Syllabi Trigger Warnings?

The New York Times posted “Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm,” which addresses the idea of notify students about what hard issues are involved in the readings on the syllabus.

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…

The debate has left many academics fuming, saying that professors should be trusted to use common sense and that being provocative is part of their mandate. Trigger warnings, they say, suggest a certain fragility of mind that higher learning is meant to challenge, not embrace.

Ms. Loverin [a sophomore at Santa Barbara] draws a distinction between alerting students to material that might truly tap into memories of trauma — such as war and torture, since many students at Santa Barbara are veterans — and slapping warning labels on famous literary works, as other advocates of trigger warnings have proposed.

While I have not thought of this specifically before, I would not be opposed to some applications of trigger warnings–especially for post-traumatic stress disorder issues (such as particularly specific descriptions of battle or rape). General, applied to literature warnings, seems a little odd. Gulliver’s Travels is size-ist. Really?

My favorite sentence in the whole article, however, comes from the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: “It is only going to get harder to teach people that there is a real important and serious value to being offended.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge