English language students receive ‘trigger warnings’ for insults and swear words


A leading university has issued trigger warnings about ‘insults’ and swearing – for students studying the English language.

Guidance from York University’s Department of Languages ​​and Linguistics lists a series of “content warnings” that are added to courses.

One alerts language students to “verbal abuse, verbal and written threats, etc. “.

Another disclaimer says to the next generation of language experts: “This module is about language as it is used by real speakers and writers in real situations.

“In many cases, the forms of language we will encounter in the module are taboo terms (insults, slurs, swear words, slang terms, etc.) that may offend.

“Other times it is the situation in which the language was produced, rather than the language itself, that is unpleasant or disturbing. Sometimes it is both simultaneously.

“Degrading” material

Students at the university, one of 24 research-intensive institutions in the UK’s Russell Group, are reassured that they can quit distance learning if they get too upset.

“If during the taught sessions, which this year will be delivered almost exclusively online, you feel you want to leave the Zoom meeting, or turn off your camera and microphone due to particularly sensitive content, you are welcome to do so. , “says the management.

Many trigger warnings are also provided to language and linguistics students in the event of crime, death, “hate language”, miscarriages, abortion and “transphobic language/behaviour”.

The alerts apply to module web pages and videos “so that students are aware when selecting their modules for the following year”, and on course summaries, in specific courses, and before starting. display “upsetting”, “distressing”, “difficult” or “disturbing” materials.

Lecturers are advised in York’s advice: “When giving a verbal warning about content, allow sufficient time between the warning and the presentation of the material. Let students know that they can leave the session at any time if they need to. »

And in another example from the department, a review copy says, “Warning: The copy contains material relating to the investigation and prosecution of a large number of murders and sex crimes, and you may find some of them disturbing. ”

“Linguistic Engineering”

Professor Frank Furedi, a sociology expert at the University of Kent, said the trigger warnings are “part of a process of turning students into patients”.

‘The assumption is that they need to be isolated by some kind of therapeutic intervention so that they don’t face anything that is even far from the norm,’ he told the Telegraph.

“Trigger warnings are actually a form of linguistic engineering, using trigger warnings as a way to rearrange what your students should say or react to words.

“It’s a way of managing and trying to control people’s ability to communicate, so it’s a very insidious process. Although it is often well intentioned, it is a form of linguistic quarantine.

It comes after it emerged last week that York University archeology students embarking on ‘mummification’ modules are receiving a content warning for corpses and skeletons.

On other campuses, trigger alerts have been applied to numerous books in recent months, including Harry Potter and George Orwell’s 1984. At Highland University, a tag has been added to Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and the sea for the “graphic fishing scenes”.

York University did not respond to a request for comment.


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