Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Trigger Warning

Recently one of my supervisors sent my coworkers and me an article from The Atlantic about how American students are being coddled, rather than challenged in our educational system. Shortly after that, our University President made this same subject the topic of his weekly communication with the University community. The article discusses how microaggressions and trigger warnings may be inhibiting students from developing the critical thinking processes we rely on colleges to impart to our young, impressionable minds.

What I feel the need to focus on is the concept of
trigger warnings. When this conversation made its first few waves, I was the standard millennial thinker in that I thought trigger warnings were a great concept that could keep students from being upset or having serious emotional reactions throughout their educational careers. As a recent graduate and new student affairs professional, I've come to realize that maybe trigger warnings are not the best approach for these situations.

Life does not come with a trigger warning. There is no way I can walk down the street feeling guaranteed that no one will ever say or do something that could remind me of a terrible experience I have had in the past. We cannot control the actions of everyone around us, but by making something like trigger warnings an expectation in a college environment, we are teaching today's students that they are able to remain in their bubbles of naivety forever.

College is a time for us to grow as thinkers, leaders, and citizens. It is a time for us to challenge every notion we have - whether it is something we were taught by someone else or we experienced it for ourselves. Without opportunities to confront our fears and sheltered understandings of the world, college returns to the banking concept of education that Paulo Freire so vehemently critiques. I know I would not be the person I am today were it not for the fact that my professors taught me to think critically at all times. They challenged me at every turn and provided me with endless opportunities to explore everything the world has to offer. Every challenge thrown my way was another opportunity to realize the value of my own experiences, recognize the emotional reactions I had, and use that to propel myself forward, learning more about the world and the way things work with each step I take.

There are dozens of corny cliches about conquering your fears, facing challenges, growing from past experiences, and picking yourself up after you fall down. These sayings are cliches for a reason. Although we may view them as overused, they are such because they are true and applicable. As human beings, we learn best when faced with a problem we can overcome, not by sweeping our problems under the rug and avoiding them at all costs. There are better, healthier, more productive ways to overcome negative life experiences that don't involve compromising our education.

Let yourself be challenged, especially in college. Don't let your education suffer because of what you've experienced; rather, allow your experiences to enhance your education and the education of your peers, so the world can be filled with critical thinkers who tackle problems head-on.