Trigger Warning


Warning: this post is about trigger warnings. I know many people are hypersensitive to these things, even to the point of being deeply offended by them, so I thought I’d be nice and let you know what’s coming up before proceeding below the fold.

Miri has a good article on trigger warnings that makes the point that these are routine and common. She’s right. I use them all the time, and here are a few examples.

  1. In my introductory biology course, the first thing I tell the first-year students is that there is going to be a heavy emphasis on evolution…and that furthermore, essentially every course in the biology curriculum uses evolution as a framework.

  2. In my neurobiology course, I let the students know when they sign up that it is going to be a math-heavy course, and that they’re going to be surprised by how much chemistry they’re going to need.

  3. In my developmental biology course, I have a section on teratology, and specifically on human birth defects. I always warn the students at the beginning of those lectures that I’m going to be showing photos of deformed human fetuses.

Critics seem to think that trigger warnings are all about attempts to censor and hide information, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s good pedagogy. It is respectful to the students. It’s about alerting them to the presence of emotionally difficult material in the course.

You will not be surprised to learn that many American students have a reflexive opposition to the teaching of evolution: they think it is “controversial”. The worst of them may even have been told it is Satanic. That, obviously, is not an attitude that is conducive to learning. Some of them even believe that you can study biology without understanding evolution.

Slapping them in the face with the facts does not reduce the resistance to new ideas — I have to prime them. I let them know what the course is about, I tell them what to expect in other courses, and there are no surprises. They may be primed to oppose what the instructor is saying, but at least they’ll be alert and engaged. So that’s one purpose of a trigger warning: to mark the boundaries of what will be discussed, and in advance to set the boundaries outside the student’s comfort zone.

Another important principle is informed consent, and that trigger warning provides the necessary information. Most students don’t have a clue what a course is about within our discipline. Cell biology? Oh, you look in microscopes a lot, right? No: it’s mostly chemistry and molecular biology. Neurobiology? Isn’t that like Psych 101? No: the physiology part is a lot of quantitative electrochemistry, with added molecular biology.

Now you may be wondering whether these really deserve to be called “trigger warnings” — maybe you have a set of preconceptions that trigger warnings are nothing but avoidance mechanisms for cowardly liberals. You’d be wrong. Trigger warnings are about being aware that something you’re going to say in some way violates accepted norms — it’s about being able to recognize that the material you’re presenting may be breaking boundaries of someone’s accepted standards. And since teaching is all about exposing students to new ideas, you had better be conscious of what breaks students’ comfort zones, or you’re a lousy teacher.

My example of what I do in my developmental biology course probably best fits what most people think of as being a standard trigger warning: I’m going to show them something horrible that is going to elicit a strong emotional reaction in some people. And I know some people think that’s ridiculous, if they’re taking an embryology course, they should have a thicker skin and be able to look at dead deformed babies. If they’re taking a physiology course they ought to be able to look at spurting blood with casual disregard. If they’re taking a course in the sociology of crime, they ought to be able to regard rape with equanimity.

That’s exactly wrong. The purpose of these classes isn’t to cultivate callousness, but knowledge and awareness. There has to be some degree of objectivity — you don’t want professionals to melt down in a blubbering mess every time they encounter trauma — and part of the process of achieving that objectivity has to be preparation and a kind of psychological bracing that the warning gives.

Again, this isn’t about sheltering people from uncomfortable truths. The people who most need trigger warnings for emotional impact are those who already have the most intimate and direct knowledge of the phenomenon being discussed. A teacher does not need to lecture drily to a person who has experienced a miscarriage or rape to get the message across — they already know that part of it. And the people who most need a warning about information that will defy their preconceptions are those who are most ignorant about it.

You know, human beings have evolved these sophisticated modes of communication and these elaborate social interactions to help us function as a group. We recognize that there are all kinds of messages we send to people to help them cope: we fret and fuss over exactly how to deliver bad news, how to persuade people, how to inspire enthusiasm, how to prepare our children for the real world, how to convey courtesy, how to put personality into an email message. Blunt recital of facts is rarely interesting or persuasive.

So why do people get so hostile to the idea of wrapping a message in context and preceding it with a signal about the nature of the content to be delivered? It’s what humans have always done. If you think otherwise, you’re oblivious to human nature, history, and the principles of good communication.


