Syllabus Content Warning

Japan-Nuclear-EmergencySyllabus Content Warning

I’d never thought about this until I saw Angus Johnston’s post on his blog, Student Activism. I use the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as an example of the need for regulation in the business environment. It’s pretty graphic and I warn the class verbally before using it. But this might be better. I could include a warning and then list the documentaries that students could have trouble with.

Mr. Johnston says he could use some feedback on this issue. If you are a teacher, please go to his web site and give your advice.

James Pilant

Content Warnings and College Classes |

The New Republic has a story out mocking and condemning what it describes as a trend toward the use of mandatory “trigger warnings” in college classes.

I don’t have time for a full post on this subject right now, but as I said on Twitter a few moments ago, while I’ve never given a trigger warning by that name, I do make a point of mentioning to  my students at the start of the semester the fact that my courses sometimes address horrific and difficult subjects. Beyond that, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I prepare my students for traumatic material in class, and about how I present that material. Classrooms can be traumatizing environments, and it’s appropriate for professors to consider how to ameliorate that possibility.

After I logged off of Twitter, I got to thinking about whether it would be appropriate for me to address the subject of potentially traumatic subjects in the syllabus, and what an attempt to do so might look like. Here’s what I came up with:

“At times during this semester we may be discussing historical events that may be disturbing, even traumatizing. If you ever feel the need to step outside before or during one of these discussions, either for a short time or for the rest of the class session, you may always do so without academic penalty. If you ever wish to discuss your personal reactions to this material, either with the class or with me afterwards, I welcome such discussion as an appropriate part of our coursework.”

That’s just a very early first draft. I don’t know for sure that I’m going to incorporate this into syllabi going forward, but it’s a whack at the problem at least.

I’m interested to know what y’all think, and to see other examples, if you know of any.

via Content Warnings and College Classes |.

From around the web.

From the web site, Classically Inclined.

So, I was putting together my syllabus for Roman Literature of the Empire recently, which is the half-unit course I’m currently teaching to the first year students. It is going to be awesome – we have Livy, Ovid, Lucan, Petronius and Seneca, so I get to spend some time with my favourite boys talking about my favourite things. However. I had decided that for Ovid, if I was going to get the students to read some of his love poetry, I needed to have a lecture titled Why Ovid Is Problematic.

Why? Because it’s not pedagogically responsible to set students loose on the Amores and the Ars Amatoria without explicitly talking about sexual violence and rape. There is a darker side to our witty, playful poet that does need to be talked about, and students need to be given the tools for thinking about these difficult issues. This is, in part, what my article handling teaching the Metamorphoses in the classroom addresses. I had to think quite carefully about how I structured that lecture and what I do with it – I want to talk about the romanticisation of rape in terms of the Sabine women, the abuse of power as it appears in the two Cypassis poems, the violence against the female body as it appears in the two poems about Corinna’s abortion, and the problems of consent and its absence that some of the Amores pose, which feels like a well-structured progression through the issues posed by this sort of writing with some concrete examples.

I have, of course, yet to face the issues involved in actually preparing the lecture. My problem when I was constructing the syllabus was how to make it clear that the content of this session could be disturbing for survivors of rape. What is the pedagogy of the trigger warning on the syllabus?