The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure
a book by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that A finalist for the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction
A New York Times Notable Book
Bloomberg Best Book of 2018
The New York Times bestseller!
Something has been going wrong on many college campuses in the last few years. Speakers are shouted down. Students and professors say they are walking on eggshells and are afraid to speak honestly. Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are rising—on campus as well as nationally. How did this happen?
Something has been going wrong on many college campuses in the last few years: speakers are shouted down, and students and professors say they are walking on eggshells and are afraid to speak honestly
First Amendment expert Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt show how the new problems on campus have their origins in three terrible ideas that have become increasingly woven into American childhood and education: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people. These three Great Untruths contradict basic psychological principles about well-being and ancient wisdom from many cultures. Embracing these untruths—and the resulting culture of safetyism—interferes with young people’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. It makes it harder for them to become autonomous adults who are able to navigate the bumpy road of life.
Lukianoff and Haidt investigate the many social trends that have intersected to promote the spread of these untruths. They explore changes in childhood such as the rise of fearful parenting, the decline of unsupervised, child-directed play, and the new world of social media that has engulfed teenagers in the last decade. They examine changes on campus, including the corporatization of universities and the emergence of new ideas about identity and justice. They situate the conflicts on campus within the context of America’s rapidly rising political polarization and dysfunction.
This is a book for anyone who is confused by what is happening on college campuses today, or has children, or is concerned about the growing inability of Americans to live, work, and cooperate across party lines. See Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment and Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy.
College students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like, wrongly believing that they are so fragile that hearing the wrong words or concepts will shatter them
In a world where young people are being misled, misinformed, and misguided by political correctness scripture based on entirely erroneous ideas and principles, this book is a godsend that not only brilliantly diagnoses the problem but also explains its origin as well as its cure. This generation has been set up to fail by bad parenting and poorly designed institutions, and the authors' message is an urgent one if this festering situation is to be reversed. Although these liberal authors have totally analyzed and exposed the immense flaws in safetyism and the idea of limiting speech to keep the poor hyperfragile students safe from "discomfort," they are not immune from some of the flaws in the liberal narrative's political correctness foolishness. Nevertheless, the authors' book deserves to be the go-to book for all safetyism and speech-related issues, because their insight about safetyism's major cognitive distortions is so profound, helpful, and insightful it should be the basis of the book's being awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature.
The Atlantic published The Coddling of the American Mind: In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health. in 2015.
The authors say that "A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically. . . . the American College Counseling Association reported that the number of students with severe psychological problems was rising at their schools. The rate of emotional distress reported by students themselves is also high, and rising. . . . children born after 1980—the Millennials—got a consistent message from adults: life is dangerous, but adults will do everything in their power to protect you from harm, not just from strangers but from one another as well. . . . Cognitive behavioral therapy is a modern embodiment of this ancient wisdom. It is the most extensively studied nonpharmaceutical treatment of mental illness, and is used widely to treat depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and addiction"
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most extensively studied nonpharmaceutical treatment of mental illness, and is used widely to treat depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and addiction
" . . . it teaches thinking skills that people can continue to use. The goal is to minimize distorted thinking and see the world more accurately. [See Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy] . . . Emotional reasoning dominates many campus debates and discussions. A claim that someone’s words are 'offensive' is not just an expression of one’s own subjective feeling of offendedness. It is, rather, a public charge that the speaker has done something objectively wrong. It is a demand that the speaker apologize or be punished by some authority for committing an offense. . . . increased focus on microaggressions coupled with the endorsement of emotional reasoning is a formula for a constant state of outrage, even toward well-meaning speakers trying to engage in genuine discussion."
All this twisted thinking on campus would profit immensely by requiring all students to take a one year course in cognitive behavioral therapy wisdom so they stopped all their distorted thinking (e.g. catastrophizing or magnifying) and stopped their getting their emotional reasoning supported. Then dump the speech codes, safe spaces, microaggressions, and trigger warning nonsense all of which merely ruins students' mental and perceptual habits so they are even less equipped to tackle the harsh realities after college than they were their first day of college.
The American Association of University Professors’ report on trigger warnings notes that “The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual.”
