"Slave Ship Poster--detail 1" by Believe Creative is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Earlier this academic year, Roni Dean-Burren, a Houston mother, posted on Facebook in response to a passage in her ninth-grade son’s history book, which referred to slaves—not as slaves—but as “workers” and “immigrants.” The post went viral, influencing the publisher “to apologize, correct the caption and offer — free of charge — either stickers to cover it up or corrected copies of the book to schools that want to replace their old ones.” They did not issue a recall of the misleading, erroneous books.

"Aggie Stadium at the University of California, Davis" by Andrew Vargas is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikipedia)

On November 18, 2011, an Occupy movement demonstration at the University of California, Davis became a focal point of national news when a group of peacefully seated protesters were asked to leave. Shortly after, UC Davis police officers began pepper spraying the demonstrators, an incident which was caught on video and in photographs, and led to nation-wide attention, outrage, and even numerous Internet memes. Although it has been several years since this incident, the notoriety of the pepper spray incident remains in the public’s memory and as a stain on the reputation of UC Davis.

How should the federal government go about collecting on student loans?

"Money" by Tax Credits is licensed under CC BY-2.0 (via flickr)

Earlier this month, Paul Aker was arrested in Houston, Texas, by federal marshals armed with tactical weapons over a $1,500 student loan issued in 1987. Aker claims that the Marshals stormed his house and tackled him to the ground, before throwing him in a cell and ordering him to pay the loan plus interest.

"A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life" by Morgan is licensed under CC BY-2.0 (via flickr)

The prospect of student loan debt is often enough to scare any college graduate. For many, such fear is all too common; according to the Wall Street Journal, 71% of the Class of 2015 graduated with student loan debt. For many of these graduates, the amount owed is scary enough, in itself. What happens, then, when heavily-armed members of law enforcement are thrown into the mix?

“classroom” by Emory Maiden is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 (via Flickr)

As universities deal with an increasing number of sexual assault allegations, attention is being turned to finding a way to clarify the term “consent.” Many activist groups are unhappy with the current sexual education programs in the United States, arguing that the lackluster curriculum is partly to blame for the high rates of sexual violence on college campuses.

“First Student #568” by ThoseGuys119 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

The National Education System recently published an article in which author Mary Ellen Flannery cites a privately funded program in Houston that offers fifth-graders monetary awards when they “master basic math standards”. This concept is a not a new one in the discussion of how to remedy failing school systems. With educators often struggling to find more effective modes of motivating their students to perform well in the classroom, offering students money in exchange for higher performance makes sense. According to Superintendent Michele Harmala at Wayne Memorial School in Wayne, Michigan, “about 25% of the students who enroll in the program meet their goal. Another 65% improve their grades.”

“School bus” by Kevin Dooley is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Currently, 75-100% of public schools in 42 states have start-time earlier than 8:30 a.m. , with Louisiana leading the pack with an average school starting time of 7:40 a.m. The push for schools to adopt later starting times enters the political sphere periodically as new studies come out annually suggesting that sleep has become both a hot commodity and a scarcity for students.

"Colby College: Miller Library" by Roman Boed is licensed under by CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

College, particularly at a liberal arts institution, is a time for young adults to gain exposure to a wealth of new ideas and perspectives – typically, in order to become more open-minded and responsible members of society. A certain amount of discomfort is guaranteed to come with this notion. Having one’s beliefs and previous notions challenged can be difficult to process at times. However, today’s generation of college students are increasingly becoming less willing to participate in this discourse in the name of offensiveness and mental health. Additionally, on some campuses, “trigger warnings” have become a normal preface to any topic that could potentially be considered sensitive to someone, and the quantity of topics included in this range only continues to grow.

Image Credit: Ye Old Classrooms by Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0)

I first encountered the classroom trigger warning in the fall semester of my junior year. The course in question covered humanitarian intervention, a particularly dark topic amongst any number of dismal subjects in political science. As a result, soon after talking through the syllabus, our professor made special mention of the topics at hand. The classes to come, we were told, would cover a number of heavy topics: genocide, ethnic cleansing, wartime rape and other forms of systematic violence. Reading about such material on a daily basis, the professor warned, could be emotionally upsetting. Drawing attention to this fact wasn’t an effort to silence the topics or distract from their discomfort. In communicating their emotional gravity, our professor was simply trying to prepare us, encouraging us to keep tabs on our mental well-being as we proceeded through each difficult discussion.