The Times' editorial on an effort at UC Santa Barbara to have professors put "trigger warnings" on their course syllabi when lecture material may cause some distress reminded me of a class I took my freshman year in college.
My father was raised in Minnesota; I listened to his racism my whole childhood. In our small agricultural community, I was never really exposed to other opinions.
In that first year of college, I enrolled in an English course that focused on black literature. It didn't take long for me to recognize that there was a lot of anger in that room.
Luckily, my open-minded, kind journalism professor helped me make a decision about continuing in the class. As the weeks went on, I read the literature and got what I think the course's professor wanted: a more open mind and an understanding of a subject of which I had been ignorant.
Had there been a "trigger warning," I am almost certain I would not have enrolled in the course.
I shared your editorial with my ethics students at the College of the Desert, who were amazed at the hubris and what they called the "whiny victim syndrome" of the UCSB students. Their response: "This is college!"
Our class discussions are based on current ethical issues and are always wide-ranging, spirited and spontaneous. The students were told at the beginning of the semester to be aware that this might occur, as it does every semester, and were very excited. A recent class included very informative observations by my only transgender student about herself.
We practice logical, ethical argumentation. Speaking of logic, does anyone at all sense a slippery slope here?
Rebecca S. Hertsgaard
As a 1st Amendment lawyer, I applaud your editorial that points out the stifling impact of having professors issue trigger warnings if class material might make a student uncomfortable.
Left-wing political correctness can be as inimical to free expression as any other form of censorship. A universal liberal wants to see unbridled and robust discussion of the most controversial and unsettling issues.
As you point out, professors will have to self-censor their materials in advance, based on an anticipated adverse reaction by some students. Students who feel that dealing with difficult or even offensive ideas or images subjects them to any number of "isms" must learn to argue against and not avoid the points of view they find abhorrent.
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