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt are confirming what many of us have been intuiting for years: our colleges have gone off the rails, and with them the media and Hollywood
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt are confirming what many of us have been intuiting for years: our colleges have gone off the rails, and with them the media and Hollywood. And look at all these people who feel the same way:
“A disturbing and comprehensive analysis of recent campus trends… Lukianoff and Haidt notice something unprecedented and frightening… The consequences of a generation unable or disinclined to engage with ideas that make them uncomfortable are dire for society, and open the door – accessible from both the left and the right – to various forms of authoritarianism.” — Thomas Chatterton Williams, The New York Times Book Review (cover review and Editors’ Choice selection)
So how do you create ‘wiser kids’? Get them off their screens. Argue with them. Get them out of their narrow worlds of family, school and university
"So how do you create ‘wiser kids’? Get them off their screens. Argue with them. Get them out of their narrow worlds of family, school and university. Boot them out for a challenging Gap year. It all makes perfect sense…the cure seems a glorious revelation."— Philip Delves Broughton, Evening Standard
“The authors, both of whom are liberal academics — almost a tautology on today’s campuses — do a great job of showing how ‘safetyism’ is cramping young minds. Students are treated like candles, which can be extinguished by a puff of wind. The goal of a Socratic education should be to turn them into fires, which thrive on the wind. Instead, they are sheltered from anything that could cause offence. . . Their advice is sound. Their book is excellent. Liberal parents, in particular, should read it.”— Edward Luce, Financial Times
This is good safety knowledge, but safetyism is bad safety knowledge—the authors, both of whom are liberal academics, do a great job of showing how ‘safetyism’ is cramping young minds
“Their distinctive contribution to the higher-education debate is to meet safetyism on its own, psychological turf… Lukianoff and Haidt tell us that safetyism undermines the freedom of inquiry and speech that are indispensable to universities.” — Jonathan Marks, Commentary
“The remedies the book outlines should be considered on college campuses, among parents of current and future students, and by anyone longing for a more sane society.” — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Perhaps the strongest argument in Haidt and Lukianoff’s favour, though, is this: if you see this issue as being about little more than a few sanctimonious teenagers throwing hissy fits on campus then, yes, it is probably receiving too much attention. But if you accept their premise, that it’s really a story about mental wellbeing and emotional fragility, about a generation acting out because it has been set up to fail by bad parenting and poorly designed institutions, then their message is an urgent one. And it is one that resonates well beyond dusty libraries and manicured quadrangles, into all of our lives.”—Josh Glancy, The Sunday Times (UK)
Lukianoff's and Haidt's book is about mental wellbeing and emotional fragility, about a generation acting out because it has been set up to fail by bad parenting and poorly designed institutions
“Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s new book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, persuasively unpacks the causes of the current predicament on campus – which they link to wider parenting, cultural and political trends. . .The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure is both an enlightening but disquieting read. We have a lot of challenges in front of us.” — Quillette, Matthew Lesh
"The authors remind us of some of the campus happenings that, since 2015, have afrighted old liberals like me... In the end [despite some objections] I agreed with Messrs Lukianoff and Haidt that protecting kids has gone too far, and that some campus behaviour is absurd and worrying." — David Aaronovitch, The Times (UK)
"The speed with which campus life has changed for the worse is one of the most important points made by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in this important if disturbing book." —Niall Ferguson, Sunday Times
“Rising intolerance for opposing viewpoints is a challenge not only on college campuses but also in our national political discourse. The future of our democracy requires us to understand what’s happening and why—so that we can find solutions and take action. Reading The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure is a great place to start.” —Michael Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP & Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th Mayor of New York City
“Our behavior in society is not immune to the power of rational scientific analysis. Through that lens, prepare yourself for a candid look at the softening of America, and what we can do about it.” —Neil deGrasse Tyson, director, Hayden Planetarium, and author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Our behavior in society (e.g., safetyism and political correctness) is not immune to the power of rational scientific analysis. Lukianoff and Haidt give us a candid look at the softening and coddling of America, and what we can do about it
“Lukianoff and Haidt explain the phenomenon of “helicopter parenting” and its dangers--how overprotection amplifies children’s fears and makes them less likely to become adults who can manage their own lives. Children must be challenged and exposed to stressors—including different perspectives—in order to thrive.” —Susan McDaniel, University of Rochester, former President of the American Psychological Association
“An important examination of dismaying social and cultural trends.” —Kirkus Reviews
