Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The Coddling Of the American Mind


I linked to a review rather than the book this time. I L O V E D the book! I consider it the 2nd important book of the year after "Suicide of the West" both are critical ... if you are more left / academic, read this one, otherwise Suicide if you can only do one, BUT, you kinda owe it to yourself to read them both!

They coin the term "safetyism" and they use the well known peanut allergy example. To oversimplify, it young kids get peanut exposure when infants, SOME (a small number) will have a reaction that is concerning but not life threatening. HOWEVER, by being "safe", we have RADICALLY increased the number of children with very serious peanut allergies , so a LARGER number is exposed to severe reactions up to and including death. By "trying to be safe" we create a larger problem.

This is one of the problems of mans greater ability to "take action" -- preventing forest fires is similar. We prevent them for a long time, and then when one breaks out, it is catastophic. Many of the plants in certain ecosystems REQUIRE regular fire in order for their seeds to germinate!

There is quite a long list of these sorts of issues ... the book "The Black Swan" and "Unfragile" are referenced in "coddling", and cover these issues in more detail.

For the really politically ideological, on page 216 the authors find it necessary to testify that "neither of us has ever voted for a Republican for congress or the presidency"! Essentially, one author is an avowed centrist, the other identifies as "left" -- a "centrist" in current woke America  academia is a rare thing all on its own! What they want to have is NOT a "political book" -- their purpose is the save the university along with a few young lives from depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide.

I STRONGLY recommend this book! In summary, it's points that resonated with me are:

  1. We are greatly harming our young by preventing them from learning through normal youthful errors and social development through "free play". We don't know if this is even "recoverable" -- we strongly need to get kids out playing with each other and away from the screens! 
  2. The universities are teaching three great untruths ... 
    1. That which does not kill you makes you weaker 
    2. trust your feelings. 
    3. Life is a battle between good people and evil people. The picture below shows a nice chart from page 263 with these untruths and the proper ancient wisdom to answer them. 
  3. Chapter 2 is devoted to how the great untruths lead to living life via "emotional reasoning" -- I feel anxious, therefore something must be happening "out there" that justifies my anxiety! (Always trust your feelings). This is what is known in psychology as a "cognitive distortion", and the very successful treatment approach of "Cognitive Behavioural Therapy" has been devoted to rooting out these thinking errors 
  4. If we are to have a prayer of recovery, nearly ALL of our universities need to sign up for something like "The Chicago Statement"  the FOUNDATION of a university is free expression, civil dialogue, ability to air ALL points of view, ESPECAILLY those that are not popular and even abhorrent to groups of people. Words ARE NOT violence! We need to get over that great untruth! 

There is no doing a book like this justice in a short blog post. READ IT! If you really can’t, this Atlantic article gives the jist. The following picture is a great summary of a core of the book.

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