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Heather Fox, Ph.D. student

Teaching Discussion Group kicks off with discussion of trigger warnings

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Department of English will host the first Teaching Discussion Group on from 3-4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11 in CPR 257. The Teaching Discussion Group is open to anyone within the Department of English—rhetoric and composition, professional writing, literature and creative writing—interested in discussing teaching practices.

Talking about teaching helps us to be better teachers, better learners and better prepared to articulate our thoughts about our pedagogical decisions, said Heather Fox, a Ph.D. student. The Teaching Discussion Group invites volunteers to submit articles for discussion.

For the September meeting, Fox has chosen the piece “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt from the September 2015 issue of “The Atlantic.” You may access the article using this link:

“The Coddling of the American Mind” uses a progression of sociocultural examples during the past 30 years and recent pedagogical articles as evidence toward an increasingly-institutionalized trend to protect students from uncomfortable words and ideas in post-secondary education. Linking this phenomenon to an increase in mental health diagnosis in young adults, Lukianoff and Haidt argue that a culture of protection leads to cognitive distortions, such as labeling, catastrophizing, blaming, overgeneralizing and so forth.

Furthermore, the authors suggest that faculty members in some institutions are responding to students’ expectations of trigger warnings by censoring or eliminating material. “The Coddling of the American Mind” concludes with a call-to action: Educators should help students negotiate a world of words and ideas instead of protecting them from those words and ideas.

Chosen, in part, as an extension of a lively practicum discussion, the group will discuss if “trigger warnings” should be used in the college classroom? How might protecting students increase the risk of mental illness instead of decreasing it? When censoring texts or providing “trigger warnings” in advance of readings, are we creating a safer classroom space or are we creating, as Lukianoff and Haidt argue, a culture of “vindictive protectedness”?

The group meets on the second Friday of each month from 3–4 p.m. in CPR 257.

For questions about the Teaching Discussion Group, please contact Heather Fox (


Filed under:English Arts and Sciences