"I lament the title of this book, as it may alienate the very people who need to engage with its arguments and obscures its message of inclusion. Equal parts mental health manual, parenting guide, sociological study, and political manifesto, it points to a positive way forward of hope, health, and humanism. I only wish I had read it when I was still a professor and a much younger mother." —Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America, and author of Unfinished Business
“A compelling and timely argument against attitudes and practices that, however well-intended, are damaging our universities, harming our children and leaving an entire generation intellectually and emotionally ill-prepared for an ever-more fraught and complex world. A brave and necessary work.” —Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Emeritus Chief Rabbi of UK & Commonwealth; professor, New York University; and author of Not in God’s Name
“No one is omniscient or infallible, so a willingness to evaluate new ideas is vital to understanding our world. Yet universities, which ought to be forums for open debate, are developing a reputation for dogmatism and intolerance. Haidt and Lukianoff, distinguished advocates of freedom of expression, offer a deep analysis of what’s going wrong on campus, and how we can hold universities to their highest ideals.” —Steven Pinker, professor, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now
Universities, which ought to be forums for open debate, are developing a reputation for dogmatism and intolerance and denial of free speech
“This book synthesizes the teachings of many disciplines to illuminate the causes of major problems besetting college students and campuses, including declines in mental health, academic freedom, and collegiality. More importantly, the authors present evidence-based strategies for overcoming these challenges. An engrossing, thought-provoking, and ultimately inspiring read.” —Nadine Strossen, past President, ACLU, and author of HATE: Why We Should Resist it with Free Speech, Not Censorship
“How can we as a nation do a better job of preparing young men and women of all backgrounds to be seekers of truth and sustainers of democracy? In The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt provide a rigorous analysis of this perennial challenge as it presents itself today, and offer thoughtful prescriptions for meeting it. What’s more, the book models the virtues and practical wisdom its authors rightly propose as the keys to progress. Lukianoff and Haidt teach young people—and all of us—by example as well as precept.” —Cornel West, professor, Harvard University, and author of Democracy Matters; and Robert P. George, professor, Princeton University, and author of Conscience and Its Enemies
Objectionable words and ideas, as defined by self-appointed guardians on university campuses, are often treated like violence from sticks and stones. Many students cringe at robust debate; maintaining their ideas of good and evil requires no less than the silencing of disagreeable speakers
“Objectionable words and ideas, as defined by self-appointed guardians on university campuses, are often treated like violence from sticks and stones. Many students cringe at robust debate; maintaining their ideas of good and evil requires no less than the silencing of disagreeable speakers. Lukianoff and Haidt brilliantly explain how this drift to fragility occurred, how the distinction between words and actions was lost, and what needs to be done. Critical reading to understand the current campus conflicts.” —Mark Yudof, president emeritus, University of California; and professor emeritus, UC Berkeley School of Law
"This book is a much needed guide for how to thrive in a pluralistic society. Lukianoff and Haidt demonstrate how ancient wisdom and modern psychology can encourage more dialogue across lines of difference, build stronger institutions, and make us happier. They provide an antidote to our seemingly intractable divisions, and not a moment too soon.” —Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing
"We can talk ourselves into believing that some kinds of speech will shatter us, or we can talk ourselves out of that belief. The authors know the science. We are not as fragile as our self-appointed protectors suppose. Read this deeply informed book to become a more resilient soul in a more resilient democracy.” —Philip E. Tetlock, author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
“In this expansion of their 2015 piece for the Atlantic, Lukianoff and Haidt argue that the urge to insulate oneself against offensive ideas has had deleterious consequences, making students less resilient, more prone to undesirable “emotional reasoning,” less capable of engaging critically with others’ viewpoints, and more likely to cultivate an “us-versus-them” mentality… the path they advocate—take on challenges, cultivate resilience, and try to reflect rather than responding based solely on initial emotional responses—deserves consideration.” —Publishers Weekly
Cognitive Therapy teaches us that by changing the way we think we can alter our moods and deal with emotional problems or speech that disturbs us
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—the essential information and technique needed by misinformed safetyism- and PC-subscribing students—was designed by Aaron T. Beck, and it works better than antidepressants for depression, in spite of Big Pharma's prevarications (a.k.a. ads) to the contrary. The best way for the layman to familiarize himself with this stuff if with David D. Burns' book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Considered the gold standard of psychological therapy because it is the most effective, CBT focuses on not letting your feelings and cognitive distortions consume you or mislead you. See Cultures of Healing: Correcting The Image Of American Mental Health Care.
