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posted by LaminatorX on Monday May 19 2014, @06:24AM   Printer-friendly

Raw Story summarizes a New York Times report that Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as "trigger warnings," explicit alerts that the material they are about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some students assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of rape or in war veterans.

The debate has left many academics fuming, saying that professors should be trusted to use common sense and that being provocative is part of their mandate. Trigger warnings, they say, suggest a certain fragility of mind that higher learning is meant to challenge, not embrace. "Any kind of blanket trigger policy is inimical to academic freedom," said Lisa Hajjar, a sociology professor, who often uses graphic depictions of torture in her courses about war. "Any student can request some sort of individual accommodation, but to say we need some kind of one-size-fits-all approach is totally wrong. The presumption there is that students should not be forced to deal with something that makes them uncomfortable is absurd or even dangerous."

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said, "It is only going to get harder to teach people that there is a real important and serious value to being offended. Part of that is talking about deadly serious and uncomfortable subjects."

A summary of the College Literature, along with the appropriate trigger warnings, assumed or suggested in the article is as follows: Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" (anti-Semitism), Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" (suicide), "The Great Gatsby" (misogynistic violence), and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (racism).

Note: The Raw Story link was provided to provide an alternative to the article source, the New York Times, due to user complaints about the NYT website paywalling their articles.

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  • (Score: 2) by DrMag on Monday May 19 2014, @03:09PM

    by DrMag (1860) on Monday May 19 2014, @03:09PM (#45241)

    Really, both sides do have a point. The idea of warning people about racism in Huck Finn is ludicrous; when the point of a class is to discuss such topics, a warning is hardly necessary, and points to people being overly sensitive and wanting the world painted white for them. On the other hand, using graphic images of torture in a history class? Perhaps I'm jumping to conclusions, and the class is specifically about the horrors of war and such, but I never saw such images in any history class I had, and yet I don't have a rosy-colored, glamorized view of what war is. I *know* war is terrible; I *know* about the kinds of things that have been done to people and the effect it has had on them (and on their captors, to be truthful). And I *know* it's wrong, and I'm offended at the thought of my country having ever done anything in that regard. You don't need to show the images to teach others the truth.

    The professor herself said it--"higher learning is meant to challenge". Challenge--not provoke.

    There's a middle ground here--let people learn for themselves the difference between right and wrong. That means not sheltering them, but it also means not throwing them into the fire.

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