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Is truth-telling not inherently a practice which is dependent on discomfort?

Some on the "left", as well as those others who count themselves among "progressives", are at risk of becoming the very parodies and caricatures that conservatives mock and imagine them to be.

The New York Times' piece on "trigger warnings" offers up a troubling picture of "political correctness" run amok at some colleges and universities:

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Should students about to read “The Great Gatsby” be forewarned about “a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence,” as one Rutgers student proposed? Would any book that addresses racism — like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” or “Things Fall Apart” — have to be preceded by a note of caution? Do sexual images from Greek mythology need to come with a viewer-beware label?

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.
The warnings, which have their ideological roots in feminist thought, have gained the most traction at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the student government formally called for them. But there have been similar requests from students at Oberlin College, Rutgers University,the University of Michigan, George Washington University and other schools.

In a college and university educational environment where learning has become secondary to pleasing the customer as measured by inaccurate and disingenuous student evaluations, the increasingly ubiquitous trigger warning threatens to stifle learning in the interest of preserving the (emotional and often narcissistic) peace.

The Times continues:

Meredith Raimondo, Oberlin’s associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the guide was meant to provide suggestions, not to dictate to professors. An associate professor of comparative American studies and a co-chairwoman of the task force, Ms. Raimondo said providing students with warnings would simply be “responsible pedagogical practice.”

“I quite object to the argument of ‘Kids today need to toughen up,’ ” she said. “That absolutely misses the reality that we’re dealing with. We have students coming to us with serious issues, and we need to deal with that respectfully and seriously.”
But Marc Blecher, a professor of politics and East Asian studies at Oberlin and a major critic of trigger warnings at Oberlin, said such a policy would have a chilling effect on faculty members, particularly those without the job security of tenure.

“If I were a junior faculty member looking at this while putting my syllabus together, I’d be terrified,” Mr. Blecher said. “Any student who felt triggered by something that happened in class could file a complaint with the various procedures and judicial boards, and create a very tortuous process for anyone.”

The classroom ought to be a space of mutual respect where students are taught to dialogue with one another and the instructor in the pursuit of empirical and philosophical Truth. We should also be mindful of the various experiences that all of us bring to a given learning space. On practical grounds this raises some questions and challenges. Do we teach to the weakest or the strongest in the room? Should instructors teach to the "median" student with the hope that the best students are not too bored and the weakest students not discouraged?

And how do those of us who teach "sensitive subjects" (this is a term I have become increasingly familiar with--and one that I think is pretty damn accurate--in the post civil rights era, neoliberal classroom where "diversity" and "multiculturalism" are dealt with as obligations and obligatory requirements and hurdles, akin to getting one's drivers license when a teenager, as opposed to rigorous and potentially transformative topics embedded within serious and established fields of study) perform that balancing act?

I, like many of you who work in higher education, have witnessed how the best intentions which led to "trigger warnings" (in the classroom and online) can do a disservice to students' (and the general public's) emotional and intellectual growth. Instead of dealing with challenging speech, I have seen students retreat to specially prepared "safe rooms". Challenging speakers and guests are not approached on their own terms; rather, they are judged to be dangerous and uncomfortable for the university community, the mere presence of the former is a threat to the "learning community".

Modern, Western, "First World" society, is typified by the many ways that the state shields its members from "unpleasantness" and "filth".

For example, death has been taken out of the home and is now handled by funeral homes and the mortician. We go to supermarkets to buy our meat so that the industrialized killing that produces it can be separated from the end result, i.e. our meal. The United States' military apparatus of the United States kills people everyday, and its own soldiers suffer, in order to secure resources under the lying banner of "democracy" and "freedom"--what is really wasteful consumerism in which capitalism and democracy are made the same thing--and the American people are shielded from both the process and the outcome of Imperial Violence. Thus, when blowback arrives, they look on like ignoramuses, complicit in their own suffering, mouths agape, asking "why do they hate us so?" "Why do they hate our way of life and our freedoms?" as the towers fall.

For those individuals who are willing to agree to basic principles of good governance and comportment, civil society should be based on mutual respect among its members. Trigger warnings when taken to excess and extremes threaten to be devices of censorship which circumvent the difficult conversations and discomfort that is necessary for citizens to fight and advocate for the Good Society and a proper communicative democracy.