Big Pharma spreading "good health via medicine" across the land
"When they [students born after 1995] arrived on campus, in an increasingly polarised political climate, they were unprepared to be intellectually challenged. They – or at least the ‘social justice’ activists of this generation – responded by creating a culture of censorship, intimidation and violence, and witch hunts against non-believers. Universities, led by risk adverse bureaucracies, are treating students like customers and allowing an aggressive, censorious minority set the agenda. . . . Students demand trigger warnings because ideas are emotionally challenging, safe spaces to hide away from scary situations, and the disinvitation of controversial speakers to feel safe on campus. While it is important to show courtesy in public debate, it is patently absurd to suggest that simply hearing an idea you dislike makes you unsafe in any meaningful way. . . . "
"Safety culture undermines the entire purpose of a higher education. Universities exist to challenge students, to expand their worldview and develop their critical thinking. This is done by hearing and responding to ideas that make us feel uncomfortable. . . . The encouragement of cognitive distortions also undermines academic pursuits. For example, the claim often made in academic fields such as critical race theory that ‘all white people are racist’ is an overgeneralisation that can lead to both anger and aggression in students who believe it." (Source: Is Safetyism Destroying a Generation?, Matthew Lesh, Quillette)
The claim often made in academic fields such as critical race theory that ‘all white people are racist’ is an overgeneralisation that can lead to both anger and aggression in students foolish enough to believe it
"They identify several factors that have led students to reject free speech in favour of what Haidt and Lukianoff term a culture of ‘safetyism’, aided by highly risk-averse university administrators who now play the role of welcome protector on campus. ‘Three great untruths’ define safetyism, they write: 1) what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; 2) always trust your feelings; and, 3) life is a battle between good people and evil people. The Coddling of the American Mind argues that students are falling prey to a range of cognitive distortions – ‘catastrophising’, ‘negative framing’, ‘concept creep’, etc – that cause them to misperceive challenging ideas and uncomfortable situations as hostile and threatening to their safety or wellbeing. . . . it is deeply concerning to see thoughtful academics being denounced in this manner, as if they were crazed monsters. And it is equally worrying to see adult students unable to handle robust debate, as if they were scared children." (Source: How we’re ruining young minds, Candice Holdsworth, Spiked)
It is deeply concerning to see thoughtful academics being denounced as if they were crazed monsters just because they have different ideas
The authors say that: "The culture of safetyism is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature and of the dynamics of trauma and recovery. It is vital that people who have survived violence become habituated to ordinary cues and reminders woven into the fabric of daily life. Avoiding triggers is a symptom of PTSD, not a treatment for it. According to Richard McNally, the director of clinical training in Harvard's Department of Psychology: 'Trigger warnings are counter-therapeutic because they encourage avoidance of reminders of trauma, and avoidance maintains PTSD. Severe emotional reactions triggered by course material are a signal that students need to prioritize their mental health and obtain evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral therapies that will help them overcome PTSD. These therapies involve gradual, systematic exposure to traumatic memories until their capacity to trigger distress dirninishes.'"
Most students are not fragile, they are not 'snowflakes, and they are not afraid of ideas, but the PC-loving hypersensitive hyperliberal safetyists are all these things
". . . most university presidents reject the culture of safetyism. They know it is bad for students and bad for free inquiry, but they find it politically difficult to say so publicly. From our conversations with students, we believe that most high school and college students despise call-out culture and would prefer to be at a school that had little of it. Most students are not fragile, they are not 'snowflakes, and they are not afraid of ideas. So if a small group of universities is able to develop a different sort of academic culture—one that finds ways to make students from all identity groups feel welcome without using the divisive methods that seem to be backfiring on so many campuses—we think that market forces will take care of the rest. Applications and enrollment at those schools will surge. Alumni donations will increase. More high schools will prepare students to compete for slots at those schools . . ."
