Trigger Warnings Trigger Better Classrooms

Trigger warnings are a constant battle between good and evil. Universities all over the nation agree to disagree that trigger warnings are useful or too soft for college students. A lot of professors will argue that their students should be grown up enough to handle touchy subjects, but they are only considering themselves. What if the girl in the back row has recently been sexually assaulted, and the professor starts referencing a similar situation? The trigger warning is not about whether or not a student is too sensitive. It is about being a person with morals and respecting those who have had horrible things happen to them. There is a difference between a student being whiny and a student who has suffered something the rest of us hope to never suffer.


There is a difference between the student who hates Trump and can not talk about politics and the student that can not talk about war due to post traumatic stress disorder, whos reaction to the subject “can be intense and unpleasant, and may even overtake our consciousness, as with a flashback with a war veteran.” (Manne). Not only do trigger warnings protect severe flashbacks from victims of post traumatic stress disorder and assault, but it also protects the professor’s class from being disrupted. Post traumatic stress disorder is said to have “cognition and mood symptoms that can begin or worsen after the traumatic event.” (National Institute of Mental Health). Why would a decent human want to cause a recollection of horrid memories to an innocent student who has fought for our country, and seen things we could never imagine seeing outside of the movie theatre.

trigger-warningSuppose that girl in the back row now has her head down. She is trying so hard to tune you, the professor, out. Suddenly, she bursts into tears and runs out of the classroom. Not only have horrible memories been brought back to her, but the classroom is now disrupted. All focus has left the room with the crying girl from the back row. Professors can keep their classroom in order if they “provide a warning if they were teaching material that could cause flashbacks in students who had been sexually assaulted or suffered other trauma.” (Glazer). A former student who has experienced this herself, Leah Block, describes her pain and agony when her professor was talking about suicide: “I had to deal with two levels of pain. I had to relive my own struggle with suicidal thoughts, and I had to suffer the discomfort of hearing other people explain away my problems as if they had authority over my emotions.” (Block).


Although “most abnormal psychology instructors do not view trigger warnings as essential to the teaching of sensitive topics” (Boysen), trigger warnings are so much more useful than professors think. Classroom disruptions would be halted, teaching disruptions would disappear. If only professors would put it in the syllabus that sensitive topics would be discussed in class, and the student had the option to leave if the conversation became too intense. This would prepare the student, and avoid future conflicts with the professor and the learning environment. Trigger warnings not only help the student that may be suffering from PTSD, sexual assault, or other traumas, but it also helps the professor avoid a dramatic mess in the classroom. The franticness of a student who is having unwelcomed intrusive thoughts of a horrific past event would easily distract the classroom. Some people may not consider the idea of war, sexual assault, or other traumatic events to be sensitive subjects, but those who have lived it would beg to differ. Having dealt with it versus assuming what it would be like completely different. Students would not feel targeted and after all, “a debater wouldn’t punch a broken arm, and the mental or emotional equivalent should not be treated differently.” (Block).

Works Cited:

Boysen, Guy A. “Instructor’s Use of Trigger Warnings and Behavior Warnings in Abnormal

Psychology.” Sage Journals. Teaching of Psychology, 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Block, Leah. “In Favor of Trigger Warnings in College Debate.” The Chronicle of Higher

Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 04 Mar. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Glazer, Sarah. “Free Speech on Campus.” CQ Researcher by CQ Press. An Imprint of SAGE

Publishing, 8 May 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Manne, Kate. “Why I Use Trigger Warnings.” The New York Times. The New York Times

Company, 20 Sept. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

National Institute for Mental Health


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