  1. Jason Nishiyama says

    I’ve taken to warning students in my introductory astronomy class that there’ll be math and physics along the way. I’ve observed that most students think that in such a course we’ll just be looking through telescopes at planets and a math warning eases them into what is essentially a physics class.

  2. marcus says

    Preliminary discussion of material and informed consent is controversial to some people. Go figure. I don’t know why I should be the least bit surprised. Still… odd.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    All the college classes I took (back in the late ’70s) each had a synopsis of what the course was going to teach. These did not include the phrase, ‘trigger warning’. It seems that we are now teaching our kids to be intolerant and non-accepting of learning new things, and so they become ‘triggered’ into anger when presented with information that contradicts their preconceived notions.
    Then again, including trigger warning, is a courtesy to the rageready, attempting to defuse their trigger by warning them that the course they are considering might trigger their rage (and maybe they should reconsider attending such a course).

    To call labeling synopses with trigger warning as “censorship”, is totally misconstruing the concept of censorship. At most ‘trigger…’ prevents the opposition from disrupting the class with rage from the triggers prolific in the class. It doesn’t #disallow# their presence in the class, it just tells them what they will be presented with, this may _prevent_ them from attending and disrupting the class with their rage.

  4. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    Critics seem to think that trigger warnings are all about attempts to censor and hide information…

    “Here is a thing I have written. It contains references to X. If X makes you uncomfortable, feel free to go elsewhere.”

    That’s giving you the choice of what you read/listen to, rather than having that choice taken away from you. That’s, like, the very opposite of censorship.

  5. says

    Ehm, not exactly.
    Being triggered means something elicits a strong reaction, usually as a result of previous trauma. What you’re talking about is a content note, which is related to a trigger warning. Being shocked is not the same as being triggered, believe me, I know the difference.

    Still, a trigger warning is NOT to hide information or, in the context of university, give students a carte blanche to not do their work. It’s a way to prepare yourself. It’s your doctor telling you they’re going to pierce you with a needle instead of jumping at you from behind the door.

  6. says

    “The worst of them may even have been told it is Satanic.”

    I don’t think that’s what you meant. I think you meant, “At the worst, they have been told that . . .”

  7. says

    “Trigger warnings/content notes” seem to be a formalized, explicit expression of something that decent people have always done… and that reactionary privileged assholes have always resisted. It is somewhat like the difference between someone who warns you that the salsa is spicy, and the person who makes salsa extra spicy and derives pleasure from the surprised pain of other people eating it. More to the point, we have these conversations every day with people:

    “Hey, that was a good movie but it might be too much for your kids to see.”

    “Just so you know, that book has some pretty intense parts about cancer and it hit me pretty hard since my grandma died.”

    “That roller coaster was super-shaky on the uphill bits and some people felt a little banged up, so make sure you brace yourself against the seat.”

    “I ate at Chuckie’s Chicken last night, and it gave me the worst heartburn!”

    Some people are angry that other people get warnings, because they’re angry to know that there’s empathy in the world. They can’t seem to enjoy things knowing that people are helping people, rather than tearing each other down for laughs or other nasty sorts of “enjoyment.”

  8. hyrax, Social Justice Blood Mage says

    @Giliell 6:
    Exactly. That’s why I prefer to use the slightly broader term “content warning” or “content notice.” There are many reasons a person might want to be prepared before, say, reading a story of a violent assault or viewing pictures of medical gore– maybe they’re a trauma victim, maybe they’re just eating lunch right now. Pictures of deformed fetuses need not be specifically triggering for a person to want some warning before seeing them.

    But, minor personal quibble about terminology aside, THANK YOU PZ. This is a topic that’s been annoying me for a while now. It’s obnoxiously similar to what happened with the term “political correctness.” Some people asked for some consideration, and there was a knee-jerk reaction about whiny oversensitive liberals.

  9. iknklast says

    I warn students about the math-heavy content of my Physical Geography course. Because they think it’s Geography and don’t realize it’s Physical Science, they assume it will just be memorizing capitals, or something like that. I haven’t started warning them about evolution in my Biology courses (I sort of assumed that was assumed), but maybe that might be an idea whose time has come. And I don’t warn them about global warming when I teach Environmental Science, even though I teach in a highly conservative area where they might at one time have assumed that this would not be taught (since the history of this school had been to cater to political sensitivities, at least until they hired people for the quality of their teaching and not for the quality of their obsequiousness). I wouldn’t be amiss, if I thought it would help, but in my experience, when I did try that the first year I taught here, it actually made it worse. It got more argumentation from the students and less willingness to engage. So I don’t know…I’m not against it, but it hasn’t worked for me.

    I do tell them up front that they are required to answer all questioned based on the scientific principles we are discussing in class. Perhaps that has the same effect.

  10. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @ Giliell

    Ah, yes. There is a huge difference between being triggered and being made uncomfortable. I’m not sure if you’re addressing me or PZ, but either way I conflated the two and shouldn’t have. My apologies.

  11. says

    Spoiler warnings are for cowards who aren’t prepared to face and handle the details of a movie’s plot without first going through the handholding process of having watched it.

  12. NitricAcid says

    I once informed a class that the third-year thermodynamics class required calculus because, yes, we would be using calculus in class. One student went pale as paper upon hearing this, and never came to the second class.

  13. anteprepro says

    Some the Menz Brigade just love to revel in their insensitivity. It doesn’t affect them, they don’t care, and anyone who differs from that is over sensitive and deserving of mockery. The fact that they work themselves into ridiculous, over-the-top, shrieking tirades against what is essentially giving people a heads up regarding emotionally sensitive material is richly ironic, of course. But they manage to even break down into their absurd tantrums on the subject while putting up a front of stoicism and insistence that everyone should be like them, tough, stoic, and bold intellectuals who are not swayed by emotionally charged and deeply personal subjects. They are saying that they, personally, do not have an emotional reaction to horrible things that other people may have personally experienced, and therefore no one should ever warn those less fortunate people, because emotion is bad and a sign of a weakness, and also CENSORSHIP DON’T CENSOR WHY ARE CENSORING WHHHHHHHHHY.

    The hypocrisy would be entertaining if it weren’t for the fact that it was a bunch of irrational assholes saying that their personal preferences and reactions to things means that anyone whose actual life experiences make them feel differently are worthy of scorn and belittlement. There are far too many of such people and they are taken far too seriously, instead of being seen as the petulant, callous, and petty bullies that they truly are.

  14. Saad says

    anteprepro, #15

    Some the Menz Brigade just love to revel in their insensitivity.

    On top of that there’s the profound misunderstanding of censorship and free speech.

  15. says

    The issue I have is “trigger warning” is used so much that it has been diluted what it was suppose to be warning for and become merely a buzzword.

    “Trigger warning” was suppose to warn people who have experienced some kind of trauma that they are about to hear or read something that may trigger the negative feelings or memories of that trauma as if it was happening again.

    Calling a warning about teaching evolution a “trigger warning” does a disservice to people who have experienced real trauma.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    I must’ve seen thousands of “Trigger Warnings” by now, but not one of them was followed by anything even slightly related to Roy Rogers’s horse.

  17. jd142 says

    What about context and reasonable expectations? If I were taking a class on criminal law, I would expect that we would be looking at details of crime, including testimony about rape, murder, and assault. Third year thermodynamics? I would expect much worse than calculus. First year intro to Astronomy, not so much; I would expect learning about three body problems, but not calculating solutions to it.

    Most of the blogs here cover wide ranging topics to varying levels of depth. Content warnings make sense because you don’t know just how detailed the discussion will be on the other side of the jump. There is one blog here I have learned not to browse at work because I’ve run across NSFW images on the main page. They didn’t bother me, but it would have been nice to know.

    I expect sex, violence, and sex and violence when I read Dan Savage. He shouldn’t need a trigger warning for practically anything unless the descriptions are very detailed.

  18. anteprepro says

    Ummm, jd142, I hope that your things to expect “when I read Dan Savage” wasn’t supposed to be an attempt to defend the bullshit that Savage has been spewing on the subject, as alluded to and linked to by nich. Because, if so, it is a piss poor attempt. If not so, you really stumbled into a bad, oddly specific example for whatever point you were attempting to make in that last paragraph….

  19. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I must’ve seen thousands of “Trigger Warnings” by now, but not one of them was followed by anything even slightly related to Roy Rogers’s horse.

    Eeyore should get a Tigger Warning, methinks.

  20. AlexanderZ says

    Anyone who objects to trigger warnings should go and shoot pop guns at a veterans’ gathering. If they survive the experience they might gain new found respect for TW.

