Trigger warnings don’t work, so why do we use them?

I can only hope certain findings, like that of the trigger warning study, can start to make university administrations reevaluate their approach.

Wyatt Claypool Montreal QC

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, published on July 11th, found that trigger warnings do more harm than good for students. The warnings before potentially troubling material were causing reported victims of trauma to identify more with their past trauma by constantly making them feel anxious that they may not be able to handle the material.

Victims would assume because of the warning that they were more vulnerable than they were, which was untrue as the study’s results also showed that those not given trigger warnings were “resilient, experiencing little if any lasting psychological changes due to their experience” a reassuring finding.

More information is always good, but if I am being honest it was already quite obvious trigger warnings were a complete waste of time. I am sure that those who implement trigger warnings on university campuses don’t really care if they work or not, and I fully doubt trigger warnings are going away any time soon

But why do we even have trigger warnings in the first place?

Well, it seems to have been spawned by a campus culture characterized by mediocrity and low standards, both academic and personal. Trigger warnings are more of a result of a campus demanding to be further patronized, than artificial implementation.

This appears to be a sort of enforced behaviour on campus these days. According to a 2013 paper by Dr. Joseph Hermanowicz titled “The Culture of Mediocrity” groups don’t always uplift members for success, they can also reinforce and reward ineptitude and punish competence. The observations were made based on several studies and personal experience at the American Research University which concluded that those who intentionally or unintentionally promotion mediocrity do so to protect status by disincentivizing success in others.

Trigger warnings are just another way for the modern university campus to promote weakness and conformity over strength, and it definitely is a consistent trend. Just like ideological bias being required in the classroom causes students to become simple followers of their professor, trigger warnings train those who have faced trauma to be dominated by their anxiety with constant reminders of an assumed weakness.

Students on campuses these days have actually become afraid to even disagree with a professor, and out of that fear comes a general social pressure to agree. If one is afraid to disagree with a professor then that person may grow to resent those who do openly speak up for their own ideas. A vicious cycle.

The overload of bias and conformity of opinion on campus has led to the rise of the delicate student who actively becomes involved in policing conformity. This type of student marginalizes the thoughts of others by creating social barriers like microaggressions and safe spaces to excuse ideological uniformity.

Of course, the deeper enclosure into the campus eco-chamber has made students significantly less intellectually able, but regardless the campus rewards the ideological purity, often with student union jobs.

If students were not yet fully disarmed of any intellectual fortitude well then clapping was also declared “triggering” on many university campuses all over the world. Odd, as I notice some students are not worried about triggering anyone while trying to shut down oppositional voices on campus, sometimes violently.

None of this is preparing anyone for their futures and that almost seems to be the point. Other than the STEM fields, university life only seems to want to prepare students for more university life. It is the ultimate conclusion to the mediocrity campus culture: collective unpreparedness.

Everything could be different if objective standards in education were valued over the subject. Independence should be rewarded and ability to act competently rather than collectively should be the desired result for anyone paying good money for an education. I can only hope certain findings, like that of the trigger warning study, can start to make university administrations reevaluate their approach.

I’m not getting my hopes up too high.


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