Schools are where citizens are socialized into a society's norms and values.

Subsequently, what type of students are being created when difficult conversations are prefaced by a "warning", and then said students can then find a way to remove themselves from that unpleasant interaction?

And are so-called liberals and progressives aware that they are giving conservatives, especially racist reactionary white conservatives, a loaded gun that will inevitably pointed at their foes with the defense that "talking about racism and white privilege makes me upset or uncomfortable and I don't want to be in this class!"

Or in the worst case scenario, what will liberals and progressives do when conservatives, being far better organized on the collegiate level than their peers, conspire to use "trigger warnings" as a way of bullying faculty who they have targeted for dismissal in a moment where too many administrators are cowards, cogs in the corporate university?

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm not opposed to the warning as long (7+ / 0-)

    as content is not censored and that the assigned work in the syllabus is still completed by all students. University students are old enough to make an informed choice and a trigger warning as part of the course description will allow the student to take another course.

    •  but what if the warning is a way of checking out (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina, buddabelly

      and avoiding the very difficult subject matter as a way of remaining intellectually safe?

      •  Then you have someone who is playing with (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Penny GC, IamGumby

        the meaning of a valid concept in order to justify something that does not come under the concept.

        I am reminded of a diary a couple of months ago where the poster was evidently a fan of dead animal pictures. The diary was used as an excuse to post some of his favorites.

        What's your excuse for publishing what might, in fact, be a triggering photo in a diary which did not need one? You could have made your entire point, whatever it was, without it.

        At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

        by serendipityisabitch on Tue May 20, 2014 at 01:44:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  that is, though, what's going to happen. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tardis10, serendipityisabitch

          people are currently using a valid concept to justify something that doesn't come under the concept.

          I just don't think courtesy can be mandated, and that's what I'm reading some people seem to want.

          Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

          by terrypinder on Tue May 20, 2014 at 03:35:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, of course it can't be mandated, and just as (4+ / 0-)

            well. Half the best pie fights wouldn't happen.

            The diarist is supposedly asking a question in the title - that s/he provides said potential trigger immediately (not one of mine, thankfully) makes a mockery of the question, in my very own humble opinion.

            If the intent was to gross out the audience, just for the hell of it, it probably failed. I can't think of another legitimate reason for the placement, though.

            At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

            by serendipityisabitch on Tue May 20, 2014 at 04:00:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't know if he's making fun of it (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              serendipityisabitch, Paragryne

              but, as a courtesy, I would have put the picture below the fold.

              Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

              by terrypinder on Tue May 20, 2014 at 04:40:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I have a feeling I'm missing some back story (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                moviemeister76, joegoldstein

                on this discussion. Do you have a link to what seems to have set this off?

                At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

                by serendipityisabitch on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:33:15 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's been all over the blogosphere (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  serendipityisabitch

                  This articulates pretty well some of the dangers inherent in a system trying to implement trigger warnings. Some of the comments are good, too. I think the main problem is that too many people confuse actual triggers and mere discomfort.

                  Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

                  by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:50:47 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Okay. I was thinking that someone had been (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    moviemeister76, joegoldstein

                    doing some carping on somebody's usage or lack of it here, and the pie was starting to fly because of it. Relieved sigh.

                    At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

                    by serendipityisabitch on Tue May 20, 2014 at 06:00:10 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  lol I see what you mean (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      serendipityisabitch

                      Naw, as far as I can tell, this is the first time it's been brought up here in terms of applying to an academic setting.

                      In my experience, this is a fairly good place when it comes to trigger warnings in diary titles and for pictures and subjects.

                      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

                      by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 06:12:16 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

        •  um no. I do not self-censor (0+ / 0-)

          in order to make others feel comfortable or accommodated. I suggest that you write your own diary in your own voice in a style that is acceptable to you. I will not hide the truth of white on black racial terrorism to suit anyone's sensibilities or comfort level.

  •  Nope. Sorry. (4+ / 0-)

    I'm sure you have a cogent point of view. I bet I even agree.
    But that picture?
    Sure, slap me in the face, then tell me your story.

  •  "Reader discretion advised." (8+ / 0-)

    I hate the phrase "trigger warning". I admit it. I think it's fair to say "Hey, there's disturbing stuff in this (book/video/photograph collection), so be ready for it, or don't read/view/listen" though.

