The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
I'm delighted that Greg Lukianoff and Adam Goldstein will be guest-blogging this coming week about Lukianoff's and Jonathan Haidt's new book The Coddling of the American Mind, just published by Penguin Press. Some of you may be familiar with their Atlantic article with the same title; here is the publisher's summary:
Something is going wrong on many college campuses in the last few years. Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are rising. Speakers are shouted down. Students and professors say they are walking on eggshells and afraid to speak honestly. How did this happen?
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 are incompatible with basic psychological principles, as well as ancient wisdom from many cultures. They interfere with healthy development. Anyone who embraces these untruths—and the resulting culture of safetyism—is less likely to become an autonomous adult able to navigate the bumpy road of life.
Lukianoff and Haidt investigate the many social trends that have intersected to produce these untruths. They situate the conflicts on campus in the context of America's rapidly rising political polarization, including a rise in hate crimes and off-campus provocation. They explore changes in childhood including the rise of fearful parenting, the decline of unsupervised play, and the new world of social media that has engulfed teenagers in the last decade.
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.
And here is just a smattering of the praise for the book:
"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)
"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 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
"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, 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