Safetyism, Feelings over Facts, and Tribal Constructs
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
Penguin Press, January 1, 2018
The Coddling of the American Mind is an expansion of the 2015 Atlantic Monthly article of the same title (reviewed in the September 2015 Klingbrief). As the divisiveness of our national politics reaches historical proportions, the book may serve educators as both a way of explaining our contribution to the current climate and a way of understanding how we might help the next generation return to productive, civil discourse. The authors establish a context for this work by exploring “three bad ideas” that they believe are setting up current students for future failure: the culture of “safetyism” that keeps them from encountering ideas that run counter to their personal beliefs; the encouragement of the primacy of feelings over facts; and the allowance of a tribal construct to develop and in turn suggest that those who share our beliefs are good and those who do not are evil. The authors explore how these ideas run counter to the traditional tenets of both academic freedom and cognitive behavioral therapy, and connect them to recent trends on college campuses (rioting at Berkley and Middlebury, as well as the events at UVA). Subsequent chapters explore how these ideas were developed and operationalized, and what educators might do going forward to reverse their effects.