Trigger Warnings: Why We Need Them
The administration needs to acknowledge that within a school of about 3,000 students, there are individuals that have experience with some form of violence. This can be done with trigger warnings, or content warnings, in the academic curriculum to notify students of disturbing content that can potentially elicit traumatic memories.
There is a large difference between those who feel uncomfortable with sexual assault, abuse,
self-injurious behavior, or graphic violence, in any book or movie essential to the curriculum and those who have been affected by such acts.
Art and literature should definitely be uncomfortable to challenge the mind and stimulate
intellectual thought. They should prompt students to step out of their comfort zone. It is a whole other story to force someone who has experienced abuse or violence to participate in a discussion related to his or her experiences without their consent or prior knowledge of the content.
Of course, there are people who have been through trauma but have moved past it enough to be able to partake in the stated discussion. But not everyone is at that stage.
Trigger warnings prevent pain because students have the opportunity to come to terms with the material that will be taught instead of being thrown into the lesson headfirst. Students will also have time to talk to their teachers and figure out a way to work through the course at their own pace if they choose.
If needed, teachers should be able to exempt students from the particular portion of the class. When people really believe that their trauma is being handled respectfully and seriously, it fosters a feeling of increased safety.
Critics say that trigger warnings are impositions that keep students in the dark. The world is full of triggers and there cannot be a warning for every one of them, so it should not be in a school’s curriculum. (click here for an article on opposing views)
Yes, students do need to overcome their obstacles. But it shouldn’t have to happen in what is supposed to be a safe learning environment if they are not ready just yet. It at least shouldn’t happen without the students’ previous knowledge of what they will be studying.
A trigger warning acts as a disclaimer rather than something that stops people from reading
literature and watching intellectual movies. Warnings in books would act like those in movies that tell the audience certain themes are present within the movie. If people know what they are getting into beforehand, it reduces the chance of any serious complaints coming in afterwards because people willingly chose to read or watch the material.
This is not a matter of making sure every student on campus is comfortable. It is the recognition of a courtesy that should be extended to all students on campus in the case that some may have been through times that they cannot comfortably discuss, read or watch.
It is the idea of integrating warnings that would prevent students from suddenly feeling as if they were reliving their trauma. And finally, it is acknowledging that students at MHS do have serious backgrounds that others must be considerate of.