Friday, August 26, 2016

Trigger Warnings and Academic Freedom

The top brass at the University of Chicago are so, so wrong about trigger warnings.  I don’t know how other instructors use them, but for me they provide the opportunity to bring disturbing material to my students.  I have used them for graphic films about child soldiers and prostitutes, for instance, hoping to provide a missing dimension to the social science readings I assign on these topics.  I would never be able to do this unless I allowed the most vulnerable students to excuse themselves.  In the absence of trigger warnings, and out of respect for the needs of these students, I would not be able to use this material at all.

The core intellectual error in the UC statement is that it implicitly assumes that the extent to which academic content is challenging is fixed.  It’s not.  It’s a product of the flexibility we have in the classroom to introduce it.

1 comment:

Gobanian said...

Surely the letter is the triGger warning to end all trigger warnings. Literally. It warns people that they may be offended by he lack of trigger warnings, the refusal to cancel invites and so on. Surely if it is university policy not to withdraw invites, potential students should welcome this warning.