Major Depressive Episode Adults 2011
Major Depressive Episode Adults 2016
Notice the extreme increase in depression episodes from 2011 to 2016 for college aged young people. Degenerating from a culture of normal kids in normal colleges to a culture of safetyism and political correctness nonsense has been very bad for the mental health of our young. They can no longer handle diverse opinions, have no patience for nonliberal viewpoints, are incapable of having serious discussions, they feel everyone who disagrees with them is indulging in hate-speech which they interpret as violence, and they support free speech for everyone who agrees with them but not for anyone else. We're setting them up to be losers, to fail, to be incapable of civil relationships with neighbors and coworkers, to have low EQs, and to engage in the Cognitive Distortion of emotional reasoning.*
*Emotional reasoning is when a person's emotions takes over our thinking entirely, blotting out all rationality and logic. The person who engages in emotional reasoning assumes that their unhealthy emotions reflect the way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” (Source: 15 Common Cognitive Distortions, John M. Grohol, Psy.D., Psych Central)
A kid demonstrating that EQ (Emotional Intelligence) trumps IQ in importance
The Chicago Statement (free speech support) has been adopted by 35 U.S. universities—the other 1,606 who haven't adopted it yet obviously have their PC heads up their butts
"The Chicago Statement: In it, the University of Chicago gently but powerfully rebukes its free-speech-negligent peers, arguing that the school’s 'fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.' It therefore forbids university members from 'obstruct[ing] or otherwise interfer[ing]' with the freedom of others 'to express views they reject or even loathe.' It concludes with a pledge to protect free debate and deliberation 'when others attempt to restrict it.' The Chicago Statement has been adopted by the administrations or faculty bodies of 34 universities to date, among them, Columbia, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Purdue, Michigan State, The University of Missouri System, and LSU." (Source: 35 Universities Adopt 'The Chicago Statement' On Free Speech--1,606 To Go, Tom Lindsay, Forbes)
“Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn . . . . [I]t is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”—Excerpt from the Chicago Statement
Social media isolate people and exacerbate the nerves through perpetual judgments, comparisons and opportunities for bullying—it also supports strengthening of biases
"What has gone wrong? A lot, [the authors] contend. The Western world is safer for children than ever, yet because its perils are more widely advertised, it feels more dangerous. Parents have become overprotective, inducing anxiety in their offspring long before they get to college. Social media exacerbate the nerves through perpetual judgments, comparisons and opportunities for bullying. They amplify bad news and isolate teenagers from contrary opinions. Technology also helps to isolate them literally: time spent in sociable and risky play is declining." (Source: The real victims of campus activism are the students: “The Coddling of the American Mind” chronicles an alarming turn in intellectual life in America, The Economist)
Parents are raising children to be fragile
"By overprotecting their children . . . parents have taught the current generation of teenagers and young adults to engage in dichotomous thinking; amplify their emotional responses, anxiety, and depression; and exaggerate the dangers they face. In The Coddling of the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt connect these child-rearing patterns to disturbing developments on college campuses. Administrators, they argue, increasingly tolerate or encourage evaluations of speech in terms of its impact on the feelings of individuals and groups, and they sometimes acquiesce to demands to disinvite or silence 'insensitive' or 'hateful' speakers." (Source: ‘Coddling of the American Mind’: Parents raising children to be fragile, Glenn C. Altschuler, Philly)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the place to learn about the Cognitive Distortions which are foolishly being conditioned into college students against their will
- Always being right
Actively trying to prove one's actions or thoughts to be correct, and sometimes prioritizing self-interest over the feelings of another person.
Holding other people responsible for problems, never looking at one's own part in the problems.
- Disqualifying the positive
Discounting positive events.
- Emotional reasoning
Presuming that negative feelings expose the true nature of things and experiencing reality as a reflection of emotionally linked thoughts. Thinking something is true, solely based on a feeling.
- Fallacy of change
Relying on social control to obtain cooperative actions from another person.
- Fallacy of fairness
The belief that life should be fair and produces upset or angry emotions when life is perceived as failing to be fair
- Mental filtering
Focusing entirely on negative elements of a situation to the exclusion of the positive.
- Jumping to conclusions
Reaching preliminary conclusions (usually negative) with little (if any) evidence
- Mind reading
Inferring a person's possible or probable (usually negative) thoughts from his or her behavior and nonverbal communication
Predicting outcomes (usually negative) of events.
- Labeling and mislabeling
Labeling: A form of overgeneralization; attributing a person's actions to his or her character instead of to an attribute.
Mislabeling: Falsely believing a person deserves a negative evaluation because of a negative feeling you have
- Magnification and minimization
Making a mountain out of a molehill or making a molehill out of a mountain
Giving greater weight to the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or experiencing a situation as unbearable or impossible when it is merely uncomfortable
Making hasty generalizations from insufficient evidence. Drawing a very broad conclusion from a single incident or a single piece of evidence.
Attributing personal responsibility, including the resulting praise or blame, to events over which the person has no control.
- Making "must" or "should" statements
Making 'must' or should' statements that manifest expecting the world to be different than it is
To say a future scenario will be 'awful', rather than to realistically appraise the various negative and positive characteristics of that scenario.
Things are either all good or all bad, either black or white, nothing in between