” Students are now demanding these spaces under the guise of political correctness and diversity, and institutions are buying it. Diversity is essential, but invoking the term “safety” in order to ban opinions or opposing perspectives is at best counterproductive. Realistically, It’s a ticking time bomb.
These young men and women are demanding spaces where Play Doh, puppy therapy, and coloring books (I’m not joking, look it up) are provided. They are demanding spaces where opposing opinions are not allowed. If this is the standard we set now, how do you expect them to act when they have their hands on the wheel of this country? Some say they will “adapt” later, I have my doubts. Adaptation is a skill, and it is not learned overnight. It needs to be refined, honed, and mastered over time, and repeated exposure. It is best practiced in controlled environments, where failure can be dissected and learned from, not environments that have severe consequences. These institutions of higher learning, that charge fees exceeding the median income in America for one year of “education,” are failing us. They are not preparing future generations for the challenges they will face, with every inch of ground surrendered now a hard-fought battle to regain later.
Where are the safe spaces outside of academia? Where in business, relationships, and encounters at the gas station does the theory of a safe spaces merit their existence? I am not claiming they shouldn’t exist, I am merely stating that I cannot think of a single instance during my 39 laps around the sun where I have seen someone benefit from one, or be afforded one in the wild. What I have seen are ideas earning their merit in the trenches. Ideas proving their worth when challenged and tested, not protected behind the walls of political correctness.
My children are my greatest responsibility, and the only thing of value I will leave behind. There is nothing more unique and special to me, but it is dangerous if they expect the world to see them in the same way. It is my responsibility to test them, to challenge their ideas, to teach them to stand back up when they fall. It is my responsibility to strengthen their resolve, their sense of self, to forge their moral compass, and to prepare them for what they will face every single day beyond the barriers of our home. It is my responsibility to ensure they have the tools to survive. It is the only job I will have in my life that actually matters. If I fail in this job, our society will suffer. When others fail, the rest of us are left picking up the slack, and the crayons from the coloring sessions.
Unless you decide to crawl under a rock for the remainder of your days, you will be surrounded by those that do not share your beliefs. Some will value political correctness; others will use your reliance on it as a weapon. They will see weakness in your perceived moral high ground. It makes you vulnerable, it makes us all vulnerable. We live in a global society, and the rest of the world is not playing for second place.