Academics deny they exist, but use them constantly.
Trigger warnings are old news. The idea that lecturers should warn students about potentially distressing content – perhaps rape for those studying law, the crucifixion on theology courses, or just about any work of literature – first emerged in the US around 2013, and received widespread media coverage back in 2014.
Since then, ‘trigger warning’ has become a potent symbol of the campus culture wars – the pitching of ‘snowflake’ students and ‘social-justice warrior’ lecturers against ‘right-wing’ commentators and belligerent academics, stuffed full of white male privilege and unable to recognise trauma even if it slapped them on the face.
Today, ‘trigger warning’ is a lazy shorthand used to conjure up images of overly sensitive and easily outraged students who, along with their woke lecturers, convulse in horror at the prospect of discussing topics previous generations took in their stride.
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