Trigger warning contest

“Trigger warnings” on syllabi — this book may be upsetting — are the latest campus fad, the New York Times reports.

Students want to be forewarned that Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice deals with anti-Semitism or that Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway addresses a combat veteran’s suicide. Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby includes “a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence,” a Rutgers student writes.

The National Association of Scholars has announced a Trigger Warning ContestWhat should readers be warned about before reading, say, Hamlet, The Republic, Anne of Green Gables, or The Wind in the Willows? Or the classic of your choice.

Readers can submit entries on Twitter, including NAS’s handle and the hashtag #triggerwarningfail.

Examples:

The Iliad: warning – disturbing scene for those suffering sports injuries. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

Oedipus Rex: warning – prejudicial treatment of alternative family structures. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

Gulliver’s Travels: warning – size-ist. #triggerwarningfail @NASorg

The top three trigger warnings will be announced on Friday. Each submitter in the top three will receive a copy of NAS president Peter Wood’s book,  A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now (warning: not recommended for the apiphobic).

Teaching the traumatized child

“A great many students come to school with emotional and behavioral difficulties that pose serious barriers to their learning,” writes David Bornstein in the New York Times. More than 20 percent of Spokane elementary students had two or more “adverse childhood experiences,” such as homelessness, witnessing domestic violence or having a parent on drugs or in jail, according to a Washington State study.

Some schools are trying to help students deal with stress. Angelo Elementary School in Brockton, Massachusetts is training teachers and reorganizing classrooms.

“We created choices in the classroom for kids if they felt their emotions were starting to get the best of them,” (Principal Ryan) Powers said. “They could put on headphones, listen to some classical music, sit on a bean bag chair, take a break, go for a walk.”

Teachers started paying more attention to the way they spoke to children. They began the day by greeting every child — by name or a handshake or a touch on the shoulder. They made the first morning session to be about about community building. They made efforts to reduce the number of transitions and communicate clearly, so changes would be predictable.

Stress is very bad for learning. “When you come from a home that is very disorganized, sequence and cause and effect can be thrown off,” explained  Susan Cole, a former special education teacher who directs the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative. “This affects language development, memory and concentration.”

Teaching, trauma and Tamerlan

Trauma is part of the job for many community college instructors, writes Wick Sloane, who teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. He suffered “secondary trauma” after one of his students was murdered in 2007 for no known reason. Another student in the same College Writing I class: Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He cut frequently, e-mailed some excuses, then dropped out.

Lawyer withdraws Newtown suit — for now

That $100 million lawsuit claiming Connecticut failed to protect Sandy Hook Elementary students has been withdrawn, but could be refiled.

“I received new evidence on security at the school, which I need to evaluate,” (lawyer Irving) Pinsky said Monday.

The suit was filed in the name of “Jill Doe,” a six-year-old girl who survived the massacre but allegedly was traumatized by hearing screams, cursing and gunshots on the intercom. Pinsky said the suit’s goal was to improve school safety, not to make money. Of course.

The Sandy Hook lawsuits begin

Twenty children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Now the parents of a 6-year-old survivor are suing the school for $100 million because their child heard “cursing, screaming, and shooting” over the school intercom. “As a consequence, the … child has sustained emotional and psychological trauma and injury, the nature and extent of which are yet to be determined,” the claim said.

Why should the school be held responsible? asks Jazz Shaw on Hot Air.

The lawsuit claims the children were not protected from “foreseeable harm” because officials had failed to provide a “safe school setting” or design “an effective student safety emergency response plan and protocol.”

Sandy Hook Elementary’s doors were locked, writes Doug Mataconis, a lawyer, on Outside the Beltway. Adam Lanza shot his way in.

. . . teachers and aides did everything they could to evacuate the building or get the children into areas where they’d be hidden and safe. One teacher lost her life protecting her children from Lanza’s murderous spree. What, exactly, is it that this family asserts the school could have reasonably done differently? Perhaps they need to count their blessings, be glad their child is safe, and stop looking for a pot of gold out of this horrible tragedy.

I agree. Sandy Hook had a reasonable level of security for an elementary school — everything but armed guards. We can’t foresee and prevent every possible horror.

Here are the names of Adam Lanza’s victims.