Trigger warnings are disclaimers that are attached to literature or other content to alert students to potentially traumatic subject matter the literature may contain. The most common types of warnings to date have reportedly involved rape, sexual abuse and mental illness.
Until recently, the warnings were mostly on feminist-oriented Internet message boards and blogs, but now they've gravitated to some of our universities, many of which never found a kooky idea they didn't embrace.
In addition to expanding their jurisdictional scope, they have also increased in their range of forbidden topics. In many venues, trigger warnings now apply to all kinds of isms -- "racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression," as exemplified by an Oberlin College document concerning triggers.
What is the rationale for warning readers that they might encounter these isms in the flagged literature? Well, according to the Oberlin document, "a trigger is something that recalls a traumatic event to an individual. Reactions to triggers can take many different forms; individuals may feel any range of emotion during and after a trigger. Experiencing a trigger will almost always disrupt a student's learning and may make some students feel unsafe in (the) classroom."
Are we to assume that every piece of writing that in some way touches on the subject of racism, for example, will produce an adverse reaction for any reader who has ever experienced any type of racism at any level? Will all writings that describe or depict some form of sexism or perceived sexism spark a traumatic memory for those who have ever been slighted by this ism?
So what if literature causes readers to feel emotions? Isn't that one of its purposes? Even if certain writings evoke certain negative emotions, does it necessarily follow that they "will almost always disrupt a student's learning and may make some students feel unsafe in (the) classroom"?
Isn't it just as likely that emotions spawned by some of these isms will enhance a student's learning? Don't people sometimes learn how not to behave by pointing to examples, real or fictional, of unacceptable behavior? Abraham Lincoln, according to legend, thought Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" did a great deal to educate people to the horrors of slavery and racism. (Even if it's apocryphal, you get the point.)
But even if writings that contain "trigger content" don't necessarily yield positive consequences, do you believe that they almost always disrupt a student's learning or make some students feel unsafe? Are you serious?
How will a student's learning be disrupted by literature that contains such content? Are students really that fragile?
Apparently so, according to some of their fellow students. Recently, student leaders at the University of California, Santa Barbara passed a resolution urging officials to institute mandatory trigger warnings on class syllabuses. Professors who present "content that may trigger the onset of symptoms of" post-traumatic stress disorder would be required to issue advance alerts and allow students to skip those classes.
Yes, skipping classes. That's the answer. That sure won't disrupt the students' learning, now will it?
Like so much of liberalism, this entire trend is insultingly patronizing. It assumes students and whomever else such alerts will be given to are incapable of handling stress, potentially unsettling information or any adverse circumstances whatever. Isn't college supposed to help prepare students for life, as well as impart academic information? How can you prepare a student for life when you shelter him from adversity?
Do some of today's young liberals want cradle-to-grave security to encompass emotional security now, as well as financial dependence on government? What gives these intermeddling types the idea that no one can function in society without their perpetual micromanaging superintendence?
Beyond their apparently low opinion of their fellow human beings, it seems that those behind this warning craze are, like their fellow liberals, just too preoccupied with expanding classes of victimhood, emphasizing groups in society rather than individuals (another sign of their relatively low opinion of human beings) and pitting these various groups against one another.
Why do they want to keep throwing isms in our face? Why do they want to always create new ones? It's obvious that they want to see men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays, etc., in a permanently adversarial state. I don't think most people want to view the world that way.
Personally, I would appreciate it if these troublemakers would lighten up and accept that most of us don't harbor the hostility they must have themselves and want to project onto us. People have enough trouble without officious malcontents trying to forever stir up more.
You all have too much time on your hands. Please get back to your schoolwork and start treating your fellow students with respect -- rather than as emotional invalids, for there is a far better chance you are maladjusted than they are.