Field of Science

Watch out! This material may cause you to think!

For some time now, since the news of this first appeared, TPP has been going to write about students requesting "trigger warnings" on books, articles, and indeed, course syllabi. Fortunately this hasn't happened at our university as yet.  There are so many things wrong with this TPP hardly knows where to begin. In biology it's often religiously conservative students who wish to avoid evolution.  Hey, memorize the bones of a vertebrate skeleton.  OK!  Homology, not OK!  But how the bloody hell is TPP supposed to know what topics, -isms, or subjects will offend the delicate sensibilities of students?  And where is it written anyways that when you decide to study at the university level you need to be warned about something that might make you uncomfortable, uneasy, uncertain?  Now before you try to climb TPP's tree about this, be aware that while teaching economic botany, he was accused of being a sexist, a racist, and a religious proselytizer, all in the same semester.  Our undergraduate dean says its still some sort of record obviously set by an equal opportunity offensive instructor, and his response, "Keep up the good work."  Would it have mattered if the syllabus contained trigger warnings?  "Be aware that gatherer-hunter societies have a sexual division of labor presented as an observation about who knew plant resources and not some sort of advocacy for women's roles in a perfect society."  "Geographic origins of plants and plant products are based upon actual facts and not presented to denigrate any particular cultures or peoples, so no, African-Americans (G. W. Carver, in particular) did not invent peanut butter (Marcellus Gilmore Edson, a Canadian, patented the product in 1884 before Carver was even in college.)."  "Biblical botanical scholarship about every mention, in Hebrew, of a plant tells you about what plants were used and important in the Middle East, and this should not be construed as criticism or confirmation of the Bible's veracity (it actually goes both ways - it wasn't an apple; John the Baptist did eat locusts in the wilderness, but he wasn't eating grasshopper like insects, but carob pods.)." At any rate, such complaints come from unimaginative, uninformed, and perhaps, uneducable students, and probably the best response is to suggest that perhaps university study is beyond their intellectual or emotional maturity at the present time.  Kathleen Parker is not one of my favorite opinionators, but in this case she clearly nails it, particularly for the blame any administrator deserves for falling for this.  Requiring trigger warnings ..."is the busy work of smallish minds --yet another numbing example of political correctness run amok and the infantilizing of education in the service of overreaching sensitivity."  Gee, wish TPP could write like that.  Wow, just noticed that our local rag's title for this column was "Warning: Literature happening."  The real title was: "Fair warning, provoking a thought is literature’s job." Now possibly, they just wanted a much shorter, albeit less punchy title, or they thought the full title might hurt someone's feelings! Ha! 

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