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The Coddling of the American Mind
Universities and colleges are currently experiencing a strange run of events such as those of students being oversensitive to issues they don’t like or those affecting them. The menace came about as a result of the overprotective environment most of our kids have been brought up. To prepare our students adequately enough to handle the competitive and disappointing world they are going to face out there; this issue needs to be addressed urgently. According to Lukianoff and Haidt (2015), the coddling of the American mind has brought up students who are not able to face their fears, and cannot handle contradicting views and ideologies to theirs. The article will look at the argument presented by Lukianoff and Haidt which may be subject to bias based on their beliefs and the evidence they resolved to use.
A movement by the students to try and keep the institutions free from topics and actions that may be offensive to others is growing at an advanced rate. Vindictive protectiveness has had an impact on the current situation universities are facing. Shielding people from anxiety disorder by telling them to avoid the things they cannot condone does not necessarily help them (Lukianoff and Haidt, 2015). Volokh (2015), states that the University of California criticized a lot of political opinion by asserting that they were either sex oriented or racial. Examples of such statements are, both genders have the same opportunities for attainments and that anyone in the society can succeed if they put the necessary effort. Though they were not banned, such actions were considered as acts of microaggression. However, examples from Universities based in one state cannot be used to condemn others who don’t share the same sentiments.
Parents, on the other hand, play a significant role in spearheading vindictive protectiveness. Lukianoff and Haidt (2015), explained that in the 1960s and below children were allowed more to play and exploit different avenue without being protected. Nevertheless, with an increase in criminal activities between 1960 and 1990 parents became concerned about their children’s safety and tried to keep them out of harm’s way, which is justified. Such actions have left young adults not being exposed to various dangers they are likely to face in the environment. Structures that are deemed dangerous are removed from playing grounds, the inclusion of peanut butter in meals has been done away with, and stringent rules have been put against bullying. Statics from the government surprisingly show that at least one in three students in the US has experienced harassment, ruling out the notion of children not being exposed to danger.
Social media is a powerful tool if used correctly but can be catastrophic in the wrong hands. According to Lukianoff and Haidt (2015), social media has made it easier for people to express solidarity, shun traitors and also join crusades. Faculties have stayed away from doing things that may offend students to avoid damaging their reputation by stimulating online wars against them. Not being able to express your views due to fear is probably wrong, but good things have also come about as a result of social media. Students are now able to interact with their peers and teachers regarding class-related matters instantly (The Hudson Group, 2013).
Lukianoff and Haidt articulate that the education system has encompassed emotional reasoning among the youths. Emotional rationale involves letting our feelings lead our judgments. They go ahead to say that thinking emotionally has dwarfed most of the debates at our campuses. By claiming that someone’s words are offensive publicly, is a demand that the person is penalized for committing such an act. According to Lukianoff and Haidt, other people think that they shouldn’t be offended as it’s their right. They give an example showing that throughout the history of America, radicals have always provoked the status quo and tried to challenge the prevailing sensibilities. The program of preventing speech that might be harmful to minority groups started as a right course but later brought about absurd results.
An example is given of a student from Israel being charged with being racism when he shouted at a black Pennsylvania university student who was making noise by saying, “Shut up, you water buffalo!” They were innocent remarks which in Hebrew refer to a loud person, unfortunately landing him in trouble. Other cases have also been provided. In Indianapolis at Purdue University, a white student who was reading Notre Dame vs. the Klan was found guilty of being charged with racial harassment. A Humpday, an event at the University of St. Thomas, was canceled due to concerns that it would have divided the people since some students had gone to condemn it on Facebook saying that it was an insult to those from the Middle East and cruelty towards the animal. Such actions were considered unfair, but they could not be rebuked as it would have been considered as an attack to on someone’s emotion. This contributed to lowering the standards of unacceptable speech further.
The Department of Justice and Education in 2013 included verbal sentiments that are merely not welcomed by other people as forms of sexual harassment. The ruling would also apply to religion and race. Lukianoff and Haidt (2015), explains that the concept of students being taught to use their emotions as tools in administrative proceedings will bring about conflicts in our institutions. The examples used by the authors are extreme and cannot be used to address the issues of racism and sexual harassment on our campuses. According to Anderson and Svrluga (2015), 20% of females attending a meeting for undergraduates stated that they had been victims of sexual misconduct or assault during that year. Consequently, stringent measures must be put to protect our women and the less fortunate in the society.
Trigger warning and fortune telling were also featured as a cause for the fragility amongst our students. Fortune telling according to Holland, Leahy, and McGinn views the future in a negative perspective. Reading assignments are seen to be having an increase in demand for trigger warning, especially for disturbing content. An example is given at Oberlin College where they recommended a guide to be used while teaching. The guide preferred the omission of some topics during teaching, and if such material is a must for the course, it should be made optional. Lukianoff and Haidt say that they cannot see how engaging in a novel portraying privilege and classism could stir up terror as in posttraumatic stress disorder.
