What are trigger warnings? This is when students are given an alert that can come in many different ways in which they know that something sensitive is going to be brought up in class. From my understanding, trigger warnings are actually causing more damage than good. I haven’t seen any examples of them actually being helpful, except for in the case of a student who may have PTSD like symptoms, which isn’t very likely. These students can still be helped with using alternative methods like writing your name on a list or sheet of paper, or even avoiding the class altogether. (Goldberg). Trigger warnings just aren’t worth the trouble. They are doing more damage than good, except for of course the students who actually need them. Allow me to show you why this is.
Video that further explains why trigger warnings are implemented for students with PTSD like symptoms and more! (2:30-3:15)
Mikaila Arthur, associate professor of sociology says, “If we want to ensure that classrooms remain places of vital (and, indeed, sometimes uncomfortable) intellectual exchange, the first thing we must do is recommit to protection of academic freedom for faculty so they need not fear challenging their students to think and learn will threaten their job (Better).” I couldn’t agree more! This is yet another negative effect of trigger warnings. Teachers should not be fearful of their jobs. The job of a teacher is to teach the student, and they can’t do that when they are worried about their job. They shouldn’t have to worry because some snot nosed kid is whining about how they don’t agree with the material or how it offends them. The substitution for trigger warnings will fix the whole issue. The solution being something like writing on a slip of paper saying that you have a condition where you need to be notified if a particular sensitive subject is being discussed, or avoiding the class before the semester begins if you think that the information may be too much for you to handle.
Katie Byron, a graduate of Brown University says it best when she says, “It’s unreasonable to expect student survivors to leave their personal experiences at the classroom door. Trauma affects how students learn and academic discussions about trauma and violence should take this into consideration (Byron).” It really isn’t right to just say “hey you can’t bring your own personal experiences to the classroom.” I don’t know about you all but it kind of pisses me off just thinking about student survivors being told something like that. They can’t help what they have gone through and it takes time for wounds that deep to heal.
There are some instances of students actually requesting trigger warnings. Julie Lythcott-Haimes, former dean of Stanford University gets into this matter. Her article in the New York Times is actually quite comical. In one of her paragraphs she’s says that students “won’t hear other perspectives and are essentially sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending the issue is not open to discussion (Lythcott-Haimes).” Her analogies are quite comical, no? Her illustrations through out her article are pretty much all this funny. According to Lytchott-Haimes, students are actually trying to get out of all the material if it has the potential to hurt their own feelings. What the heck? How big of a baby do you have to be? Students need to just suck it up and deal with it like everyone else, except for the PTSD “student survivor” like students, they are the only exception. I can relate to you all about wanting to get out of material, I am a college student just like you. School work isn’t the most entertaining thing to be spending your time on, I know, but we are here to learn so I guess we better listen and not cry so much about it.
This isn’t the only example that I’ve come across where students are requesting for trigger warnings. Surveys of psychology instructors say that majority of the students are warned before class, so they don’t get placed into a class where they might throw a hissy fit (Boysen). The instructors in the survey found in the article called, “Teaching of Psychology Vol. 43 Issue 4,” said that they didn’t provide any trigger warnings for their classes. Majority of the instructors said that they were against trigger warnings (Boysen). Trigger warnings are not vital for learning, if anything, trigger warnings restrict learning. They take the focus off the importance of the material and focus on the emotions of the student. This is a college though, we aren’t in kindergarten anymore, we need to grow up as a generation and quit whining.
To conclude, I want to reiterate and explain to you how childish our generation is acting. If you have read this far, then you have seen a few examples supporting the claim that trigger warnings are not needed. The only exception is for the students who actually need them. Those students would be the ones who have PTSD like symptoms. There are easier solutions that can be given that could take the place of trigger warnings. An easy solution would be something as simple as writing your name on a piece of paper that would allow your teacher to give you and you alone a heads up of the sensitive material that might be discussed that day. Of course this problem can’t be fixed over night, but if we continue to share this claim with others we will be at higher ground then where we started. It’s time to grow up.
“Better watch what you say.” The Atlantic. 2015, http://web.b.ebscohost.com/pov/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=0d4f4ebe-6651-4558-a91c-b4f79986fd79%40sessionmgr120&vid=2&hid=118.
Boysen, Guy A, Wells, Anna Mae, Dawson, Kaylee. “Teaching of Psychology.”SageJournals. 16 Aug. 2015, http://top.sagepub.com.proxy.lib.utk.edu:90/content/43/4/334
Byron, Katie. “Millennials Are Creating a More Inclusive and Just World.” The New York Times, Room for Debate. 21 Dec. 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/11/02/ when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/millennials-are-creating-a-more-inclusive-and-just-world.
Goldberg, Jonah. “The peculiar madness of ‘trigger warnings’.” Los Angeles Times. 19 May. 2014, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldberg-trigger-warnings-20140520- column.html.
Lythcott-Haimes, Julie. “Millennials will soon Define ‘America,’ and That’s a Problem for Ideas.” The New York Times Room for Debate. 21 Dec. 2015, http:www.nytimes.com/ roomfordebate/2015/11/02/when-a-generation-becomes-less-tolerant-of-free-speech/ millennials-will-soon-define-america-and-thats-a-problem-for-ideas.