I just finished reading a very thought provoking and disturbing book summary of Coddling of the American Mind/How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure written by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.
Greg Lukianoff is a graduate of American University and Stanford Law School, and has described himself as a pro-choice liberal. Jonathan Haidt has referred to himself as a political centrist.
Regardless of your political bent, I hope the following excerpts from their book will give you pause to think seriously about what really may be going on in many of our colleges and universities today. This information should definitely peak your interest, especially if you have children or grandchildren currently attending a university, or who are interested in a college degree.
Introduction: The Search for Wisdom
The authors begin by saying, “Coddling of the American Mind was written to warn teens, young adults, parents, and educators of the dangers of the unwise education being taught in universities. There are three untruths that are being taught in our education system: 1) What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker, 2) Always trust your emotions, and 3) Life is a battle between good and evil people.
These ideas are being inferred through norms at home, in school, and in society. The three untruths contradict ancient studies, contemporary psychology on wellness, and harms the individuals and societies who adopt it. These ideas have increased anxiety, depression, and suicide among young people and stalled their abilities to become free thinkers.
Students have become weak through the perception of feeling unsafe. Other students, who seem stronger, support these movements to protect the weakness and unsureness in others. These encounters do not strengthen our young people. It causes them to become weak due to the indoctrination of the first untruth, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.’ The more our society advances, the lower toleration level our young people have for what may be considered challenging.”
The Untruth of Fragility: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Weaker
The authors say, “While challenges, disappointments, and hurt may not necessarily make you stronger; protecting our young people from them makes them weaker. People need stress to challenge our minds, or our minds begin to deteriorate.
Overprotection of our young people from becoming ‘fragile’ is unhealthy for them. Parents and caregivers need to allow for stressors to be unavoidable in young people’s lives as an opportunity to teach young people the skills of learning and growing from the challenging experiences.
Instead, our parents and educators are trying to remove the very obstacles that teach our children to be overcomers. This leaves them unable to cope with life circumstances when they are on their own. Protecting young people from feeling ‘unsafe’ only increases the rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide, because they haven’t learned how to cope.
A culture that tries to protect individuals from emotional discomfort and equate it with physical peril is a society that is protecting individuals from the life experiences needed to be strong and healthy. This is called safetyism.”
The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always Trust Your Feelings
The authors go on to say, “Since emotional thought is the most distorted of all cognitions, most people would be better off to think less with their emotions and more with rationality.
Microaggression is to think about brief everyday humiliations and affronts that are communicated to individuals. The term is valid because small aggressive behaviors are real. However, because the definition includes perceived or accidental offenses, ‘aggression’ becomes ambiguous.
In allowing students to interpret outside events as microaggression schools are encouraging young people to employ emotional reasoning and other distorted thought processes while positioning themselves to distrust others and employ conflict.”
The Untruth of Us Verses Them: Life is a Battle Between Good People and Evil People
The authors believe, “Common-enemy identity politics uses the psychology of having a common enemy against which to fight. Both the far left and far right and campuses use it. It is used to teach students the dissensions of privilege and the burdens of oppression.
This theory has its weight in value, but the way it is presented on our college campuses elicits a tribal attitude of Us vs. Them and life is good and evil. When common-enemy identity politics is merged with microaggression, it creates a society that has no tolerance for what any other person believes in or does and results in public discrediting. Call-out cultures and us-verses-them cultures undermine education and cause a decline in mental health.”
A Dignity Culture vs. A Victomhood Culture
The authors conclude by saying, “Western society has adopted what is considered a ‘victomhood culture’ which is a principle that conflicts with the ‘dignity culture’ of the past.
The dignity culture is one in which individuals can shrug off slights and small incidentals. It is a culture that encourages the dignity of individuals regardless of the small harms against them.
Victimhood culture takes every slight as an injury, demands third-party intervention for problems, and carries the mindset of being victimized. This behavior on campus has been doctored by faculty creating a generation of needy young people.”
If you disagree with the authors on this subject, then choosing a specific college or university may not be a major issue for your child.
However, if you agree with the authors on this subject, it would be wise to prepare questions ahead of time that you can ask university leadership before your child makes a final decision on where to attend.
A very tough and controversial subject but one worth seriously thinking through!
BTW, my new book is now available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Abebooks.com, Alibris.com, and is starting to show up in retail outlets as far away as Canada and the United Kingdom! You can also view a brief excerpt by clicking on the “Shop” tab above. If you should choose to pick up a copy, I’d love your feedback.
See you next week for more Wisdom Matters!