The Coddling of the American Mind.

Position:Book review


The Coddling of the American Mind

How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

By Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt Greg Lukianoff is president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. A law school graduate, he is a specialist in free speech and First Amendment issues. His previous books are Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate (2012) and Freedom from Speech (2014). Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. His books include The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2005) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012).

THE TOPIC: This book is an extended version of the authors' well-received 2015 essay in the Atlantic, "The Coddling of the American Mind." Lukianoff and Haidt note rising anxiety and depression among college-age young people and attribute this trend to a belief in "Three Great Untruths": the "Untruth of Fragility: what doesn't kill you makes you weaker"; "the Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: always trust your feelings"; and "the Untruth of Us Versus Them: life is a battle between good and evil people." These myths can cause teenagers to expect danger, to react emotionally, and to oversimplify complex issues. Avoiding all conflict, rejecting reason, and vilifying those with opposing opinions can be worrying tendencies, so the authors warn against prioritizing political correctness over common sense.

Penguin. 352 pages. $28. ISBN: 9780735224896

Evening Standard (UK) ***1/2

"So how do you create 'wiser kids'? Get them off their screens. Argue with them. Get them out of their narrow worlds of family, school and university. Boot them out for a challenging Gap year. It all makes perfect sense, yet after 250 pages of grim prognosis, the cure seems a glorious revelation." PHILIP DELVES BROUGHTON

Kirkus ***1/2

"The authors offer practical suggestions for parents (allow children independence and nurture self-reliance) and teachers (cultivate intellectual virtues and teach debate skills) to guide children into adulthood. An important examination of dismaying social and cultural trends."

Washington Post ***

"Lukianoff and Haidt do an excellent job of reminding readers that assumption of fragility can be...

To continue reading