    That said, I want to know when TW are needed. About a third of Pharyngula deals with rape, harassment, extreme violence and other very triggering materials. Should have those posts been prefaced with a TW? Should the entire blog have one? Which of my own comments should have TW?

    jd142 #20

    What about context and reasonable expectations? If I were taking a class on criminal law, I would expect that we would be looking at details of crime, including testimony about rape, murder, and assault.

    Many, if not most, current criminology students go there because shows like CSI and expect to see cool methods of infinitely enlarging images without losing any resolution or determining a person’s motivation using DNA from a bit of shaved hair.
    What you consider as “reasonable expectations” might not be reasonable for everyone. Speaking from personal experience, when I started reading about Greek myths (when I was about 7-8 y.o.) I was expecting to read about heroes battling with lions and hydras and such – the images that were on the cover. I did read those parts, but I also read about the Trojan war, the rapes, the very graphic violence (particularly memorable parts were one Greek stabbing the Amazon queen’s corpse through the eye to make fun of Achilles’ finding her attractive, or another one bashing the skull of a killed enemy so he could drink his brain). I would have been very grateful if the editor had prefaced that part of the books with a content warning, instead of assuming “reasonable expectations”.

  21. says

    I sometimes see the concepts in here get a little conflated, but our language tends to fail us in this area and I hope that better ways of conceptualizing the issues get used more often.

    There are “psychological triggers”, which usually specifically refer to things in perception that can invoke reactions to memories of trauma. There are also other things in the same general category as psychological triggers that shape motivated reasoning. It’s that second example where you can find people that can be said to be “triggered by the concept of triggering”, but that takes some liberties with the terminology. Both are part of informed consent.

    This sort of area where motivated reasoning is shaped is really useful in terms of knowing about general sensitivity and use of language in a social context. Political dog-whistles are also in here. These are the perceptual triggers (the term I like to use for the category) that trigger fallacious reasoning with not only individual aspects, but group dynamics as well.

    As for the people who are resistant to the idea of trigger warnings, like any other area of complex human behavior I think there are many things going on.
    *The people that see trigger warnings as a form of coddling are using an instinct that is meant to get everyone sensitized to things so that they can reason better, but are blind to the sheer intensity of a traumatic reaction.
    *People who tend to like to use relevant emotional reactions in a social conflict sense don’t want to see sensitivity to certain issues become part of basic social morality (think of the ones who actually try to trigger rape victims online in individual or pack assaults in comments and on twitter). They implicitly sense that they will lose a social weapon and gain a vulnerability to social shaming. These are the people trying to portray trigger warnings as censorship in a strategic sense. (I love pointing out the irony of how they are subject to perceptual triggers to them, we are all manipulable by language).
    *A general resistance to our social customs and language becoming more complex. We tend to be lazy as a group and want to get by with the simplest set of symbols. Fortunately this category does become intuitive because we are already used to it, we just don’t really look at it in a very organized way.

    I would love to see trigger warnings, content warnings, and similar become more common because that can be manipulated to demonstrate that it is the people who don’t like those warnings who are really the ones with the emotional sensitivity worth mentioning. Conservatives that can’t honestly talk about a range of social issues and cowardly choose to avoid what people say and replace it with their version for example.

  22. AlexanderZ says

    1. For some reason I don’t get notifications for this particular post, even though FTB says I’m already subscribed to it. Does it happen to anyone else?
    2. Brony, belated congrats on your new blog!

  23. says

    Very much a work in progress, but I thought it needed to be linked. Finding people related connected to tourette’s to critique has been extremely difficult. It must the language sensitivity… :P

  24. says

    I was addressing PZ.

    In that case he’s simply happy with rejecting lots of potential readers. Unless every single post deals with the exact same stuff, some people are going to be affected by some things but not others. You want to know which one is which.

    What about context and reasonable expectations? If I were taking a class on criminal law, I would expect that we would be looking at details of crime, including testimony about rape, murder, and assault.

    You’re asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is: is there any downside to writing in the course outline “Week 5: Sexual assault. Includes testimony from rape cases”?

    That said, I want to know when TW are needed. About a third of Pharyngula deals with rape, harassment, extreme violence and other very triggering materials. Should have those posts been prefaced with a TW? Should the entire blog have one? Which of my own comments should have TW?

