In the evolving world of thought control on college campuses, a new concept has emerged. Known as “trigger warnings”, messages akin to the old Surgeon General cigarette labels now flag speakers or concepts that may “cause emotional distress”, so that they may be shunned and avoided. The idea emerges out of the feminist theory of “safe space”, and students, at least radical ones, want their colleges to be “safe” from ideas deemed offensive (in other words, any with which they disagree).
Consider the following excerpt:
You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but Christina Hoff Sommers is apparently the kind of speaker whose very presence on college campuses is so alarming that students require advance notice, also known as a trigger warning.
At least, that’s what happened when the American Enterprise Institute scholar spoke this month at Georgetown University and Oberlin College. Campus feminists kicked into high alert, warning students that her lecture on feminism and criticism of the college “rape culture” could make them “feel unsafe.” (From Washington Times).
It isn’t only conservatives that are disturbed by this. A professor wrote an essay for Vox titled, “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.”):
I am frightened sometimes by the thought that a student would complain again like he did in 2009. Only this time it would be a student accusing me not of saying something too ideologically extreme — be it communism or racism or whatever — but of not being sensitive enough toward his feelings, of some simple act of indelicacy that’s considered tantamount to physical assault. As Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis writes, “Emotional discomfort is [now] regarded as equivalent to material injury, and all injuries have to be remediated.” Hurting a student’s feelings, even in the course of instruction that is absolutely appropriate and respectful, can now get a teacher into serious trouble.
Furthermore: In 2015, such a complaint would not be delivered in such a fashion. Instead of focusing on the rightness or wrongness (or even acceptability) of the materials we reviewed in class, the complaint would center solely on how my teaching affected the student’s emotional state. As I cannot speak to the emotions of my students, I could not mount a defense about the acceptability of my instruction. And if I responded in any way other than apologizing and changing the materials we reviewed in class, professional consequences would likely follow.
It may be no big shock to learn that Christian content might induce a trigger warning. In fact here is a passionately written atheist’s perspective on this: “That last point requires a bit more explanation, because I failed to mention that for some formerly devout people, church and churchy talk can actually be triggers for some very negative emotions. I don’t think our friends and family understand this, which makes perfect sense if you think about it. For them, this stuff is all wonderful. It thrills them and they can’t understand why others wouldn’t have the same reactions to songs about Jesus, about sin, about going to heaven and about getting saved from Hell. It seldom occurs to them that the very same songs, turns of phrase, and even mannerisms which feel so right to them can feel so wrong to someone else, especially someone to whom they are closely related.
In an ironic twist, Duke University students who are Christians are now being “triggered” by a book. Read more at Washington Post. It appears that on their way out of the public sphere, Christians have learned a bit from their leftist foes, and are using this kind of reasoning as a rear guard action to opt out of reading material that is offensive to them as Christians:
It’s also the case that these Christians are simply exercising the newest right on campus: the right to not be exposed to ideas or materials exposure to which might result in a bad emotional or intellectual reaction. Leftists on campus, it is well documented, routinely insist that they be warned if they might come within hearing distance of a conservative idea, book, or speaker, lest they find themselves with a case of the vapors. I have no use for such theatrics, especially inasmuch as it has become an authoritarian movement demanding the abridgment of free speech. Nevertheless, what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. Except that for some, it isn’t.
You may read the entire post “trigger warnings are for liberals only” at the Stand Firm BLog, for an introduction and a sampling of some of the delicious howls of rage from leftists who don’t feel that what’s “good for the goose is good for the gander.”
The sad result, of course, is the slaughter of truth and the murder of intellectual freedom. This also causes further disengagement of Christians and non-Christians from each other’s ideas–for better and worse.