(Trigger warning: the following column contains trigger warnings. If you have ever been triggered being warned of said triggering, please do not continue.)
My adviser forwarded me a New York Times article the other day (although original forwarding credits go to teacher Jane Bauman). It chronicled the quest of some UC Santa Barbara students to apply trigger warnings to the entirety of the school’s curriculum.
For those ignorant of the word’s meaning, a “trigger” is basically anything that can cause an episode of post-traumatic stress.
In its purest form, the word addresses the needs of a person who’s had some serious prior trauma.
However, in a fashion typical to today’s youth, it has become bastardized enough to refer to anything that could make people feel uncomfortable.
What began as a way to describe something that could be potentially harmful to a very small set of people (scenes of violence from a certain war, etc.) has since devolved to require warnings before everything from violence to racism and even to romance (to protect anyone who’s had a particularly nasty breakup).
The problems that arise when this concept is applied to education are evident.
Obviously, any science or math course isn’t threatened (they’d better watch what they put in those word problems, though). The danger is to the humanities.
The history curriculum, I think, speaks for itself. AP European History alone would require enough trigger warnings to fill the better part of a small textbook.
Don’t even get me started on our English classes.
Have you heard that they’re teaching sophomores the Bible now? That’s probably the most triggering book in existence.
If you’re searching for something offensive to warn people about, look no farther.
Sodomy, incest, premarital sex, domestic violence, racism. Yup, it’s all here. I’ve even heard that some guy gets nailed to a cross.
The “Good Book”? I think not.
The real problem with this kind of movement is that it encourages people to ask that their environments be regulated, with careful warnings and considerations given to them at each turn to prevent them from getting offended or being uncomfortable.
But the parents of the UCSB students sent their kids to the second-biggest party school in the country to learn to make intelligent decisions, not to learn curricular baby-proofing.
(Trigger warning: if the idea of a permanent end frightens you, please circle back to the beginning.)