    Difficult question. For me, the question I’m trying to ask is: is it clear to the reader that this might follow? In a thread about rape, the comments will be about rape. In a thread about flowers? Posting a link in the Lounge, In TD? Not so much.

  25. says

    Cadfile @ 17:

    Calling a warning about teaching evolution a “trigger warning” does a disservice to people who have experienced real trauma.

    No, it does not do us a disservice. I know, firsthand, what being triggered is like, and it’s not fun, to say the least. That said, perhaps a content warning is more suited to a class involving evolution, however, it’s not for you to decide what may be traumatic for any given person. Given what many people have personally related here, about their experiences being brought up as fundamental christians, such a thing may well be traumatic as hell. It’s not for me (or anyone else) to say.

  26. Esteleth, RN's job is to save your ass, not kiss it says

    There’s one class in college that I’d wished had come preceded with a warning: a lecture where the professor showed slides of the genitals of women who’d been infibulated. They were horrifying, to say the least. I remember looking around the room (to avoid looking at the screen, TBH) and many of my classmates were visibly cringing and looking away. When the slide clicked forward to something less graphic, there was an audible mass-exhalation.

    The professor didn’t seem to notice. There had been no announcement at the beginning of class (or even immediately prior to the slides in question), and the syllabus entry simply indicated that the topic for the day was FGM, with no elaboration.

    Have I been infibulated? No. I doubt many – if any – of my classmates had been either. Did that prevent me from having an immediate, visceral reaction to those photos? Not in the slightest. Would I have been horrified had the professor said, “Before I click on, please know that there are photos of infibulated women’s genitals, in full-color and close-up.”? Absolutely, because infibulation is horrifying. Would I have been able to mentally prep myself and be ready? I think so.

    Here are lecture topics I got warnings (of various sorts) about:
    -Human teratogenicity
    -the Holocaust
    -the Rwandan genocide
    -the Cambodian genocide
    -Rape as a tactic of war
    -Abortion, induced
    -Abortion, spontaneous (i.e. miscarriage)
    -Human STDs
    -Child abuse, including sexual abuse (this featured photos! they were horrifying)
    -multiple chemistry, biology, and biochemistry labs (many of these were of the sort of “[chemical x] smells!”)
    -video of cows with BSE, being sick, being slaughtered, and the disposal of the carcasses.

    I also got many “this class involves calculus/lots of math/lots of critical thinking” talks too.

    This is not about coddling or censorship. This is giving someone the time/space to prep themselves to deal with something that may be hard. Take that child sexual abuse lecture: I’m a mandatory reporter. I do need to know what sort of things to look out for, which means that unfortunately someone had to come show me photos taken by various emergency departments and cops. Was it horrifying? Oh god yes. Did I sleep well that night? No, I did not. Did I need to see those photos? If it helps me identify the next kid so that they can get the help they need, yes. Which means: I needed to be prepped so that I could actually look at those photos. I needed to be ready. The warning I got beforehand was necessary.

  27. carlie says

    Good grief. These arguments against trigger warnings/content notes all boil down to “the best way to share information is to surprise people with it, and if you need to know ahead of time, you’re wrong”. Well, no.
    Telling people what’s about to hit them isn’t just polite, it isn’t just taking possible emotions into account, it’s pedagogically sound. You absorb information better when you’re prepped for it. Good lectures start with outlines telling the participant what’s coming. That’s basic essay writing/lecture prep 101.

  28. carlie says

    To be more blunt: People who think that some important part of the message is lost if they don’t have the element of surprise to provide the “oomph” are shitty communicators.

  29. says

    I suspect the primary objection to trigger warnings is the people are looking for places to be offended. They want to cause problems by claiming what they don’t like is a problem. Being warned about what they will see or hear means they can’t claim they didn’t know it and then raise a stink about it.

    If they can’t say, “I didn’t know and I was offended,” they can’t flip out as people do about Charlie Hebdo and others that don’t come with warnings. Trigger warnings are there so that they do know, but then they complain about that.

  30. Igneous Rick says

    Either I misunderstood the point of your post, or everyone else did. I took your explanation of your class content notices to be analogies to trigger warnings. Telling students ahead of time that a class will math-heavy is no more censorship than saying an article contains content that some people will find upsetting. Censorship is about removing choice. Giving a reader this information allows them to make an informed choice.

