My students are usually quite young and inexperienced. And even if they have much experience of the world, they may not be comfortable enough to share this, nor should I expect them to be.
I have hurt a student, deeply. I did this to make a point. It was Veterans' day and without thinking, during a lecture on freedom and responsibility, I asked this young man, who is 28 and has done two tours in Iraq/Afghanistan, have you killed anyone, how many confirmed kills? Like someone out of a movie. Like a freaking general or spy or I don't even know what, mimicking things I've heard others say, probably thrilled to be striking a pose. These questions just slid out of my mouth. And I didn't miss a beat. After he had answered I realized I shouldn't have done it but I continued to pound the point into my students. What right do we have to ask this young man to carry the burden of what he did for the rest of his life just because we are not willing to do it ourselves? You say you're all "for the veterans?" You have no idea what that even means. I apologized to him then, and again after class. I also emailed him over the weekend and apologized again. But he did not come back to class last Friday and he has not been back to class at all this week. I got at an email from him this afternoon. He felt attacked. Of course he did.
I have hurt this young man and I'm sure I've hurt other students as well, this semester and many other semesters. So, I think it's time to stop so I don't hurt anybody else. Do I think that they won't learn from my teaching? No, I think they will learn, but learning doesn't have to be painful. I thrive on an adversarial Socratic educational melee, but these students do not. They have never been challenged. They are not ready for this.