You may have heard some of the jargon of wokeness and terms related to the various goofy concepts afflicting academia today (e.g., “safe spaces”). Wokesters and the vast psychology-related professional class claim that terms such as “precious snowflakes” cruelly caricature genuine mental health concerns among troubled college students.
Maybe. But the mission of this blog is to provide real-world examples to you, dear reader, of how the idea set that has been developed by the psychobabblers is resulting in the stifling of basic facts of history and requiring classroom instructors to cater to the most neurotic and psychically fragile students on the basis of their say-so. Today’s topic is the term “trigger warning.”
Luckily, we have a perfect example of the way students who claim they have some disorder or other demand that college faculty tailor their teaching to avoid addressing an increasingly broad array of topics that upset some student or other.
The article I am referring to is the November 24, 2021 item, Students call for trigger warnings during class in The Daily Illini, the student newspaper of the University of Illinois.
The story starts out with an account of a delicate flower of a female student being upset by having to hear about the brutal treatment meted out to suffragettes in the early 20th Century:
…said made her feel anxious and uncomfortable.
“My professor read a description of force-feedings of women who were imprisoned for hunger strikes as part of the suffrage movement,”
And goes on to say:
“It was just a really, really graphic description of it.”
We read that the student:
said she is in recovery for an eating disorder and that the violent depiction of force-feeding made her anxious and uncomfortable. She said she wished her professor had provided a trigger warning.
And what is the name of the course that this easily “traumatized” young woman is enrolled in and that she wants to be less than forthright about the physical brutalities the suffragettes endured? The course is called, “GWS 100: Intro to Gender & Women’s Studies.”
Now presumably, if the student is enrolled in a course about women there are going to be discussions of issues like, say, rape, abortion, domestic violence, femicide—is the professor supposed to flag every mention of such issues? Maybe the student should not have enrolled in it.
One would just point out that if the suffragettes were willing to endure having tubes stuck up their noses and down their throats, to be beaten by police, to be imprisoned and to be subjected to ridicule and harassment by male mobs and women opposed to the cause of female suffrage, it is not asking a lot of college students to refrain from demanding that the struggles and heroism of the suffragettes be watered down so as to avoid upsetting dopey girls with eating disorders.
The whole trigger warning phenomenon is resulting in a portrayal of history with the ugly parts photoshopped out for fear of offending a cadre of students who put their interests above those of their classmates who want to, well, learn things.
Let us continue with the article. The female student (who has a right to vote that the suffragettes secured for her) prefers that her own experiences and mental problems be the focus of what is allowed to be taught:
also said that by putting oneself into the perspective of someone who could be triggered, it can be easier to know when a warning is needed
And how is such a trigger warning to be worded? How about, “Attention troubled, selfish students: I am about to discuss what actually happened to courageous people. This may upset you.”
And it does seem a bit weird and self-centered to demand that every professor imagine himself or herself having an eating disorder or some phobia or other when designing a course. It is also impracticable—it is hard for the non-neurotic or those who are not flaky to try to figure out what makes certain students anxious. The student in the article does not seem to want to learn anything—she wants to force other people to tiptoe around her particular anxieties. College is not therapy.
A particularly chilling detail in the article is here:
a senior lecturer in the English department, said that since she began teaching, she has given trigger warnings in her classes.
That is bad enough, given that the history of English literature is all about fighting censorship, not cultivating a friendly attitude towards it in students. But not only does this so-called academic engage in learning crushing herself, she demands that her students design everything they write around the possibility that they may upset their classmates by something they say:
…in her workshop courses, she has students give warnings when they submit their stories. When a student forgets to provide a trigger warning, she said she uses it as an opportunity to explain why the warnings would have helped
This is a university?? Can you imagine what literature would be like if Theodore Dreiser, Truman Capote or Toni Morrison had had to satisfy such demands? James Joyce was all about boldness. The professor has no business lecturing her students in a highly intrusive, quasi-clinical fashion about something that she lacks the expertise to diagnose—this is an English class.
And of course, we get a quote from one of the grifters who makes a handsome living from fostering these intellectually stifling educational regimes, in this case a woman identified as, “founder and CEO of Ascend Consultation in Health Care.” These people are pathologizing learning itself—and empowering those who want college degrees but who don’t want to have to engage in anything “uncomfortable”—and who do not hesitate to neuter discussions for everyone. As the CEO says:
…it is important to put oneself first.
“Students who have emotional reactions to class material or experiences should immediately take whatever means necessary to protect their own safety and well-being…”
So much for inculcating in students a concern for the intellectual enrichment of other people and mastering one’s fears and developing resilience.
This is what trigger warnings are doing to young people and to higher education. I hope I haven't upset anyone in any of the above.