Friday, September 2, 2016

Engineering Professor Includes Trigger Warnings

Auburn University professor Peter Schwartz included a trigger warning on the syllabus for his class this fall, ENGR 2100 — Fundamentals of Engineering Mechanics.
TRIGGER WARNING: physics, trigonometry, sine, cosine, tangent, vector, force, work, energy, stress, quiz, grade
The red text and bold font for "work" are used on the syllabus.
It's an attempt at humor from a man who on Monday told that he considers trigger warnings to be "a joke" and he would never issue a serious trigger warning.  

"I think trigger warnings are a joke to begin with and I wanted to see what one might look like in an engineering course. Looks kind of silly, doesn't it? That (sic) because it is," he said via email.
Which is why I'm blogging this:  it strikes me funny, too.  With the University of Chicago issuing a statement that they expect students to be mature enough to not need trigger warnings and safe spaces, this may be an idea whose time has come.  I come from a time and place where there was no such thing as a trigger warning.  Although this picture is from a much more recent time than I was in school, this was more like the reality in the world I come from:
If something made you uncomfortable, well, too bad.  It's the material we're studying; if you can't bear to hear it or read it, you won't be able to learn it and you'll flunk out.  Nobody would rewrite the requirements of a class because a student was uncomfortable in it. 


  1. In a long ago Physics class, (and ignoring air resistance) the falling ball accelerated at 32fps squared.
    This class was so long ago;
    the units were not metric.
    the math was done using scientific notation and a slide rule.
    the students neither knew, nor cared, what the gender orientation of the ball was.
    the grades were based on the test answers, and not the political/social viewpoints of the student or the teachers.

    I worked as a machinery mechanic for most of my career. And to paraphrase the written note, if you cheat on repairing machinery it will kill you and others.

  2. While it has been many decades since I was in school, I would still bet that unlike today where the non-science students can "buy" their tests and thesis on-line and have someone do them for you, the same is not true of engineering. You still have to demonstrate understanding of the material in many ways, labs, tests, projects, etc. But the level of PC BS entering the space of engineering is no less problematic.

  3. I used to joke with my friends that while Doctor's bury their mistakes, and Lawyers visit theirs, we Engineers had to fix ours, and make sure they worked properly...

  4. All three of you (and I) have the same message: if you deal with reality, you can't get away with trying to cheat it. Scott Adams had a line once about how engineers take a dim view of modern management cost-cutting. On the one hand, we think Space Shuttles Challenger or Columbia; Hyatt Regency Walkway; rotating machinery taking out friends and coworkers. On the other hand, we have "handsome certificate suitable for framing".

    Looked at that way, that certificate just isn't impressive.

    Since were talking about Feynman the other day, another perfect Feynman quote is, "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."

  5. In RVN the only trigger warning anyone got was at the end of an empty magazine. Feynman was right even if he didn't have the highest IQ in the room....look at the research chaos occurring in science today.