In today’s NY Times, the idea of implementing university curriculum “trigger warnings” for sensitive material is discussed. These are written statements that appear on syllabi warning students of literature or films that depict violence, sexuality, racism, suicide, poverty, etc. Lately, students at several universities have advocated for them to prevent PTSD reactions in student victims of war, rape, and other traumas. The warnings could give these students the opportunity to back out of exposure to the objectionable material.
Many academics oppose the blanket warnings as limiting and say that creating healthy discomfort is key to gaining a higher education. Of course, accommodations can be made on a case-by-case basis for struggling students, but creating an institution of censoring is frightening.
ModCon also opposes trigger warnings, mainly because they would be imperfect and just give a false sense of security and coddling. Who can know what does or does not trigger anyone? Yes, while there are some common patterns, someone may have once been smothered by a teddy bear and now has a panic attack when seeing a cute teddy bear. The point is, no one can unfortunately shut out pain, and all of us need to walk through life with varying degrees of mental resiliency. “Trigger warnings” won’t protect everyone, and if enough people blindly depend upon “the system” to protect them, the results could be even worse.