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"Trigger" List for College Reading : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

"Trigger" List for College Reading

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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DrG2
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"Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby DrG2 » Mon May 19, 2014 9:01 pm

The idea is that students should be warned about aspects (violence, misogyny, any -isms, etc.) that might trigger discomfort in the reader. I'm ambivalent. I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with simply listing controversial topics. If a book includes incest, it would be nice for an incest survivor to know that, going in.

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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby James A. Ritchie » Tue May 20, 2014 12:19 pm


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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby MookyMcD » Tue May 20, 2014 1:17 pm

I'm a big fan of triggering discomfort in readers. The main reason I write with a lot of humor is to disguise the amount of discomfort I'm causing.

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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby Bradley Steven » Thu May 22, 2014 1:18 pm

This policy is creeping a little close to censorship for me by telling me what ideas, or themes I should consider harmful. The book summary is all the warning label a reader should need.

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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby shadowwalker » Thu May 22, 2014 1:41 pm

I think people (in general) are misunderstanding "triggers". People suffering from PTSD, for example, have triggers, things that can cause major psychological reactions because of previous traumas. They aren't those things that cause "discomfort". Which is why I doubt this will be at all effective. Teachers shouldn't be expected to act as students' mental health advisors or guardians. Someone suffering from actual PTSD or other psychological problems which actually do involve triggers should look at the syllabus and reading materials and if there might be a problem, discuss it one on one with the teacher. But because triggers are not always obvious or generalized (such as rape, murder, incest), there is no way a college could anticipate what the actual triggers for various students would be. How is anyone supposed to realize that a simple phrase could be someone's trigger?

This is nothing more than trying to find an over-simplified solution to a complex problem, and as such, ineffective.
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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby robjvargas » Thu May 22, 2014 2:09 pm

Teachers and professors don't have the expertise or the resources to determine when a real trigger is at issue. So trigger warnings are not, IMO, useful for this.
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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby shadowwalker » Thu May 22, 2014 3:59 pm

"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

It's really not that hard. Just tell me a story.

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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby DrG2 » Thu May 22, 2014 9:25 pm

after almost two decades of annual training on sensitivity to people that are different from me, I've come to accept that I should make reasonable accommodations for others, if they ask for them.

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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby James A. Ritchie » Fri May 23, 2014 12:19 pm


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Re: "Trigger" List for College Reading

Postby Mazy » Sun May 25, 2014 6:50 pm

[quote="shadowwalker"][quote="robjvargas"]Teachers and professors don't have the expertise or the resources to determine when a real trigger is at issue. So trigger warnings are not, IMO, useful for this.[/quote]

Absolutely agree. If a student has a problem, they should avail themselves of student services and arrange for appropriate accomodations (alternate readings, independent study, etc) so they can participate to the best of their ability.[/quote]

It is my understanding that college students are asking for exception to class material that will contain a trigger for them/or one. They are asking to be excused from a particular assignment and given an alternative assignment. I also agree that a student with sensitivity to any amount of violence has a need for psychological interference. But what of a trigger that goes silently by a particular student then that student acts out? In the case of PTSD, the blackout throws the person into the situation that created the trauma, and in the instance of a veteran of war there can be a violent reaction to a perceived threat.
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