French course ‘may be upsetting’ university students are told in trigger warning for history module

French course ‘may be upsetting’ university students are told in trigger warning on history and culture module covering topics including colonialism, feminism, literature and film

  • The University of Aberdeen provided a warning for one of their French modules
  • Bosses were concerned the French Language module could ‘upset’ students 
  • The ‘potentially challenging’ topics include WW2 and France’s colonial history  
  • The University believe ‘every student is different’ and have thus taken caution 

French history and culture have been given a trigger warning in a university module because they ‘may be upsetting to some students’. 

A module called Qualified French Language, part of the French course at the University of Aberdeen, have included a warning in the course guide.

The course is set to cover language skills, literature, film, the Second World War, France‘s colonial history and modern societal changes relating to migration and feminism – all labeled as ‘potentially challenging topics’.

The University of Aberdeen said that they believe ‘every student is different’ and therefore ‘do not seek to tell them what they should or should not find challenging.’

French history and culture have been given a trigger warning in a university module called Qualified French Language because they 'may be upsetting to some students'

French history and culture have been given a trigger warning in a university module called Qualified French Language because they ‘may be upsetting to some students’

Students are also told to expect discussion around the Francophonie, essentially the near-equivalent of the Commonwealth for French-speaking nations. 

Today, the Francophonie represents a global community of French-speaking people, comprising a network of private and public organizations promoting equal ties among countries where French people or France played a significant historical role, culturally, militarily, or politically.

The ‘content warning’ for the module says: ‘Some of the course content (for instance the climate crisis, responses to terrorism, family relationships, post-colonial patterns which the themes of Francophonie and the diversity of France and French might bring up, homophobia…) may be upsetting to some students.’

The module will cover World War II. Pictured: Escaped French soldiers arriving in London

The module will cover World War II. Pictured: Escaped French soldiers arriving in London

France's colonial history will also be taught. Pictured here is a French resistance group

France’s colonial history will also be taught. Pictured here is a French resistance group

Undergraduate students are also reminded that, should they be triggered by any of the course content, they should reach out for support if they need it.

The warning adds: ‘tutors have been briefed to approach potentially challenging topics sensitively, and you are encouraged to contact your tutor or course coordinator if you anticipate any difficulties during the oral class, or in connection to any task across this course’.

One module that is included in the content warning covers ‘gender, sexuality, love and marginalisation in contemporary France’ with added context in 18th century French culture onwards.

Students are also told to expect discussion around the Francophonie, essentially the near-equivalent of the Commonwealth for French-speaking nations

Students are also told to expect discussion around the Francophonie, essentially the near-equivalent of the Commonwealth for French-speaking nations

The university documents also point out that ‘potentially challenging topics are engaged with across the course, from the texts to be understood or translated to the topics discussed in oral classes and videos studied’.

Some users took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the warning, with one commenting: ‘That woke bastion, the university of Aberdeen, has given students a trigger warning that courses on French history and culture may be upsetting. Les pauvres!’

The French trigger warning is one of a number of cautionary notes put out by the university, and comes as university bosses have been accused of patronising and ‘mollycoddling’ students. 

More than 1,000 texts across UK universities have been slapped with trigger warnings or removed from reading lists due to their ‘challenging’ content. 

An investigation has revealed at least ten institutions – including three from the elite Russell Group – have either withdrawn books or made them optional in case they harm or offend undergraduates.

Even the work of literary greats such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie have been given trigger warnings. 

Undergraduate students are told to reach out for support if they need it

Undergraduate students are told to reach out for support if they need it

Prof Frank Furedi, of the University of Kent, told the Telegraph: ‘It is troubling that a line is drawn around things which arise in course material.

‘It becomes almost like a quarantine, isolating phenomena like wars and conflict, and all those things which go into creating history and culture, because they are deemed a threat to the health of young people.

‘The risk is that subjects become so anesthetised that they are about as interesting as a phonebook. Young people should be going to university to be challenged.’

 A University of Aberdeen spokesperson said: ‘The content warning applies to one module of our French Studies programme, where students discuss French-language texts on a range of topics related to Francophone society, and embracing a wide range of issues which can include themes of colonialism, homophobia, and familial issues of a sensitive nature. The texts are not fixed, and change from year to year.

‘Our approach to content warnings enables us to explore controversial topics that could otherwise be difficult to address in an inclusive and supportive environment.

‘Our guidelines on content warnings were developed in collaboration with student representatives and students have expressed their admiration for our approach.

‘We are an international university with students from over 130 countries and as such there is a wide range of cultural diversity with students sometimes reading in a second, or third language. 

‘Our content warnings reflect the fact that every student is different, and do not seek to tell them what they should or should not find challenging.’

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