    I fully admit the disdain for the phrase "trigger warning" is almost entirely an emotional reaction though.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:11:51 PM PDT

    •  I think the term "trigger warning" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kingfishstew

      implies a weakness of mind that's insulting.  There are a handful of people who truly are going to be triggered by a graphic depiction of rape or a lynch mob.  But reading the Great Gatsby shouldn't reduce the average person to a quivering mess, as the term implies.  

  •  I read that on Sunday... (3+ / 0-)

    as did the better half, and we pondered the kinds of trigger-warnings we'd have had to write for the classes we've taught over the years. The lists quickly became ridiculous.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:12:43 PM PDT

    •  Leaving discretion with professors is the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      moviemeister76, angry marmot

      best call.  When we studied rape in law school, the professor handled the entire thing very tactfully and suspended the use of the socratic method for that portion of the class (basically, no one would have to talk if they didn't want to).  I trust professors to handle tough issues professionally.  

      •  Why would you trust all of them? (0+ / 0-)

        I had some amazing and thoughtful professors while in university. I also had some professors who were absolutely clueless when it came to the idea that there may be rape survivors in their class. I also had some professors who were straight up racist and/or sexist. No way would I trust all of them.

        Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

        by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 03:10:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think trigger warnings can be a good thing (6+ / 0-)

    As long as professors use them the way most people use them now, which is just a heads up to people who could possibly be triggered by something. In fact, I could have used a trigger warning one time when a professor brought something in to class to read to us out of the blue. He read a description of horrific physical abuse, and I started having flashbacks right there in the classroom, which led to heart palpitations. It ended up being a miserable experience for me as I couldn't communicate coherently for the entire class.

    If I had been warned before hand that he would be reading it, or if he would have assigned us to read it on our own, I could have gone through the procedure I go through to prevent the physical reaction I had. Being caught unawares while in the middle of a classroom was traumatic.

    Having written all that, my big worry about the use of trigger warnings in universities is that they will primarily be used to warn students that they will be dealing with stuff that just makes them uncomfortable, not something triggering. My biggest fear is that it will lead to "warnings" that a class will be discussing stuff like white privilege.

    Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

    by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:14:10 PM PDT

    •  should there be a trigger warning on life (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, raptavio, buddabelly, kingfishstew

      then? I am not being trite, I mean that in a serious way.

      •  Of course not (7+ / 0-)

        However, what is wrong with warning students who suffer from PTSD due to physical abuse, rape, war, etc. that something that will be discussed in class could trigger their PTSD? I mean, how difficult is it just to provide a warning, thus saving any student from a possible traumatic experience?

        And read what I wrote again: I was completely useless in class that day. I was not only going through a traumatic experience, I could not add to the discussion. If the professor had given me a heads up, I could have actually participated in class that day like I normally did.

        Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

        by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:32:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I used to show a movie in class (4+ / 0-)

          that had a scene of sexual assault -- Thelma & Louise. I'd warn students the class session before, and let them know it was fine if they wanted to leave during that scene and that I'd probably leave, as well.

          I've had many, many students who have survived sexual assault or knew someone who had, and I didn't see any need for them to have to watch this particular scene.

          So while I think "trigger warnings" can be misused -- and I'm not sure where the line should be drawn -- I think it's only fair to give fair warning about something that might be a little too close to a student's personal trauma.

          People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them. --Eric Hoffer

          by fiddler crabby on Tue May 20, 2014 at 02:15:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Maybe they just disagree with the professor (2+ / 0-)

      and don't want to waste their time in the class.

      I think the concept of trigger is silly.  You ought to be able to just put the book down if it troubles you and get the Cliff Note version or whatever kids use today to not read the book assigned.

      But I don't have any problem at all with kids knowing what kind of stuff the professor is going to be teaching and if they don't want to hear about it why shouldn't they be able to choose a different class?  I certainly did that when I was majoring in the liberal arts.  There is more than enough stuff out there to learn and you might as well get your money's worth learning about subjects that interest you not whatever the professor is obsessed with ranting about to a captive audience.  

      •  Did you read what I wrote? (7+ / 0-)

        The professor was the one doing the reading. Out loud in the class. If I had been the one reading it, it would have been a very different outcome. I could have just stopped reading it.

