Greg Lukianoff & Adam Goldstein Guest-Blogging About The Coddling of the American Mind

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

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

NEXT: In Due Process Lawsuit, Appeals Court Sides with Michigan Student Expelled for Sexual Misconduct

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  1. I’m curious–if the guest blogging is about Lukianoff and Haidt’s book, why is Haidt not one of the guest-bloggers?

    1. My guess is that he’s busy doing other things. Nothing says that blog posts based on a cowritten book have to be cowritten, too.

  2. The more government interferes in our daily lives, the easier it is to lay the blame on those who the government does not control sufficiently. Sure they blame the government too, but not for the harm wrought; instead, for not protecting the public (which really means just them) from those who did the actual harm.

    Some idiot took a curve too fast and ran off the road? Sue the DoT for not putting up more yellow arrow and speed limit signs or having no or crappy guardrails, and increase the opportunity for more prevailing wage job handouts and friendly contracts.

    Got queasy after eating at a restaurant? Pass legislation tightening up on health inspections (and increase the opportunity for bribes and favoritism).

    Someone said something that made you red in the face? Get somebody — the dean, the mayor, the legislature — to make it illegal, and provide plenty of scope for misinterpreting sloppy laws because you know your people will always be the ones doing the interpretation.

    It always comes down to coercive, monopolistic government of the majority. No matter how you try to narrow its scope, it will always expand, because it interprets the Constitution laid down to control it. Not you. Not your buddies. Not the politicians in power right now. Government defines itself.

  3. “and Jonathan Haidt’s new book just published by Penguin Press. Some of you may be familiar with their article with the same title; here is the publisher’s summary:…”

    This is how it appears on my screen. (Windows 10, running latest version of Firefox). When I highlight the text, the “invisible” stuff does appear.

    1. Reason does not allow accurate formatting, so there should have been a wide gap included after “new book” and after “their.” (ie, where the ‘missing’ words are) With the way Reason destroys my post’s formatting, my post does not make much sense. I’m guessing that the Reason website has to pay a hefty premium for any time a poster has more than 1-2 consecutive uses of the Space Bar?????

      1. How odd — is it better now?

        1. Yup. Text now shows up (in orange, so it’s crystal-clear that it’s a hotlink). Not sure what you did to fix it. (But thanks)

  4. I saw this in the bookstore today. Seems provocative and interesting.

  5. “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.”

    It’s the 21st century’s fault.

    Starting with the Internets there are tremendous advantages but also many, many drawbacks.

    With the Internets, it’s idiotically simply to become isolated and drift into more extreme positions since there are ZERO barriers and warning signs–only enablers and sensationalists.

    The Internets also allow anyone to reach a wide audience in an instant, thus making it easier to find like-minded individuals who are not physically close–which then builds on the point above about isolation and extremism.

    I’d say it seems like the “problem” is more prevalent among younger people (i.e. the college campus crowd address in the book), simply because they’re more tied to the Internets than previous generations.

  6. When I was shuffling around the campus of barbed wire state u (located in Bozeman, Montana, a town named after an early pioneer who spearheaded a cattle drive through the mountains) there was not a whole lot of social or political ferment going on, even though it was the late 1960’s and other campuses nationally were fashionably riotous.

    The most unruly our students became was in favor of “Lolita” that curious book by Nabokov that no reputable publisher wanted and he finally self-published to success! Anyhow, the campus library banned it so students and some trendy faculty had to occupy the admin building for a few days in protest. I put the whole thing down to our winters being so cold and long and the fact that the wall of censorship had cracked enough to allow a Swedish movie called “I Am Curious Yellow” be shown, which got everybody all sexed up.

    Mostly students at Cow U didn’t think about our “rights” very much. We had the right to be sober. Or not. I had a pittance of a math scholarship, memorable because one math prof was an early open carry fanatic, wearing 5 different handguns strapped on the outside of his tweed suit. I owned two pair of shoes–my dad’s old dancing shoes from the Big Band era re-soled 3x and sneakers for b-ball in the fieldhouse. No cowboy boots.

    I retain one visual, of an endless stream of male students ascending the long sidewalk up the gradient to class on a frosty morning. It was ROTC Monday, mandatory, and they all wore white socks.

    1. To justify a rambling stream-of-consciousness response to the burning question of why snowflakes are snowflakes, and how they got that way, I will explain that tomorrow is Patriot’s Day. Moreover, off in Idlib province, Syria, I have this growingly uneasy, gnawingly queasy feeling that Donald F. Trump, beleaguered POTUS, may make the signature military statement of the last 56 years (since 1962) against Russian-backed proxy troublemaking.

      And it will be scary. I was in high school in October, 1962, when my math teacher came into class crying and shaking. He was a tank commander in the National Guard. He managed to blurt out that something called DefCon 1 or DefCon 2 had just been broadcast. We would be self-teaching until a sub could be found and out the door he ran.

      The next few days were as close as the world has ever been to that apocalyptic nuclear war, and but for the extraordinary common sense of one Russian sub commander who ignored orders, this blog would likely not exist today.

  7. Rising intolerance for opposing viewpoints is a challenge

    Something is going wrong on many college campuses in the last few years.

    the new problems on campus

    Rising? New? The last few years?

    Plenty of campuses have been enforcing censorship, suppressing academic freedom, prohibiting dissent, and teaching dogmatic nonsense for decades or even centuries.

    Right-wing blogs tend to disregard those offenses against expression, reason, and science, however, preferring to nip at the ankles of our stronger schools for lesser offenses and for shabby reasons.

  8. Lately I’ve been studying William Jennings Bryan a lot, mainly because of my conviction that most of the ills of the 20th century trace back to America’s failure to remain out of World War One.

    The failure of Woodrow Wilson’s long non-interventionist policy regarding involvement in Europe’s horrible mess was not WJB’s fault. At the time, WJB had been appointed Sec. of State precisely because of his populist and stalwart pacifist views. Populism in the Western states meant free silver equaled an inflationary money supply plus jobs for miners.

    Let me backtrack. In 1896 Bryan had been the Democrat nominee for president and the youngest ever at age 36! The energetic “Wonder Boy Orator of the Platte” became the first presidential candidate in history to invent whistle stop campaign touring. WJB delivered over 200 speeches all over the country.

    McKinley stayed home on his porch, delivered maybe three speeches to friendly crowds, and won. Four years later, in 1900, the two men did it all over and McKinley won again. A few weeks later he was shot by a man mad about imperialism, among other things.

    Yes, WJB strongly supported the Prohibition of Alcohol and opposed Darwinism. WJB loved the Bible and hated war.

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