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Trigger Warning: The following Op/Ed contains material that might offend the perpetually offended. It could cause the bunching of the panties of anyone bothered by free speech, academic honesty, Halloween, paper cuts, and international cuisine.
If 2015, was any indication of the direction that American college campuses are headed in then get ready for some fireworks.
For those in need of a refresher the past academic year saw protests over chalk etchings of the name ‘Trump,’ culturally appropriated cafeteria food, Halloween costumes, and well pretty much anything you can imagine.
There was also an increased demand for trigger warnings – an academic heads up that professors give to students about references to uncomfortable topics like rape, war, slavery, paper cuts, white males, or anything else that could prompt a student to seek shelter in the nearest safe space.
Last week, an Auburn professor decided to have a little fun with at the expense of the perpetually horrified.
Mechanical Engineering prof Peter Schwartz placed an ominous warning at the top of his Introductory Mechanics Course syllabus.
“TRIGGER WARNING: physics, trigonometry, sine, cosine, tangent, vector, force, work, energy, stress, quiz, grade.”
Schwartz echoed the feelings of many when he pointed out how ludicrous the warnings are.
“I think trigger warnings are a joke to begin with and I wanted to see what one might look like in an engineering course,” Schwartz told Al.com in an email. “Looks kind of silly, doesn’t it? [That’s] because it is.”
Sadly, every joke contains some nugget of truth.
Schools – like New York’s Hamilton College – have implemented requirements that professors in all majors incorporate diversity lessons into their curricula.
One might wonder how diversity training would be worked into a course like Schwartz’s “Introductory Mechanics”, but of greater concern is how such a policy would impact academic freedom or academia in general.
Face time between professors and students is often in short supply. Thus students in fields like engineering or pre-med are being shortchanged if some of their valuable classroom time is being chewed up by diversity training that has little to no relation to course objectives.
There are unintended consequences there as well; sacrificing classroom time to cover diversity means struggling students will have to waste study hours outside of class catching up on their own when they could be a raised hand away from getting help from a professor. Likewise, for professors it means rationing prep time that could be used to create a better course of study, all because three Caucasian freshmen circulated a petition claiming that taco Tuesday is racist.
But beyond the inconvenience that comes with these pseudo-progressive charades is the sacrifice of the academic freedom of many for the sake of the feelings of a few.
Young men and women spend large sums of money to go to college and receive an education that will prepare them to survive financially, professionally, intellectually, and socially in the real world.
Forcing a professor to deviate from course material to fill a check-in-the-box diversity requirement erodes educators’ ability to practice their craft in the way that they know best.
It also shields students from the harsh reality that sometimes the world is not a nice a place. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s also part of becoming a well-adjusted adult.
In many ways college is like the minor leagues for adulthood. You’re away from home, living among your own peer group, learning to do laundry, sneak cases of Natural Ice past the RA (a laundry bag padded with sweatshirts and bath towels usually works), manage money, etc. Part of that learning process involves confronting and dealing with uncomfortable ideas, and not leaning on a trigger warning as a protective crutch.
It also means that just as a professor shouldn’t be forced to break from his own course material — to spend time raising awareness about each student’s status as a special snowflake – your boss, coworkers, neighbors, guy running the bodega down the street, etc., won’t be doing so either.
The most important lesson that the class of 2020 needs to learn is that the real world is right around the corner, and no one out there cares about your feelings.
This contributor is a Marine veteran that has served in the Middle East. Due to the sensitive nature of his current job, he has requested to remain anonymous.