One book that is often quoted and deserves to be read is, The Coddling of the American Mind. We invited the co-author, Jonathan Haidt, on the Point of View radio talk show to discuss his book.
It began when he sat down with his co-author (Greg Lukianoff) a number of years ago to make sense of what was hapening on college campuses. They decided to write an article about it for The Atlantic with the title, “Arguing Towards Misery: How Campuses Teach Cognitive Distortions.” The editor suggested the more provocative title, “The Coddling of the American Mind.” The piece was one of the most viewed-articles of all time and was then expanded to this book.
Three untruths are the foundation of the book. The first is the “Untruth of Fragility: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Weaker.” Nietzsche’s original aphorism was, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The younger generation has turned this idea on its head.
It is true that some things are fragile (like china teacups), while other things are resilient (and can withstand shocks). But we also note that some things are antifragile. In other words, they actually require stressors and challenges to grow. Our immune system is like that. And university education is supposed to be like that. Students are supposed to be challenged by new, ideas not locked away in “safe spaces.”
Unfortunately, most young people have been protected by a culture that promotes “safetyism.” It has become a cult of safety that is obsessed with eliminating threats (whether real or imagined) to the point where fragility becomes expected and routine. And while this is true for the millennial generation (also called Generation Y), it is even truer for the iGen generation (also called Generation Z) who are even more obsessed with safety.
We are indeed seeing the Coddling of the American Mind.