        And the reason I worry about certain things, is because I know most white students would avoid classes that actually dealt with white privilege if they knew it was going to be brought up beforehand. And that's a bad thing.

        And how on Earth is what I went through silly? The whole idea of "trigger" is that people who have experienced severe trauma don't always get over it, or take years to do so, and in that time, certain things can "re-trigger" that trauma. This is an established fact. This is what PTSD is. What is so silly about that?

        Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

        by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:46:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's already out of control... (0+ / 0-)

      We have a student/faculty "study" group at our institution working on recommendations for trigger warnings. I'm told the first draft has something like 110 potential "triggers" that should be warned against. I'm assured that the final recommendations will contain less than 75 potential triggers, but it might take awhile because some participants feel quite strongly about the necessity of protecting certain victims from unpleasantness.

      I could be all for this if it was simply a suggestion that a gentle reminder be provided when depicting or discussing violent death or violent sexual assault. However, it can never be just about that. Everything else that might bother someone always needs to be discussed and it is always necessary to blame the terrible authorities for forcing poor students to sit through such traumatic materials. Other than the death and sexual stuff, I just don't see it. I think most of us are just going to go into CYA mode with a general disclaimer in our syllabus and forget about it. Who knows if some gender identity activist will be traumatized when I lecture about chirality!

      •  Heh (0+ / 0-)

        I find it amusing that the fan fiction community was able to handle all of this years ago with little to no issue whatsoever, but the academic community is acting like its hair is being set on fire.

        Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

        by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 09:40:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, then that's fine... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          moviemeister76

          As I said above, we will all just go with some general rating of our course like "For Mature Audiences Only" and go on about our business. If all we need to do is have a general course rating like the movies or comics or whatever, then there won't be much of a complaint at all. I don't see what good that would possibly do, but it certainly is doable. If however, we are going to need to identify and warn which of 75 triggers might be present in a book, video clip, lecture or discussion, then that is going to get laughed out of the room. It is much more intrusive than what might already be in use in any certain genre at this point.

          •  If it's any help (2+ / 0-)

            I was only triggered one time in all the years I was in college, and I have a history degree. I took classes on all sorts of terrible subjects, read about rape, horrific war crimes, intense brutality. Much of it made me uncomfortable and even upset, for sure, but none of it actually triggered a flashback and panic attack. And the one time I was triggered, it only occurred because the professor brought something in completely out of the blue that wasn't on the syllabus. He read out loud the graphic description of a man who had his male friends hold his wife down while he proceeded to beat her half to death. I think it was just the fact that it was out of the blue, and completely different from anything else we had read or even discussed that semester.

            Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

            by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 10:35:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well...I'm not sure how that all related... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              serendipityisabitch

              to the class objectives, but that does seem like a rather dickish think to do to a class. I can certainly support some kind of "notice" about violent sexual or bodily injury stuff - I really can support stuff like that.

              However, some people seem to feel that images or discussions of pollution should be warned about...

              Or images of fire or the results of a fire...

              Or images of flooding...

              Or individuals doing drugs or drinking alcohol...
              (Some faculty members also apparently felt that anything to do with cigarettes should be warned about because there might be ex smokers in the class who could be "triggered".)

              Or nature scenes where predators are chasing or eating prey...

              Or any kind of scene of storm damage - tornado, hurricane, etc. ...

              Or any kind of prison scene...

              Or any image of the police in general...

              Or any kind of military scene or reference...

              Or any of over 100 other triggers in the case of our institution...

              I think you get the idea.

  •  I think people need to toughen up. (5+ / 0-)

    We live in a harsh world. Sooner or later, trigger warning or not, you're going to see or experience something disturbing. Best to prepare for it instead of demand to be sheltered from it.

    •  From the article: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice, zerelda
      “I quite object to the argument of ‘Kids today need to toughen up,’ ” she said. “That absolutely misses the reality that we’re dealing with. We have students coming to us with serious issues, and we need to deal with that respectfully and seriously.”
      Depending on the class, I have announced on the first day something along the line of "we're going to be dealing with some challenging materials." But I just can't get behind the idea of a blanket trigger-warning.

      Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

      by angry marmot on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:25:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, no (4+ / 0-)

      Speaking as someone who actually was triggered while in a classroom, I don't think you have any idea what you're talking about. Do you have any idea the kind of stuff those of us who suffer from PTSD have to actually go through to prevent an all-out meltdown? Why the hell should anyone have to do that just to go to every single class?

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:36:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You forget, there are two very different basic (6+ / 0-)

      responses to a triggering experience. Your reply brought up one of mine that I just barely controlled - fortunately for the person doing the triggering.

      My dentist couldn't understand why I was shaking for half an hour after she took a full lower impression without telling me what she was going to do "because I might have tensed up". She didn't understand that I almost broke her arm before I stopped myself. The adrenaline surge was incredible.

      Telling someone else that they need to "toughen up" suggests that you haven't - yet - run across one of your own strong triggers.

      Giving fair warning when you may be about to cause discomfort is a legitimate part of being a civilized human being. If you're wrong, and there was no need, fine. If there was, then you can avoid harm to someone pretty easily.

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Tue May 20, 2014 at 01:35:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Stupid policy (3+ / 0-)

    The whole line of thought leads eventually to questioning if holocausts have occured, not only in Nazi Germany but also in early America. And, yeah, the lynching thing. If you don't see it, then why believe it?  Censorship in universities, even if it is just suggestion, is just plain idiotic and highly ironic.

    How are you going to stop history from repeating itself if you don't show the horribleness of it all? Answer - you don't.

    If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. -George Washington

    by Tank Mountaine on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:28:33 PM PDT

  •  Not traveling in the right circles, no doubt, (6+ / 0-)

    leaves me wondering what, exactly, is meant by the term "trigger warning" in this piece, what kind of audience it refers to.

    At a domestic violence shelter, for example, where we might expect to find trauma victims, not a few of them suffering from PTSD, a trigger warning would be more than appropriate before showing, say, an educational video about domestic violence that contains graphic depictions.

    Many would say that's only "common sense," given the likelihood that at least a few of the viewers might actually be "triggered," in the formal, technical sense of the term, into a dissociative re-experiencing state. Especially if attendance at the showing were mandatory, failure to give a trigger warning amounts to such a predictable infliction of psychic harm as to raise questions of criminality.

    If you're talking about something less than that kind of situation, perhaps you're not really talking about "trigger" warnings, and blurring that line isn't really helpful to discussion.

    War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

    by DaNang65 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:30:04 PM PDT

    •  Yes (6+ / 0-)

      A lot of people are trying to muddy the waters in this discussion. Trigger warnings have always been about warnings to people who have already experienced physical and emotional trauma to let them know that that type of trauma is about to be introduced again. It's always been to protect survivors of rape and physical abuse and war, and to give them the space they might need to handle it in their own time.

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:39:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm opposed to mandatory trigger warnings (6+ / 0-)

    which it seems is what a group is advocating for.

    As a courtesy, if someone chooses, I'm okay with them. But I have to wonder about someone taking a course that uses Things Fall Apart as one of its readings needing a trigger warning for "colonialism."

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility. uid 52583 lol

    by terrypinder on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:32:26 PM PDT

    •   Joseph Conrad (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Penny GC

      "Heart of Darkness".  There's colonialism for you.

      Photos and film from WW II Nazi death camps?  "Man's inhumanity to Man" barely covers it.

      I dunno, I'm not a clinical psychologist.  Everyone's wired differently, and have different responses, sometimes dependent on their personal experiences.

      I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

      by tom 47 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 02:43:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Which begs the question, in this day and age is (0+ / 0-)

      pictorial knowledge a requirement for true understanding of the subject matter? I mean, if one student can - for instance - visually identify the context of something horrible and another student can't because they couldn't bear to look at it during their education, should both students be considered to have equally mastered the material?

  •  Just to add to the conversation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    serendipityisabitch, Penny GC

    Here is a list of essays written by Melissa McEwan discussing trigger warnings, and why she uses them.

    Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

    by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:48:08 PM PDT

    •  I used to read Shakesville and I found (0+ / 0-)

      some of the trigger warnings to be absurd.  She included a trigger warning for a video of two small dogs play-fighting.  She's free to do whatever she wants on her website, but I have to take anything she says on the subject with a grain of salt.  

      •  She did it at the request of a reader (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        serendipityisabitch

        I mean, who are any of us to tell one person that his or her trauma is real and another that his or her trauma is not? So Melissa goes with the rule that if a reader says something is traumatizing, then she puts a trigger warning. It literally takes very little extra time for her to do it.

