Required Readings

Contrarian highlights & a tiny baby horse video- It’s Required Reading 5/23/2014

Ooh -Speecharella is all allergic, late & grumpy- so let’s do this:

Gary Rubenstein wonders how much math do students really need? Diane Ravitch’s readers weigh in.

Mercedes Schneider asks TFA members fairly obvious but somehow hard-hitting questions about what the hell they think they’re doing.

Doni Wilson offers trigger warnings for Hamlet.

You may already be holding an icepack over the lump gave yourself when you read this but here it is again: a woman with a 4.0 gpa  is worth the same as a man with a 2.0 gpa .

This takes some of the sting out: a tiny baby horse runs around girl who doesn’t try to make it do anything in particular.

Required Readings are a list of links that you might find interesting! Look for them to appear every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Have some links you’d like to share? Submit them on our contact form!

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Speecharella is a speech pathologist at a small public school district in a one of those states that is suspicious of teachers and other people with an unnatural fondness for taking courses and such.


  1. June 6, 2014 at 3:55 pm —

    Thanks so much for linking to my essay on “Trigger Warnings for Hamlet”–I do appreciate it and thank you for reading. Are you based in Houston?

    Doni Wilson

    • June 6, 2014 at 6:57 pm —

      You’re very welcome! I’m not in Houston but I’ve been there a lot.

    • June 7, 2014 at 1:56 am —

      Sorry, but I have to say I found that essay pretty obnoxious. First off it was just painful to read such a forced and deliberate misunderstanding of what trigger warnings actually are (hint: they are basically never presented as detailed plot spoilers) just for the benefit of scoring rhetorical points with a ridiculous and contrived situation.

      But the sheer glee you take in being dismissive and condescending toward your fictional “victims” of ghost stories–who, lets not forget, are standing in for real victims of terrible violence and trauma–is just plain off-putting.

      Just in case you really are so ignorant and failed to properly Google, TWs help to prepare people for being faced with triggering material unexpectedly. We would expect to find murder and violence in a Renaissance revenge tragedy, and I sincerely doubt anyone would find Hamlet in need of a trigger warning. For the same reason, no one would think a TW for violence or gore necessary for a Zombie movie.

      On the other hand, a student would probably not be expecting a graphic first-person description of violent rape to pop up in the middle of a novel that starts out with lighter themes. Is it really so terrible to give those who ask for it a little warning so they don’t end up having a panic attack while reading on the bus? Give me a break.

      • June 9, 2014 at 8:36 pm —

        Yeah, I’m with Dan here. The essay is rudely dismissive and ignorant of the actual issues at stake. The list of potential “trigger warnings” for Hamlet is such a complete distortion of what people are actually asking for that it makes a lie out of the earlier statement, “I am not here minimizing anyone’s trauma”. I’m sorry, Doni, but if your intent was not to do that, you failed.

        When this topic was discussed on Almost Diamonds, I wrote this comment, which seems appropriate here as well: “As I understand it, a trigger warning is nothing more than a prior notice that a text or discussion includes reference to certain topics, so that a potential reader/participant can decide whether to engage. For college classes, the course summary and course syllabus are intended to constitute a comprehensive description of the topics that will be included so that a potential student can decide whether to enroll. The idea of including trigger warnings in a course syllabus seems entirely compatible with standard academic practice. In fact, a well-written syllabus should already include the same information that a trigger warning would include.”

        If the syllabus is as comprehensive as it ought to be, then at most the request for trigger warnings should be satisfied by adding a little additional boilerplate language to the syllabus, perhaps something like, “Students who, for any reason, may suffer extreme anxiety or emotional distress when discussing any of the above topics, to a degree that will interfere with their learning goals, may wish to consider this when determining their own preparedness for this course. If needed, counseling services are available at [contact info for the university’s counseling program here].”

        In the context of the rest of the essay, the final line, “You might try [Hamlet], when the time is right, for you,” comes across as snark. Which is too bad, because if read sincerely, it actually captures the real value that appropriate content warnings give. Maybe your student’s father just died, and Hamlet is just a little too “real” for them, and there’s no way they’ll be able to effectively engage with the text in the way that an academic curriculum demands. Maybe next year, when their emotions are a little less raw, Hamlet will speak to them and help them process their pain, in the way that literature does.

        The point is, giving students a comprehensive summary of the content of a curriculum helps them make appropriate decisions in advance about whether they are prepared, intellectually and emotionally, to engage with that curriculum. “Trigger warnings” can easily be part of that system.

  2. June 8, 2014 at 10:38 pm —

    Who is this “we ” that know all about what to expect in Renaissance revenge tragedies? There are actually a lot of people who don’t know that, who are shocked at the level of sex and gore in classic literature. It may surprise some advanced intellectuals to learn that we less enlightened folk often take classes about topics we don’t know anything about. I don’t question the general need for trigger warnings, there are themes in film & literature that I avoid because they’ll send me down for days. Those themes, specifically suicide and homeless storm refugees, don’t usually get trigger warnings, but once they show up , I check out. That being said, I can see how someone who already gets a lot of complaints about adult themes in classic lit can perceive the requests for trigger warnings as a fad used by students to express entitlement in a realm where they are uncomfortably challenged. I support trigger warnings but think the pushback is healthy.

    • June 9, 2014 at 2:28 am —

      Well, we are talking about a classroom scenario. It would be hard to even introduce what a tragedy is in class without giving away the fact that lots of people die. But as I said, I think trigger warnings are valuable especially for things that are unexpected. I still think Doni’s “pushback” is hostile toward and dismissive of real victims, who are not asking for warnings about ghost stories.

      I’m honestly kind of confused why you posted her essay without comment, but are reacting so negatively to my defense of trigger warnings…

    • June 9, 2014 at 2:30 am —

      Unless the threading didn’t make it clear I was talking to Doni and not to you?

  3. June 9, 2014 at 8:24 am —

    The ” just in case you really are so ignorant” remark is unnecessarily rude, not to mention elitist. I could write pages unpacking that phrase. For someone so concerned with triggers it seems like you don’t mind pushing a few buttons to accent your point.

    • June 9, 2014 at 8:57 am —

      What can I say? I was annoyed by the way she intentionally misrepresented what people were asking for in order to take cheap shots.

      • June 9, 2014 at 9:05 am —

        And there is, not to mention, a difference between being dismissive and condescending toward suffering people legitimately asking for help and being rude to a person who is publicly being dismissive and condescending toward those same people. At least in my mind…

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