Since 2013, a shift has occurred on college campuses. To many in the older generation, it has echos of Orwell. Students don’t feel “safe” if certain speakers are invited to campus. If the speakers aren’t disinvited, they may be shouted down during their talk. Depression is skyrocketing and professors are scared.
What the heck is going on?
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt say the problem is not the colleges. They are simply responding to students who have undergone a tremendous shift.
Notice how I started off saying the shift started in 2013. Why is that so? The authors trace this back 2013 being the year the iGen (iGeneration, or Generation Z) began arriving on college campuses. iGen is the first generation to come of age with social media.
Not only this, parenting styles have drastically changed from just 30 years ago. People in their 30s and 40s will mostly describe a more free-range childhood that contrasts sharply with how they raise their own children. The authors say this is largely a result of fear driven by extensive media coverage of kidnappings (despite this being a safer time now than 30-40 years ago).
So, the colleges are not to blame, or are not solely to blame. They are responding. And they are responding to a fragile group of students. Students who are increasingly spending more time on screens than face to face. Students who’ve had helicopter parents. Students who have not had experiences that lead to “antifragility (challenges that foster learning and growth).”
The Coddling of the American Mind covers three “Great Untruths” or cognitive distortions people (especially young people) are being taught and the ramifications for those beliefs. The authors then show how these untruths are leading to what we’re seeing on campuses across the USA, where these ideas came from, and how they can be reversed.
It was a fascinating book with many great insights. It was helpful in identifying where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how we got there. It ties in parenting, politics, justice, and education. It’s a must-read for educators and parents.