Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Another chapter in the long-running debate over trigger warnings

Jonathan Haidt has posted on his blog, The Righteous Mind, a previously unpublished letter to the editor of The New York Times in response to an article by Kate Manne praising trigger warnings, something he's been critical of:
Manne also asserts that “there seems to be very little reason not to give these warnings.” It’s simple courtesy, no? Trigger warnings are like “advisory notices given before films and TV shows.” But those warnings are given so that parents can keep their children safe from material for which they are not yet emotionally mature enough. This is why the American Association of University Professors has condemned the use of trigger warnings as being “at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual.”
I agree. The analogy that trigger warnings are exactly like TV ratings is a false one. Trigger warnings only serve the person giving them with a kind of "placebo effect" of good intent, plus there is no evidence that avoiding frightening topics actually helps those triggered by them. Haidt adds:
Do we really want to tell our students that some of their fellow students could end up in emergency care if they were to read certain novels without being properly steeled for the task? This message would reflect and strengthen the “culture of victimhood” that sociologists have identified as emerging on our most egalitarian college campuses. It could weaken students to the point where we might, someday, really need paramedics in our classrooms.