Race in America
Economic Growth, Technological Change, and Climate Change

Are We Coddling Students, Destroying Our Civilization Through Excess Caring? 

By Jonathan B. Wight

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt have written a provocative book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018). 

Lukianoff is the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which fights against schools limiting speech on campus.  Haidt is a professor of social psychology at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and famous for his other books on the moral psychology of tribes. 

The authors make an interesting psychological claim:  Just as our physical bodies as children need to be exposed to viruses and germs (in order to grow stronger and build up their immune systems) so too do we need to be exposed to pressures, insults, and failures in order to develop a healthy emotional attitude toward the realities of life.  We have to prepare our kids to not be emotionally fragile, but to be resilient.

Of course, we’re not talking about exposing a child to a massive flu epidemic, or an abductor or rapist. Children do need protection.  It’s a question of scale and depth of risk neutralization; the authors argue that rich countries have gotten too risk averse, especially with regard to things like micro aggressions and the claim of injury and victimhood when a speaker comes to campus who argues against one’s beliefs.

The claim is that emotional fragility in college students is on the rise because of the “coddling” they received earlier and continue to receive on campus.  Students who are not prepared for failures and insults feel under greater stress, thus overwhelming the psychological services departments. 

So is it true?--that as we've gotten richer we've become more risk averse, and in the process emotionally weaker and unable to handle conflicts, less prepared to face the world?  That's very scary!  

This is an interesting thesis for the rise and fall of civilizations. 

For more, here’s a video of Lukianoff.  Here’s a video of Haidt.


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