        I read her site every week, and for the trigger warnings that have nothing to do with my own personal trauma, I just ignore them. Why should it matter to me that a video or picture of a dog baring his teeth might be traumatizing to someone? I'm certainly not going to mock that person, as I know how it feels to have my own trauma mocked by people.

        Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

        by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 03:06:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The problem with "trigger warning" (5+ / 0-)

    is that the term has gained currency to the point where it's overused, and often for things it shouldn't be.  The phenomenon is very, very real and should never be approached casually.

    It is impossible to predict what will trigger whom, or how.  That said, statistically at least one of every four women and one of every seven men in the US has been, is now, or will be a victim of domestic violence and/or sexual and/or physical abuse.  With that in mind, it is reasonable to assume that depictions of violence are likely to trigger clinical symptoms in at least one -- and probably more -- given virtually any sample the size of a university lecture class.  With that in mind, some sort of disclosure is prudent if the material is particularly graphic.  How graphic is graphic?  If you have to ask, it probably is.

    I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

    by mojo11 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 12:56:48 PM PDT

  •  When last I checked... (5+ / 0-)

    ...we expected college/university students to act as adults.

    By the time the vast majority of students reach institutions of higher/post-secondary education, they can drive, vote, purchase firearms, enlist in military service without parental consent, secure credit, watch any movie they like (in the US), adopt children (in most US states) and marry without parental consent. By the time most students graduate from higher/post-secondary education, you can add the sale/purchase of alcohol to that list.

    At some point, we all have to deal with the fact that both life in general and academic/literary pursuits in particular often present images and thoughts which may disturb us. The notion that we should preemptively label everything with "trigger warnings" is, effectively, a hole with no bottom.

    As others have mentioned, there's also the "where does it end?" dilemma. Is there some magic mental switch that flips on one's 21st birthday, or when one receives a college degree, that renders the question moot?

    I see no reason for anything more descriptive than "mature subject matter" or something akin to simple G/PG/R/X ratings; in other words, let's use the same sort of system that we use for adults in other areas. I see no reason to inventory every book, work of art, or collection of lecture notes and compile a list of every "trigger" that could possibly disturb a student. If we expect students in higher education to be adults, what other approach would be appropriate?

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 01:05:02 PM PDT

  •  "Life is a box of chocolates" (2+ / 0-)

    As Forrest said, "You never know what you'll get".   University exists to prepare kids for life, and life does not always come with trigger warnings.      

    Instead of "trigger warnings", why don't we include in our orientation classes at college instruction that students who are concerned about the content of their reading material have a responsibility to check on the material, themselves.   READ THE REVIEWS.    

    I did this just a couple months ago, when my daughter was assigned a book in her class.  I had never heard of the book, so I checked the reviews.   I saw that it was about a the experiences of a teenage Jewish boy in two Nazi concentration camps.   I saw that it had several awards.  That it was considered appropriate for a teenage audience (whatever "appropriate" means in the context of horrific torture, starvation and death).  Then, I warned my child what she was about to read and I read it myself.    If a University student doesn't know how to find out more about the book they are about the read, they need to learn how.

     

  •  I believe the kids who are in college now grew up (2+ / 0-)

    in a Disneyfied world where television shows and video games have ratings.  While on IMDB I noticed the parental warnings which in some cases lists by scene every 4-letter word uttered, every situation that involved nudity etc.  Hey, I get it.  If you are a parent and want to know if you should buy or rent a movie for your kid makes sense, but come on!  They are in college!  They are going to read and see a lot of stuff that makes one uncomfortable.  It's called life and there is no warning label for that.

    •  I had to laugh when a 'Christian Family Film' type (0+ / 0-)

      organization tried to sell me a cleaned up version of a popular movie. Their version had no really bad words, but all the cavalier attitude towards stealing, gossip, and disrespect for authority in the original version was still intact. I tried to explain why I didn't like either version of the movie but to no avail.

      We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

      by nuclear winter solstice on Tue May 20, 2014 at 01:30:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  After reading the comments... (6+ / 0-)

    ...I think a lot of people misunderstand who trigger warnings are for. They aren't designed to protect people who have never experienced trauma, to shield young people from the horrors of the world. They are designed to help the people who by the very trauma they have experienced already know how terrible the world can be.

    Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

    by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 02:05:31 PM PDT

  •  anyone here teach any veterans? (5+ / 0-)

    can you not see how it would be an issue in your classroom?

    Of course, we shouldn't shrink from learning the horrors of human history.

    But, can you honestly say it helps learning to expose certain people to literature, photos, film, etc. that very likely  will make them unable to function mentally for hours at a time?

    How will you grade them on that?

    It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

    by sayitaintso on Tue May 20, 2014 at 02:21:59 PM PDT

    •  Yep (3+ / 0-)

      Many of my classmates were veterans. Heck, some of them were still active duty. And some of them definitely had their trigger issues. When professors didn't take that into account, especially when showing video footage of war scenes, it always caused problems in the class.

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 02:37:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No trigger warnings for this PTSD survivor (7+ / 0-)

    I learned the hard way that I can't count on other people to understand, much less accommodate, the difficulties inherent to life with PTSD.

    My last year of college, I had a major debilitating episode of PTSD that coincided with my final exams.  

    I missed one of my exams without giving notice to anybody - I just didn't show up. It was a class required for my degree - fail it, and I would miss graduation.

    I was able to make arrangements in advance to delay the two other exams I had left, and took them a few days later without any problems.

    But the professor for the one that I missed was unyielding - since I didn't give him any notice until the next day, I could not retake the exam. Neither a note from my therapist nor the intervention of the student health center would get him to yield - only a visit to the ER would have been sufficient.

    Fortunately, I had done well enough on my other coursework that he could still pass me with a D, even if I had a zero on the exam.

    You can imagine what a heartless bastard I thought he was at the time.  But in retrospect, he taught me an important lesson: the rest of the world is not responsible for my PTSD. If I want to compete with my peers on equal terms, I have to figure out how to take responsibility for my own health.

    My only other option is to request accommodation for my PTSD from everyone I meet, in advance, inviting all kinds of unwelcome if well-meaning questions about my past.

    I choose not to go through life with PTSD stamped on my forehead.  Then I have to deal with everyone else's impressions of what someone with PTSD needs, instead of asking directly for what I need when I need it.

    Over that summer, I worked with my therapist to put some a better care plan in place so that I would be able to reach out for help sooner during major episodes.  I was fortunate that EMDR therapy worked well for me, too so that I have many fewer of them today.

    If I don't want to go through life in a bubble, I'm going to encounter stuff that triggers me.   It's not reasonable to expect everyone, most of whom do not have severe PTSD, to anticipate the reaction that anyone else may have to stories and images that are disturbing in that particular way.

    It's certainly not reasonable to expect trigger warnings in places, like college-level classes, where they interfere with teaching difficult material to responsible adults.

    I can't control the people around me and sometimes I can't control my own internal reactions, but I do much better when I focus on what I can control.

    I've found it far more empowering to put my own support structures in place so that no one need know about my PTSD unless I choose to tell them or need to ask for help.  

    "He not busy being born is busy dying" -- Bob Dylan

    by Kascade Kat on Tue May 20, 2014 at 02:33:57 PM PDT

    •  That's awesome that you have been able to do that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Penny GC, terrypinder

      And I truly mean that. Getting over a PTSD incident is nothing to sneeze about.

      But I strongly disagree with the idea that the entire burden of dealing with trauma should be placed on the survivor. Honestly, which is more burdensome: a professor having to give a trigger warning or a survivor who is triggered due to lack of warning?

      I understand we live in a society in which, as a culture, we like to brush aside the fact that many, many people are survivors of sexual and physical trauma. Not to mention the thousands of veterans who are dealing with their own trauma. But I do not honestly believe that the way to handle this is to tell the survivors that they just need to toughen up so that those who have never experienced this trauma can go through life not thinking about the fact that they are likely surrounded by survivors.

      It's great that you have been able to adapt to a society that is cruel to survivors, but I would prefer to work for a society that does not force that kind of adaptability.

      Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

      by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 02:43:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's cruelty in kindness too (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        terrypinder, moviemeister76

        Two things bother me about putting the burden on other people, especially professors.

        First, if we demand trigger warnings whenever any kind of traumatic or disturbing imagery comes up then the path of least resistance is to teach less challenging material.  

