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Thread: U of Chicago: Don't ask us for trigger warnings

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    U of Chicago: Don't ask us for trigger warnings

    We've seen a number of threads decrying (often rightly) the assault on free speech on some campuses. Here's one proactively pushing back:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...mepage%2Fstory

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    Penny for your thots Macduff's Avatar
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    Good for them. It's about time someone stood up to this.
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    Council Member Djinn's Avatar
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    I'm inclined to agree. Universities should be responsible for providing a syllabus, and if applicable, a list of books that will be read and discussed in class. And these syllabuses (and lists) should be available to students prior to their signing up. If students wish to ascertain whether the class is inappropriate for them based on the syllabus, that's their responsibility.
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    Moderator HCProf's Avatar
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    I am so glad I teach job training classes...this would make me crazy worrying constantly about what is going to offend a student. Our curriculum is full of uncomfortable topics, but they are approached with a medical point of view. We can't teach students how to deal with the general public, if we do not try and toughen them up a bit...in our program, patients can be pretty brutal along with the physicians.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn View Post
    I'm inclined to agree.
    I do too.
    Universities should be responsible for providing a syllabus, and if applicable, a list of books that will be read and discussed in class. And these syllabuses (and lists) should be available to students prior to their signing up. If students wish to ascertain whether the class is inappropriate for them based on the syllabus, that's their responsibility.
    Well...yes and no. Students can't be expected to know what they don't know, and discovering something specific about a reading before you read it is kind of a trick.

    But I agree that things have gotten out of hand. University study will make people uncomfortable. That's the nature of higher education. If you get through an undergraduate degree without ever being uncomfortable, you didn't do it right.

    Personally, I blame the media--not in the sense that I think the media are deliberately turning us into soft non-thinkers--because the proliferation of media has created a world in which everyone can choose the messages they wish to hear. We get the news just the way we want it. We get entertainment aimed precisely at us. We engage in social media in ways that block out the stuff we don't like. Eventually people get the idea they have the right never to be offended or challenged in their beliefs, and then we insist on that right in schools and universities.
    Last edited by Rasselas; 26th August 2016 at 08:24 AM.
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    Council Member Djinn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasselas View Post
    I do too. Well...yes and no. Students can't be expected to know what they don't know, and discovering something specific about a reading before you read it is kind of a trick. ...
    It's only a trick if you don't know how to use Google. And I'm comfortable expecting students to know how to use Google.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn View Post
    It's only a trick if you don't know how to use Google. And I'm comfortable expecting students to know how to use Google.
    Exactly how? Do you google "Is there anything that would offend me in The Odyssey?" Think that will work? You have to know what you're looking for before you can do a decent google search.

    I once taught I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which is Maya Angelou's autobiography. It includes a rape, of the protagonist, when she's very young. Two students, after the fact, told me that it brought back terrible memories and feelings for them, presumably because of their own sexual assaults. How were they supposed to know it was there? Are they supposed to check out the rape possibilities in everything they read? That sounds like a trauma in itself.

    I still teach that book, but I do mention it to my classes ahead of time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasselas View Post
    I do too. Well...yes and no. Students can't be expected to know what they don't know, and discovering something specific about a reading before you read it is kind of a trick.

    But I agree that things have gotten out of hand. University study will make people uncomfortable. That's the nature of higher education. If you get through an undergraduate degree without ever being uncomfortable, you didn't do it right.

    Personally, I blame the media--not in the sense that I think the media are deliberately turning us into soft non-thinkers--because the proliferation of media has created a world in which everyone can choose the messages they wish to hear. We get the news just the way we want it. We get entertainment aimed precisely at us. We engage in social media in ways that block out the stuff we don't like. Eventually people get the idea they have the right never to be offended or challenged in their beliefs, and then we insist on that right in schools and universities.
    I choose to read all of your posts in periwinkle Comic Sans.






    (Okay - not really. But it's Friday and I'm slap-happy.)
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    Council Member Djinn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasselas View Post
    Exactly how? Do you google "Is there anything that would offend me in The Odyssey?" Think that will work? You have to know what you're looking for before you can do a decent google search.
    I googled "trigger warning homer odyssey" (no quotes) and found several hits. One of the hits in the top three yielded this:

    Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey

    Students were disturbed by Homer’s “relentless” depiction of mayhem and gore: “Like the X-Men franchise, but Wolverine is definitely a more likable mutant than Achilles,” concluded one respondent. Several students objected to the treatment of women -- mostly relegated to domestic activities or war booty -- and demanded to know if there were other epic poems by blind Archaic Greek bards that offered examples of female empowerment.

    Also, a small but vocal number of students wearing PETA t-shirts protested the “inhumane” treatment of the dog Argo, left to die on a dung heap. Given the youthful impressionability of our customer base, we find potential problems with the Lotus-eater episode, as well as the character Helen’s liberal use of pharmacological agents.
    Again - I've no problem putting the burden on the students. If they can't do what I just did, they'll likely flunk out of college within a semester or two anyway.

    I once taught I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which is Maya Angelou's autobiography. It includes a rape, of the protagonist, when she's very young. Two students, after the fact, told me that it brought back terrible memories and feelings for them, presumably because of their own sexual assaults. How were they supposed to know it was there? Are they supposed to check out the rape possibilities in everything they read? That sounds like a trauma in itself.
    Google the book title, along with the word "summary" or "synopsis," and you'll be hard-pressed to find a top hit that DOESN'T mention the rape.

    If you want a compromise, then put a disclaimer on the syllabus, suggesting that concerned students use Google to learn something about the books in advance, and note any potential "trigger warning" issues.
    Last edited by Djinn; 26th August 2016 at 09:48 AM.

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    Anarquistador StanStill's Avatar
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    Google searches, and Netflix searches and so on are now based on what their algorithms calculate that you would like based on what you have searched for before. It's like a feedback loop where new information is automatically repelled and only information that fits what one has become accustomed to is permitted in. Two people searching "race relations" will get very different search results based on what Google calculates they probably already think about race relations.

    I wonder if that is helping to power this kind of fearful recoiling at ideas that conflict with "deeply held values". Used to be people would just be offended and move on. Now it seems like people feel like being offended is an actual injury.

    At the same time, I feel like these stories tend to be about overly passionate idealistic college kids who haven't had the time or life experience to put some of their crackpot ideas into practice in the real world. I shiver when I consider some of the naïve shit that I considered sensible when I was 19. I hope there are jobs for them when they finish school, but part of me hopes that there isn't one right away. I think it's good for a grad student to work as a dishwasher for a while, just so they don't float off into outer space.

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