Ever hear of trigger warnings? A trigger warning is “a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material.”
I first became aware of this term when an article in our local paper (The Valley News) described one such warning issued by the professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. “We will spend some time in this course studying anti-Semitism, Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. Those topics are obviously very unpleasant and if you feel they will trigger unbearable emotions in you, please reconsider enrolling in this course.” Seriously? Would anyone electing such a course think it would be fun and entertaining? Shouldn’t we be teaching students to deal with such strong emotions?
At the University of Chicago the dean of students sent out a letter stating ”We do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial…”
Isn’t the whole idea of education to expose one to differing opinions, to present material even if it is painful or unpleasant. Sometimes change comes about only when there is such an experience.
Now trigger warnings have become so ubiquitous that they are even used in a joking manner. In a recent book review Wayne Curtis began: “TRIGGER WARNING: This is a book about penmanship . It may bring back unsettling memories, and concludes “Southpaws may wish to avoid the book entirely.”
How timely: Yesterday I saw a terrific musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman. The opening number, “A Warning to the Audience,” says “For those of you of weaker constitution, For those of you who may be faint of heart, This is a tale or revenge and retribution, So if you’re smart, Before we start, You’d best depart.”
Perhaps I should have begun this post with a trigger warning: Caution. This post contains strong opinions which may differ from yours. Proceed with caution.
Dorothy C. Judd © 2016
Next post: Monday, October 31st