Trigger warning or content warnings as referred by some as an alert provided by a provider of information to a recipient about the nature of their content. The purpose of giving trigger warnings is to avoid causing discomfort among the recipients of the information being provided due to post-traumatic stress resulting from relieving the memories of experiences they may have undergone that is related to the topic. Trigger warnings were first adopted in blogs and other information websites but have of late gained entry into institutions of higher learning. As a result, they have become a subject of big debate on their impact on higher learning. This paper is going to discuss whether colleges should shield students from discussing and examining topics they find offensive or disagree with by creating safe spaces where those materials and views are prohibited. I think they should not because of the following reasons.
Students attend college to get to know themselves and find their path in life. The best way to do that is to go outside one's comfort zone. One will not be able to advance in their career or personal life without engaging in thoughts that challenge their thinking. As a result, the topics taught in colleges are meant to challenge the thinking capacity of students by engaging them in topics that are controversial (Wilson,67). There is a consensus that the learning process needs to engage parties from both sides the professors and the students alike. Therefore the professors need to take the welfare of the students into consideration when they are teaching to make them as comfortable as possible (Sturgis, 34).
The composition of college students is made up of a wide variety of students who have undergone various traumatic experiences. From war veterans to victims of sexual assault, all these people should be allowed to continue their education. However, avoiding these discussions is not solving the problem because in the real world nobody is going to cushion them against these topics. On top of this outlawing controversial topics and making trigger warnings mandatory is like placing handcuffs on academic learning in its entirety because the other majority students will have to be restrained by the needs of the minority and that is disastrous for learning.
Outlawing offensive topics does not even help the students that are suffering from post-traumatic stress. Even more than guiding students to their career paths, colleges have the responsibility of building the personalities of students who are in attendance. These trigger warnings are just a means of providing them with a way of running away from challenges rather than tackling them. The truth of the matter is that life is unfair and these acts of violence, sexual assault, racism, and discrimination can happen to anyone regardless of who they are. However, students should let these events be what defines them and the path they take in life.
According to Wilson (123) Trigger warnings are only as effective as their use, past a certain limit they become toxic to the educations system. An example is when the trigger warnings are applied used to avoid topics that go against ones moral values. As Professor Engel, an associate media and film arts puts it, the triggers are for medical reasons and not the students personal views on matters race, gender, and religion (Schmidt, 28). To endure this does not happen the learning institutions have to keep trigger warnings as recommendations but not as necessities.
The issue of trigger warnings is a matter of common sense. These college professors are highly trained individuals and should be provided the liberty of assessing a situation and determining whether it warrants a trigger warning or not. They should also be allowed the liberty of assessing a students request and warranting whether it is worth consideration or not. Otherwise, they may as well scrap out the higher education program from the system.
Students such as Faith N. Ferber, a junior at American University (Schmidt, 56), have been using trigger warning and it has been working for her. It has worked because the professor was allowed the liberty of assessing the situation and coming up with judgment. Allowing professors with this liberty will no doubt result in mistakes, after all, they are all human and are prone to make mistakes, but so is the alternative. According to Scott C. Hammond, a professor at Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah School of Business (Schmidt, 24), warnings are more likely to become the norm. Does this mean that the current generation of students is more exposed to violence, assault, and discrimination any more than the previous generation? Yes, the number of those exposed to these acts is high, but the rise in number indicates an increase in the number of students who give sensitivity priority over the learning process, which is why this paper supports the act by the American University Faculty Senate to adopt the free speech resolution.
Wilson, Robin. Students Requests for Trigger Warnings Grow More Varied.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 14 Sept. 2015,
Sturgis, Ingrid. WARNING: This Lesson May Upset You. 10 March 2016. Questia. Document. 4 December 2017.
Schmidt, Peter. A Facultys Stand on Trigger Warnings Stirs Fear among Students.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 Oct. 2015,
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