Defending Trigger Warnings as I begin YEAR 20 in the classroom

In the past three days, I have been interviewed twice about trigger warnings.  What I have realized from these two interviews is that many issues are being conflated into one, and the term “trigger warning” is now synonymous with “censorship.”

You can listen to my ten-minute interview with Dom Giordano on CBS Radio here.  I was very nervous–in fact, I was shaking during the entire thing–but I think I held it together well.  I was so worried about coming across as shrill.  And then I was mad at myself for worrying about that.  But then my office phone rang.  I panicked:  “The trolls found me already?!”

They hadn’t.  It was a man whose daughter attended Kutztown and who had sat in the car to listen to me stand up to someone he thinks of as a “bully.”  He wanted to thank me.

It was nice to hear a positive comment because I made the mistake earlier in the day to breeze through the comments on my weekend interview for Philly Magazine on the same topic.  I forgot the number one rule of the Internet:  don’t read the comments!  I did have to laugh at the one that started with “Oh, Barf.”   I am absurd–and worse.  I guess I am doing the right thing if I make people that angry.

The interviewer found my piece on Teaching Tolerance in which I defend the warnings.  Again, I am only talking about the warnings, but it sure does seem people want to make those notes on the syllabus about something much, much larger.

I am grateful for these opportunities to hone my argument on why trigger warnings matter–and why a safe classroom matters.  I want students to be uncomfortable, but not unsafe.  If I take anything with me into this academic year, it is that lesson.






  1. Your defense of your positions is thoughtful, caring, and from a place of deep respect and love for your students and your profession. Thank you for adding your perspective.

    1. Thank you for being my partner in the profession for the past decades. We fight the good fight together.

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