On Trigger Warnings and Conflict Archaeology

My Twitter feed is blowing up with stories trolling University College-London students who are taking Gabe Moshenka’s modern conflict archaeology class. Apparently, consistent with UCL policy, students were told if they were feeling overwhelmed by the material, they could step out of class without penalty. Much of the backlash has been laced with derision assuming that students are basically coddled softies that can’t cope with reading books and journal articles. Too whatever extent that caricature reflects reality… okay. But, here’s the thing. People seem to be assuming that all students are of the same demographic with similarly sheltered upbringings.

And that’s where I think they lost some perspective.

See, we’ve got these wars going on, which means we have a new generation of veterans coming back and transitioning to civilian life. Some of them are going to college, and some of them are going to college. If you’re a veteran in a class on modern conflict studies, and the course material is dealing with subject matter that brings out something you’re still dealing with from Iraq or Afghanistan (or the various other conflicts we’re embroiled in that don’t rise to the level of a declared war), then I would much prefer you be able to step out without penalty than feel like you have to sit there and have your situation get worse.

Also, if your childhood involved enduring genocide or political terror in Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan, or You-Name-It-Because-It-Happens-Too-Much-These-Days, and the class starts talking about excavating mass graves of people you knew as a child, please God step out if you need to. The people who seem to be gleefully castigating students who might need to step out from class assume that no one’s life has actually involved the modern conflict that these classes focus on.

Check. that. privilege.

EDIT: Alix at The People’s Republic of Mortimer took more time with this, thinking along the same lines. Give her a read.

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