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Opinion: Why 'snowflakes' are on the wrong track

PUBLISHED: 07:42 28 November 2017

'Snowflakes': Paul Barnes is concerned about how some universities are unwilling to expose students to 'difficult' moral topics.

'Snowflakes': Paul Barnes is concerned about how some universities are unwilling to expose students to 'difficult' moral topics.

Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Opinion: Christmas may be a few weeks away, but the 'snowflakes' are already here, says Paul Barnes.

The song says “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...” something that could have been sung any time from August onwards. Christmas catalogues hit the doormat around the time of my birthday at the end of July. Our first Christmas card arrived in early October, when evenings were still warm enough to sit in the garden and fuel up before going indoors and shouting at Channel Four News.

Will all our Christmases be white? Throughout the year there have been occasional reports of “snowflakes” mostly falling on our colleges and universities. These snowflakes are students of such a delicate disposition that they have to be sheltered by “safe spaces” protected from exposure to arguments, discussions, opinions, ideas and facts that might cause them to quiver with anxiety, the very stuff that universities were established for, challenging and nourishing enquiring minds. Tender types who wilt and melt in the face of such a testing experience surely have no business being there.

There had to be common-sense retaliation to this snowflake business, so it’s three cheers for the grammar school near Canterbury where they’ve created an “unsafe space”, and topics such as sexism, gender confusion, halal slaughter, difficult political arguments and Mein Kampf can be discussed by intelligent youngsters to toughen them up before reaching university. The school’s head is calling it “an antidote to the poison of political correctness”. Sounds good to me; political correctness is not only poisonous but suffocating.

About this time of year, when nights get longer and colder, a few railway books are added to the bedside stack. As I turn the pages in the quiet of the early hours it’s easy to imagine the distant chuffing of a steam-hauled train.

From their very beginnings railways have been of passionate interest to clergymen. The bishop of Wakefield, Eric Treacy, took hundreds of photographs from the Thirties until the Seventies, when he died suddenly as he took pictures of Evening Star, the last steam locomotive built by British Railways.

I’m fond of essays by Canon Roger Lloyd who served at Winchester Cathedral in the 1950s. One item that struck a resonant chord is about train travel as it used to be in those days: “To those who by their calling are much exposed to interruptions from telephones, casual callers, and people coming by arrangement for a talk, trains offer privacy. One of the great points about a railway journey is that nobody can get at you. For the space of time that the journey takes you are free from all interruption … There are many to whom this travelling privacy is a very precious possession, jealously prized and safeguarded.”

Then, quicker than you could say “I’m on the train” your prized travelling privacy was out of the window. The mobile phone arrived; snowflakes probably use them a lot. A safe space that was really worth having was lost.

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