Before you read this article, be warned! You may come across something you disagree with, or an idea that makes you uncomfortable, or a statement that causes offense. Please shut off your mobile device or close your browser, and back away slowly from your computer.
I’m kidding, of course. But only a little.
There’s a movement afoot in many universities and colleges across the country. It’s driven by the vision for the campus to be a “safe space” where ideas and words that make someone uncomfortable can be easily avoided. In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait describes it as a renewed strain of political correctness, a kind of “language policing” that poisons political debate and shuts down discussion.
In The Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argue that this strain of political correctness is primarily about “emotional well-being,” protecting students from psychological harm. It’s “the coddling of the American mind,” they say, in a twist on Allan Bloom’s famous work, “The Closing of the American Mind.”
One example of turning college into a “safe space” is the recent trend of putting “trigger warnings” on books — alerts from a professor that something in the course may stir up a strong, emotional response from the students. The motivation behind trigger warnings is sensitivity to people who have had traumatic experiences, a way of letting them know they may be disturbed by what they read.
Unfortunately, in a collegiate atmosphere tense with the fear of perpetual offense, the number of “triggers” have multiplied, and many of the most important books in history are getting labeled, and in some cases, dismissed.
For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” gets a trigger warning because of its depiction of misogyny and abuse. The classic myths of ancient Greek literature get trigger warnings because of rape.
Can you imagine how many trigger warnings the Bible would get? If there has ever been a book that is designed to make you uncomfortable and challenge your way of thinking, it’s the Bible.
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