The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Penguin, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2489-6
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. They identify the cause in a growing obsession with protecting college students, rooted in the cult of “safetyism”—the idea that all adverse experiences, from falling out of a tree as a child to experiencing a racial microaggression as a college sophomore, are equally dangerous and should be avoided entirely. They condemn these attitudes as likely to foment anguish and leave students ill-prepared for postcollege life, and they endorse the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy as a better approach. At times, the authors’ limited perspectives become apparent—for instance, their dismissal of microaggressions as simple misunderstandings that should be corrected with good grace is naïve and lacking in compassion, and their use of exaggerated hypothetical dialogues to illustrate the worldviews of those with whom they disagree can seem in bad faith. Yet the path they advocate—take on challenges, cultivate resilience, and try to reflect rather than responding based solely on initial emotional responses—deserves consideration. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/09/2018
Release date: 09/04/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-62711-1
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-7352-2491-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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