While “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt is worth reading, the core argument—that a culture of “safetyism” on college campuses is seriously damaging a generation of students—strikes me as overdone. The authors carefully outline how the turmoil on college campuses rests on untruths such as “what doesn’t kill me makes me weaker,” but their anecdotal approach needs more empirical data, not just well-reasoned argument. Their nuanced explanations are a powerful criticism of liberal thought as well as conservative dogma. However, many of us in college in the ’60s hold less concern that students and our culture can recover from such excesses as triggers and microaggressions. Been there, done that. To be blunt, the authors are academicians likely too close to the problem to fairly judge the ability of life after college to administer therapeutic value adjustment to young graduates. Indeed, while they discuss social media extensively, I find that phenomenon a more powerful culprit for social dysfunction, since it affects virtually all young people, not just college attendees.
Clearly, their belief overprotection (coddling) will have serious unfortunate impacts on members of iGen (born after 1995) is insightful. If they are closer to correct than I am, however, it means rural America will increasingly drift toward different cultural values than the vast majority of the U.S.
The book is thoughtful, polished and helpful for parents of pre-college children. My disagreements with their conclusions are of matter of degree, not fundamentals. —John Phipps