Favorite

Trigger warnings 

Supposedly, students at some of our most prestigious universities find themselves confronted with existential challenges. Some are required to read books and watch films that could conceivably upset them emotionally. Hence many campuses are considering "trigger warnings" to alert the more delicate flowers against getting their little feelings hurt.

"The warnings," reports Jennifer Medina in the New York Times "which have their ideological roots in feminist thought, have gained the most traction at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the student government formally called for them. But there have been similar requests from students at Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, George Washington University," etc.

Apparently, we've come full circle if "feminist thought" now means shielding what fools once called "the weaker sex" from unpleasant realities. At Ohio's Oberlin College, which in 2013 suspended classes due to an imaginary intruder in KKK regalia, they've circulated a "trigger" guide for professors.

"Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression," the guide said. "Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand."

"Cissexism," for readers innocent of the jargon, means hurtfully implying that most people are either male or female. "Ableism" is making persons with physical handicaps feel inferior, as if any decent human being would do that. Not that everybody's decent, mind you. My objection's to cant, not morals.

The guide stipulated that while, say, Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" may be great literature, it could also "trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide," etc.

One would certainly hope so. Otherwise, what's the point of teaching literature?

I can still remember my own moral horror at reading Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" as a Rutgers freshman years ago. Many classmates felt the same; we sat up half the night talking about it. Richard Wright's "Native Son" made a similar impact.

What fascinated us was less Raskolnikov's axe murder of an aged pawnbroker than his seductive rationalization of the crime. And while "Native Son" was set in Chicago, we understood that it could easily have been Newark.

But no, I don't believe people suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from storybooks. And I have trouble believing Jersey kids have gone so soft as to demand to be protected from a damn novel. Back then, we thought growing up was what college was for.

Actually, I doubt many Rutgers students do demand "trigger warnings." Merely an impassioned clique of immature students and crackpot faculty that administrators find it easier to humor than to resist.

Meanwhile, an equally ludicrous fracas has broken out down at Princeton. There, a freshman named Tal Fortgang wrote a column for The Princeton Tory objecting to the allegedly common practice of admonishing people who stray from campus orthodoxy to "Check your privilege."

It's a curt reminder, Fortgang thinks, of his solemn duty "to feel personally apologetic because white males seem to pull most of the strings in the world," and to conduct himself accordingly. Apparently by never contradicting anybody claiming the morally exalted status of victim — whether of racism, sexism, heterosexism... Well you know the rest.

Check my privilege? How about kiss my...

Well, you know the rest of that phrase too. Just don't go treating me as an abstract symbol, and then expect me to feel your pain.

As Fortgang pointed out, "Check your privilege" amounts to an illogical ad hominem argument at best. You shouldn't be heard because of who you are. Or, as the bleating sheep in Orwell's "Animal Farm" explained: "Four legs good, two legs bad!"

Fortgang actually weakened his argument by explaining that his grandparents' big privilege was arriving in American penniless after surviving the Holocaust in Nazi concentration camps. Even so, they did.

How you can tell the shot went home was that a college freshman's article in a campus newspaper spawned eight full-length personal attacks in the increasingly ridiculous Salon.com, where the author was all-but equated with Cliven Bundy and that old fool Donald Sterling.

The New Yorker consulted Peggy McIntosh, a feminist scholar at Wellesley College whose seminal paper called "White Privilege and Male Privilege," initiated this craze. It enumerates 46 measurable categories of privilege.

McIntosh could understand why Fortgang resisted seeing himself "systematically."

"Whiteness is just one of the many variables that one can look at," she said "starting with, for example, one's place in the birth order, or your body type, or your athletic abilities, or your relationship to written and spoken words, or your parents' places of origin, or your parents' relationship to education and to English, or what is projected onto your religious or ethnic background."

None of which is crazy on its face.

And certainly not if your ultimate goal is increasing the number of campus Republicans.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • More on pits

    Some years ago, I visited the local Boys Club early one morning. There had been a break-in.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Trump: not so smart

    You know, along with having the impulse control of a 7-year-old boy, it's becoming increasingly clear that Donald J. Trump just ain't real smart. He's a cunning self-promoter, but dim. He did manage to go bankrupt in the casino business, you know. That's really hard to do.
    • Mar 9, 2017
  • No love for pit bulls

    I once kept eight beagles in my backyard. When my wife complained, I'd tell her to choose which ones needed to go. It was a pure bluff: Some were prize-winning field trial hounds, others house pets. However, they all had eager, loving hearts, and she knew all their names.
    • Mar 2, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Trump and political correctness

    So I see where candidate Donald Trump and former Gov. Sarah Palin are complaining about "political correctness," the supposedly liberal sin of being too polite to tell the unvarnished truth. Me too. I've always laughed at the follies of self-styled "radical" left-wing professors.
    • Sep 3, 2015
  • Not again

    This just in: Nothing boosts circulation or enhances ratings like a sex scandal.
    • Jan 14, 2016
  • Never wrong

    Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself — from whence my people emigrated after 1880.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • More on pits

    Some years ago, I visited the local Boys Club early one morning. There had been a break-in.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • Trump: not so smart

    You know, along with having the impulse control of a 7-year-old boy, it's becoming increasingly clear that Donald J. Trump just ain't real smart. He's a cunning self-promoter, but dim. He did manage to go bankrupt in the casino business, you know. That's really hard to do.
    • Mar 9, 2017
  • No love for pit bulls

    I once kept eight beagles in my backyard. When my wife complained, I'd tell her to choose which ones needed to go. It was a pure bluff: Some were prize-winning field trial hounds, others house pets. However, they all had eager, loving hearts, and she knew all their names.
    • Mar 2, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: More on pits

    • Well, for heaven's sake.

    • on March 26, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • Just here because this column was the focus of the recent print issue's "Comment" section..…

    • on March 26, 2017
  • Re: Don't cry for Robert E. Lee

    • Thank you Max. Wonderful, pointedly (if that is a word) laying out what is so…

    • on March 25, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation