Trigger Happy?


So, trigger warnings. Trigger warnings and censorship are  in the same family, really. One tells you to watch out, you're not going to like what you're about to see or hear, so make a choice, while the other has taken the choice out of your hands.  One condemns while the other hands  you the choice, along with a socially acceptable escape route. But for trigger warnings, there's a distinct whiff of "for your own good" and "for everyone's greater good" because who's making these decisions, anyway?

Their proliferation begun, perhaps, on feminist and self-help  internet sites that dealt with sensitive issues of sexual abuse, rape, incest, and other topics, as well as PTSD veteran sites, and have spread like wildfire to college campuses. Now, it seems to me, perhaps naively, that there is a huge chasm between date rape and a death-traumatized Marine, not to downplay either condition, but equating them in the context of college literature courses seems wrong.  The most notable incident was UC Santa Barbara being urged by "student leaders" to institute mandatory trigger warnings on class syllabi. Oberlin College advises faculty to "be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism", among others and to remove material that doesn't directly contribute to learning goals and urges them to make "triggering material" (whatever that may be) optional. I hear The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn and Things Fall Apart have fallen into the net here.  There will be many more. The debate about trigger warnings is heating up. Which makes me glad, from the standpoint there's actually a debate and some dissent here.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??   Ahem. You may want to consider this a trigger warning for what comes next.


That whole first part was just a reasoned polite account of what's going on. Here's my actual reaction to this, and I think it's still reasonable but not very tolerant, hence the warning.  Tolerance is overrated, frankly,  but usually keeping your mouth shut isn't. I'm plunging on anyway because after all, this is my blog.  People need to grow up. To put trigger warnings on college content is stupid. The purpose of a college education (at least it used to be) is to educate, enlighten and elucidate. To remove content from a curriculum or allow people to opt out of  studying anything they may find offensive, dismaying or upsettingly alien to them defeats the purpose of education. There is no light without dark, sunlight without rain, white without black, people.  Snow White would be pretty boring without a queen that wanted to cut her heart out, and that's just the fairy tale analogy. There's plenty of worse ones I won't mention that have made people feel, care and react in positive ways.

Oversimplification? I don't think so. We tend to make things overly complicated, looking at every possible permutation and catering to what we find, hence over-political correctness, and it's crippling, culturally, turning us into a country of special little snowflakes that don't take responsibility for themselves but expect everyone else to do so instead.  If you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen... and please don't tell me little Timmy is paralyzed with fear of forks or Mommy had an unsettling incident with red frosting last Valentine's Day.  They'll never learn why or how to deal with it if they fall into three monkeys mode.

To anyone who's thinking about opting out: be brave, take a deep breath, a leap of faith, a step into the unknown, stride forward and seize the opportunity of learning. You have the ability to be discerning and choose what you keep and what you discard, but first you must know it exists in order to make those decisions. It's called education. Trigger that, please, and  you may find something that will make you grow and appreciate who and what  you are. Ignorance and denial are never the right choices.