EDI Goes Rogue

So perhaps it’s time to make trigger warnings a bit more inclusive. By definition, in the shoal-ridden and unpredictable waters of academe, said forewarnings are ‘explicit alerts that the material (a student) is about to read or see in a classroom might upset them or, as some assert, cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder’ (NY Times, 2014). There is considerable controversy as to whether these well-intentioned, ‘protective’ efforts achieve the desired end of insulating students from being re-traumatized — or in fact, do the reverse: sensitize. More or less the equivalent of the B-movie scenario where we know the psycho is going to jump out of the closet. . . we just don’t know when or which closet. Perfect recipe for anticipatory anxiety.

Evidently, the Halton District School Board has found its own creative solution: simply don’t watch the movie. In case it got overlooked on your Twitter feed, a high school in Oakville is reputed to house a, well, we’re not exactly sure a what. According to hastily cobbled together defences from Board trustees, it’s neither student, nor employee. They (the trustees) are adamant that it’s not the teacher named in the ‘misinformed information in media, conventional or social’. Whatever it is (or isn’t), it’s gone viral — perhaps one of those rare circumstances where both the content and the speed of transmission is entirely aptly so described. In short, heads buried in sand followed hard on (as it were) by denial — and ultimately shelter taken behind that one-size-fits-all shield of freedom of personal expression, and insulated by the angst accompanying any trans(gression) of diversity and inclusiveness — seems to have been the prevailing Board wisdom. And in the unlikely event that none of the above succeeds, resort to corporate double-speak to further obscure:

While we cannot confirm the identity of the individual in the photos/videos/radio segments, we can confirm that the individual is not ________ ________. ________ ________ is a staff member of the Halton District School Board who is an entirely separate individual and is completely unrelated to this matter. (HDSB release, Sept. 20, 2022).

And so, in a world where institutions are regularly being taken to task for failing to give the heads up to unsuspecting students that the psychology video they’re about to shown may contain highly disturbing content (rats trapped in cages, forced to press bars to stave off starvation) or the text they’re about to open may reference animal abuse (‘beating a dead horse’), it may be time for the HDSB trustees to step up their game. Perhaps a word of forewarning that the shop teacher may not be entirely what was expected. Or perhaps they (the trustees) are just concerned about creating a generation of power tool phobics riddled with post trauma. How thoughtful of them!

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