More and more, Australian universities are accused of coddling students and protecting them from ‘sensitive’ topics, embracing so-called ‘politically correct’ policies and teaching approaches that are commonplace in the U.S. and the UK.
These policies include warning students before potentially disturbing or sensitive topics are discussed in class. Termed as “trigger warnings”, they might apply to topics such as sexual abuse, rape, suicide, transgenderism, and more.
Defenders of the approach assert that “trigger warnings” are necessary to shield students from distress and create safe places for intellectual growth.
Political correctness in Australia is out of control, but a backlash may be underway. https://t.co/3ugHjrOWKJ
— Heat Street (@heatstreet) June 23, 2016
Dr Lauren Rosewarne of the University of Melbourne, who has issued such warnings since starting her teaching career 13 years ago, compared them to media disclaimers.
“It’s like television … you have a warning for everything from drug use to supernatural things, as a way to tell the audience that [they] may be disturbed by one of any number of topics,” she told The Age.
Rosewarne told the publication that students have been increasingly “polic[ing] the language of lecturers” in the last two years.
australia: Universities pull the trigger on political correctness https://t.co/9jh2fk1bvt
— Reddit Aus (@RedditAus) June 23, 2016
But these trends have sparked a furious counter-reaction and outcry from those who blame “trigger warnings” and other seemingly well-intentioned restrictions on speech for promoting a narrow worldview and insulating students from other perspectives.
“Academics aren’t psychologists, it’s not their job … academics shouldn’t be worrying about the possibility that their content could cause an emotional reaction,” Matthew Lesh, a research fellow at right-leaning think tank Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), told The Age.
“Universities should be about exposing people to as many ideas as possible, even if they are challenging.”
People raging on about political correctness ruining Australia just want to be able to be explicitly bigoted without criticism #ausvotes
— Rain Riddim (@lilzouzouni) June 27, 2016
Lesh previously published a paper via the IPA which flagged nearly eight in 10 (79 percent) Australian universities for policies or actions they claim clearly restrict free speech.
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