        Then we stop talking about the realities of war, lynchings, The Holocaust, sexual assault and abuse - silencing the voices of the people who experienced the trauma. In a generation, we are back where we were in the Seventies, blissfully pretending that nothing like this ever happens.

        Second, life doesn't come with a trigger warning.  If I can't handle a classroom video, how will I ever keep from falling apart when my daughter needs me the most, because she's just been raped?  What if I'm a witness to a crime on the subway, or my neighbor turns out to be an abusive husband?  The better I am at dealing with triggering images myself, without warning, the safer I am in this world.

        "He not busy being born is busy dying" -- Bob Dylan

        by Kascade Kat on Tue May 20, 2014 at 03:16:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  In my experience (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          terrypinder

          Those who use trigger warnings are actually more likely to discuss terrible issues than those who do not.

          And in my own experience, I react very differently when I am triggered around friends and family than when I am triggered around folks I barely know in a classroom setting. The latter is far more traumatic and difficult to get a handle on.

          I have also reacted very differently when a friend or family member tells me about a traumatic experience that mirrors my own than when someone reads about it without giving me any warning of what's coming up.

          And I have spent years learning to deal with triggers that come at me without warning. My asking that a professor at least be decent enough to give me warning does not make me weak. It's the bare minimum I should be able to expect in a civilized society.

          Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

          by moviemeister76 on Tue May 20, 2014 at 03:28:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Here's a comparison. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    moviemeister76

    A few years back I was in a building that took a direct hit from a tornado. I remember the whole thing vividly, and though at the time I did fine -- no panicking or other emotional reaction -- a week or so later I had a jolt of anxiety when I passed by a construction site where trees had been taken down and the ground flattened by bulldozers. This reaction was unexpected and puzzling, but didn't last long.

    A few weeks after that my partner and I were watching TV, randomly flipping through channels until we came across video taken by someone who watched a tornado approach. As the wind started picking up I could feel the jolt again, and asked my partner to change the channel. It felt as if the panic could become overwhelming, and for someone who recovered from a panic disorder a couple of decades again, this feeling was very distressing. Again, my reaction was unexpected.

    It wasn't PTSD -- I know people who suffer from that and it's far more disruptive than what I went through -- but I have a sense of what triggering means. It's not just being uncomfortable or having an emotional response. It's about the senses tricking the body into thinking the trauma is happening again, and the body responding to that perceived threat.

    There's no pedagogical purpose to having someone go through something like that, and I am an instructor, not a therapist. I don't get to decide how my students should work through their traumas.

    "Discomfort" should not be conflated with "triggering."

    People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them. --Eric Hoffer

    by fiddler crabby on Tue May 20, 2014 at 03:58:21 PM PDT

  •  The diarist writes: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder

    "Trigger warnings when taken to excess and extremes threaten to be devices of censorship which circumvent the difficult conversations and discomfort that is necessary for citizens to fight and advocate for the Good Society and a proper communicative democracy.

    Schools are where citizens are socialized into a society's norms and values.

    Subsequently, what type of students are being created when difficult conversations are prefaced by a "warning", and then said students can then find a way to remove themselves from that unpleasant interaction?

    And are so-called liberals and progressives aware that they are giving conservatives, especially racist reactionary white conservatives, a loaded gun that will inevitably pointed at their foes with the defense that "talking about racism and white privilege makes me upset or uncomfortable and I don't want to be in this class!"

    This is my main concern. Trigger Warnings, at least in the academic setting, seem to be the intellectual cousin of the "Right Not To Be Offended". While examining competing interest can be extremely important, in an adult academic setting especially, accurateness and factual grounding of the information has to far outweigh any "Right Not To Be Offended" or similar arguments, lest it inevitably become a way to hamper ideas and information that can't necessarily be assailed in a direct fashion on traditional basis of scholarly debate.

    If this avenue is opened up and becomes common place, it's not hard to imagine how one could abuse it themselves politically, let alone other actors with money and political movements behind them. Trigger Warnings, after all, if they are to function as anything more than a common courtesy that can be ignored without significant reprocussion, are a form of check on speech.

    If you can't imagine politicians writing their text from the state legislature, I'd ask did you imagine they'd start writing what your doctors have to tell you - many already have?

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