    As far as your class content warnings go, students should go into a class understanding what the content, requirements, and expectations will be. I hope that if it weren’t for the sake of analogy, this would be assumed. I finished a second undergrad degree last year, and in every single one of my classes, the first day was dedicated to going over the syllabus. That, of course, didn’t stop people from bothering to actually understand the contents or ever look at the syllabus. My suggestion: at the first quiz or as part of an early assignment, there should be questions based on the syllabus. Nothing detailed, but things like “Will there be a large project due at the end of the semester, and if so, what is it?” and “what is my policy on cell phones in class?”

    (I’m not entirely awake, so this comment may not be entirely in English).

  31. bassmike says

    Do people who don’t like TWs object to film classifications? These have the same purpose as content warnings before lecture etc. I don’t hear people claiming that it’s unfair that they can’t take their 5 year old to see Saw VII.

  32. says

    If you can believe Not Always Right, there are people who complain about movie theaters and video-game stores so much as asking if they’re aware of what they’re letting their kids watch or play.

  33. carlie says

    Also, it’s been done on tv forever. “The following broadcast contains mature content. Viewer discretion is advised.”

  34. says

    Carlie @ 37:

    Also, it’s been done on tv forever. “The following broadcast contains mature content. Viewer discretion is advised.”

    Hee, I’m old enough to remember years and years of television prior to the warning system. I remember people being all upsetty and grousing over it too, until it became the norm.

  35. anbheal says

    @37 carlie @38 Caine, Bingo! The exact same types of Fox Dittoheads and LibertaroChristians who wring their hands over Trigger Warnings are the exact same cohort who went bezerk over rap lyrics in the 80s and insisted the recording industry label its songs and CDs; who cannot abide the notion of male genitalia being shown in a real (non-porn) movie and hence automatically warn us with an X or NR rating (female sexy bits are PG-13 fun, however!); they cannot allow their precious toddlers to see a cartoon that hasn’t 16 symbols at the side of the theme song; they write nastygrams to their local papers and Metcritic shrieking that their child heard the word “shit” in Avatar and saw Bart’s junk in The Simpsons Movie, why weren’t they warned, oh why weren’t they warned; and they seem to think the President and First Lady are required to notify Bill O’Reilly before appearing on a late night talk show.

    Then you look at some of the unpleasant commentary below the Savage piece, and you have Libertarian sorts demanding to know whether they can demand trigger warnings if they’ve been beaten by a black man. When in fact, well, in context, sure, that’s the point — if a column discusses a violent beating in graphic terms, it might be prudent to mention that upfront. Conservatives get raped and beaten too, and are probably a bit more likely to have served in foreign wars since we abolished the draft.

    So you start realizing that the backlash against trigger warnings has less to do with the concept itself — Libertarians hate to be unpleasantly surprised by a black houseguest or a Spanish-language sign or a gay kiss in a movie — but rather that they despise the sort of columnist who would bother to include a trigger warning. Ya know, maybe a feminist, or gay, or liberal, or poor, or oppressed, or minority……who knows that people in their shoes or similar ones have had to deal with a lot of shit, and don’t want to rub it in. It’s not the trigger warning, it’s the political milieu that believes they are appropriate: THAT’S what pisses them off, the erosion of the day when rich straight Christian white men could do anything they pleased and nobody would complain. Trigger warnings are mostly used by THOSE OTHERS.

  36. AlexanderZ says

    Giliell #27

    is it clear to the reader that this might follow?

    I’ve seen feminist sites that talk exclusively about rape posting long TW, and I’ve seen other sites that don’t do that. So even when the context is clear safe places still give out TWs (though their TW are much more specific – instead of simply saying “warning: rape” they’ll give a general description of how graphic the post will be and what “type” of rape is being discussed).

  37. ansatz says

    Conflation between content warnings and trigger warnings, a bit like a rectangle and a square.

    Oh well I guess some students may experience a horrendous flashback of that time their uncle tried to teach them the concept of a population bottleneck with a pair of squirrels, and the neck of an actual bottle.

    Indeed, application of trigger warnings to the teaching of evolution, or heaven forbid, math, is exactly the sort of thing that renders trigger warnings meaningless and the charge that people who don’t subscribe to them are some sort of soul-less monsters just laughable.