Isn’t “Trigger Warning” Too Provocative a Term?

Readability

Isn't "Trigger Warning" Too Provocative a Term?

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT — “Trig­ger warn­ings.” As a teacher of lit­er­a­ture, this blows my mind:

Col­leges across the coun­try this spring have been wrestling with stu­dent requests for what are known as “trig­ger warn­ings,” explicit alerts that the mate­r­ial they are about to read or see in a class­room might upset them or, as some stu­dents assert, cause symp­toms of post-​traumatic stress dis­or­der in vic­tims of rape or in war veterans.

Are you kidding?

We have reached the pin­na­cle of the wimp­ing out of Amer­ica. Talk about pansy lightweights…this goes so far beyond the cen­sor­ship debate it’s just unreal.

Jen­nifer Med­ina, report­ing for the New York Times, reports on a grow­ing call for “trig­ger warn­ings” on assigned lit­er­ary read­ings. If this is the new norm, we are doomed. Doomed.

Can you imag­ine To Kill a Mock­ing­bird with a “trig­ger warn­ing”? What is the end result of this? The stu­dent then says, “Oh, I can’t read this book; some­one once used the N-​word on me and now I have trauma.”

What?

What!

Suck it up, peo­ple. This is what a nation of wimps looks like. I’m not with­out com­pas­sion; truly, I’m not. But if you’re going to tell me that you can’t read Invis­i­ble Man because you’ve expe­ri­ence prej­u­dice before, then we have a prob­lem. Inci­den­tally, Invis­i­ble Man is THE most often cited work on the AP exam for Eng­lish. As I recall, there is no “trig­ger warn­ing” on that book or in the AP syl­labus. Should there be?

Med­ina again:

The most vocif­er­ous crit­i­cism has focused on trig­ger warn­ings for mate­ri­als that have an estab­lished place on syl­labuses across the coun­try. Among the sug­ges­tions for books that would ben­e­fit from trig­ger warn­ings are Shakespeare’s “The Mer­chant of Venice” (con­tains anti-​Semitism) and Vir­ginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dal­loway” (addresses suicide).

I guess what they want is a totally san­i­tized syl­labus and a read­ing list of Llama, Llama per­haps. Unless you have a hump, in which case even that might offend you.

Ober­lin Col­lege pub­lished the pol­icy (now under revi­sion) which…

… advised fac­ulty mem­bers to “[u]nderstand trig­gers, avoid unnec­es­sary trig­gers, and pro­vide trig­ger warn­ings.” It defined a trig­ger as some­thing that “recalls a trau­matic event to an indi­vid­ual,” and said expe­ri­enc­ing a trig­ger will “almost always dis­rupt a student’s learn­ing and may make some stu­dents feel unsafe in your classroom.”

Trig­gers are not only rel­e­vant to sex­ual mis­con­duct, but also to any­thing that might cause trauma,” the pol­icy said. “Be aware of racism, clas­sism, sex­ism, het­ero­sex­ism, cis­sex­ism, ableism, and other issues of priv­i­lege and oppres­sion. Real­ize that all forms of vio­lence are trau­matic, and that your stu­dents have lives before and out­side your class­room, expe­ri­ences you may not expect or understand.”

The pol­icy said that “any­thing could be a trig­ger,” and advised pro­fes­sors to “[r]emove trig­ger­ing mate­r­ial when it does not con­tribute directly to the course learn­ing goals.”

Where does it end? You can’t read The Grapes of Wrath any­more because you were once poor and that might illicit trauma for you. Good­bye Julius Cae­sar because you once had friends who stabbed you in the back (lit­er­ally or not) and thus trauma. Good­bye Ham­let: you come from a bro­ken home and we can’t risk stir­ring up that trauma; besides, Ophe­lia com­mits sui­cide and that might pro­voke you to do the same thing. It bog­gles the mind.

Truly, where does it all lead? What is left in the lit­er­ary canon? Will the Bible come with a trig­ger warn­ing? I am against cen­sor­ship in all forms and to me “trig­ger warn­ings” are the same thing; it’s an “opt out” clause.

By the way, are you allowed to even say “trig­ger warn­ing”? Didn’t Sarah Palin get in in trou­ble for some­thing like that?

Allah­pun­dit rounds up the crit­i­cism pretty succinctly.

If we are as a cod­dled soci­ety are now so soft that we now need “trig­ger warn­ings” to tem­per the blow of chal­leng­ing top­ics, we can reduce stu­dents to tears with just a few pro­fane words and some provoca­tive sub­ject matter.

It’s just one more way of shel­ter­ing them from the real word.

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — “Trigger warnings.”  As a teacher of literature, this blows my mind:

Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as “trigger warnings,” explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.

Are you kidding?

We have reached the pinnacle of the wimping out of America.  Talk about pansy lightweights…this goes so far beyond the censorship debate it’s just unreal.

Jennifer Medina, reporting for the New York Times, reports on a growing call for “trigger warnings” on assigned literary readings.  If this is the new norm, we are doomed.  Doomed.

Can you imagine To Kill a Mockingbird with a “trigger warning”?  What is the end result of this?  The student then says, “Oh, I can’t read this book; someone once used the N-word on me and now I have trauma.”

What?

What!

Suck it up, people.  This is what a nation of wimps looks like.   I’m not without compassion; truly, I’m not.  But if you’re going to tell me that you can’t read Invisible Man because you’ve experience prejudice before, then we have a problem.  Incidentally, Invisible Man is THE most often cited work on the AP exam for English.  As I recall, there is no “trigger warning” on that book or in the AP syllabus.  Should there be?

Medina again:

The most vociferous criticism has focused on trigger warnings for materials that have an established place on syllabuses across the country. Among the suggestions for books that would benefit from trigger warnings are Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” (contains anti-Semitism) and Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” (addresses suicide).

I guess what they want is a totally sanitized syllabus and a reading list of Llama, Llama perhaps.  Unless you have a hump, in which case even that might offend you.

Oberlin College published the policy (now under revision) which…

… advised faculty members to “[u]nderstand triggers, avoid unnecessary triggers, and provide trigger warnings.” It defined a trigger as something that “recalls a traumatic event to an individual,” and said experiencing a trigger will “almost always disrupt a student’s learning and may make some students feel unsafe in your classroom.”

“Triggers are not only relevant to sexual misconduct, but also to anything that might cause trauma,” the policy said. “Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand.”

The policy said that “anything could be a trigger,” and advised professors to “[r]emove triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.”

Where does it end?  You can’t read The Grapes of Wrath anymore because you were once poor and that might illicit trauma for you.  Goodbye Julius Caesar because you once had friends who stabbed you in the back (literally or not) and thus trauma.   Goodbye Hamlet: you come from a broken home and we can’t risk stirring up that trauma; besides, Ophelia commits suicide and that might provoke you to do the same thing.  It boggles the mind.

Truly, where does it all lead?  What is left in the literary canon?  Will the Bible come with a trigger warning?  I am against censorship in all forms and to me “trigger warnings” are the same thing; it’s an “opt out” clause.

By the way, are you allowed to even say “trigger warning”?  Didn’t Sarah Palin get in in trouble for something like that?

Allahpundit rounds up the criticism pretty succinctly.

If we are as a coddled society are now so soft that we now need “trigger warnings” to temper the blow of challenging topics, we can reduce students to tears with just a few profane words and some provocative subject matter.

It’s just one more way of sheltering them from the real word.

 

 

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.