A trigger warning is seen to be high in demand by students in numerous issues with an attempt to shield those who can be harmed. This can be seen in motivated reasoning which states that if one finds something to be wrong, then exposing themselves to it could result in trauma. Students have been seen in the past to demand trigger warning for books such as Virginia Woolf’s which they claimed to have suicidal content. In Jeannie Suk’s writing, he explains how it is challenging to teach rape law in a society that is embracing trigger warning. Due to this ideologies, professors have gone ahead to stop administering the topic in a move to protect the students from any distress.
Discussions regarding sensitive issues at our institutions have been paralyzed with many opting not to participate. Uncharacteristically, Lukianoff and Haidt go-ahead to agree that the action of students to prompt for trigger warning will help to prevent a resurgence of the ugly ordeals amongst those who had gone through traumatizing events. However, they rebuke them for avoiding the reactivations. Though trigger warning can derail progress on sensitive issues, measures should be taken to protect those who have previously suffered. Trigger warning notifies students to distressing content that might incapacitate their learning (Bridges, 2016). Bridges pointed out that he has witnessed the effects of relishing old memories on a first-hand basis and how it affected a student’s academic results (2016). Care should be taken so that such students do not fill discriminated when we partake in such discussions.
The aspect of magnification, labeling, and microaggressions was also addressed to be encroaching into our universities. Lukianoff and Haidt pointed out that the recent trend of collegiate to unveil the purported classist, sexist, and racist does not focus on educating students to be forgiving and see some remarks as accidental. It instead urges them to put emphasis and brand the people as aggressors. An example of a professor at the University of California was given to strengthen the point that students are branding people who address particular issues or correct them as aggressors. At a class taught by a professor of education Val Rust, a group recited a letter expressing the worry concerning hostility of people towards the student of color. While going through the assignments, Rust noted that they had capitalized ‘i’ in the word indigenous. The student viewed it as an insult to their ideology.
The outcome of overprotecting students before they leave the university is questioned by Lukianoff and Haidt. They state that it will be better to subject students through a process where they can doubt their emotional reactions. A student at the University of Michigan Omar Mahmood was subjected to harassment and even got terminated at the campus newspaper where he was employed due to a satirical comment he had made about the minority groups. Mahmood’s door was vandalized by women and offensive messages left on his door. Despite the examples provided, the writer fails to address the importance of making sure that people uttering aggressive and provocative statements are monitored. Chow (2013), gives out an example at Kansas State University where the student newspaper argued that the government should stop sponsoring Iranian, Afghan, Chinese and the Turkish students. Failure to address such issues shows that his argument fails to capture the broad picture experienced across our institutes.
The students have also been seen having a zero tolerance and catastrophizing people’s opinion according to the article. An instance is provided at Bergen Community College where a professor was suspended for posting an image of his daughter, who was wearing a T-shirt with the writings indicating that she will take what is hers with fire and blood. The picture was interpreted by the administrator to be a threat. A student at Valdosta State University was expelled for opposing the establishment of a parking garage when he posted on his Facebook account saying that the construction was more of a memorial kind of gesture. The leader on the other hand so this as a threat on his life.
Numerous examples are given in the article depicting the effects of catastrophizing other people’s statements. In 2013, at University of Central Florida, an accounting tutor Hyung-il-Jung was suspended after a student had reported that he had threatened him while reviewing them. While he was examining the students, he noticed that they were gloomy and looked pained which prompted him to jokingly say that it looked like they were being suffocated by the questions. He went ahead to ask them if they thought that he was on a killing spree. The student reported the incident to the administration leading to his suspension. He was also required to go and get checked by a mental health professional and obtain a written certificate proving he was not a threat to both the university community and himself. Though the treatment the professor was subjected to were harsh, the writer fails to give an example of where such innocent remarks have ended up causing depression and even some committing suicide. According to Garner (2014), one in ten teenagers have attempted to commit suicide, and others have resulted in self-harm. Such incidences cannot be overlooked.
Mental filtering is a situation where an individual only sees the negative parts and decides to ignore the positive parts. During the dis-invitation season in 2014, students and faculties were seen to practice mental filtering while selecting speakers to be invited. The evidence is provided to support this. According to the figures collected by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 240 campaigns have been rallied against public figures availing themselves at campus events since 2000. Majority of which occurring after 2009.
Cases involving Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s director, and the former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been quoted to show how mental filtering has dined high profile individuals from addressing our educational facilities. Questions were raised about Rice involvement in the Iraq war and policies adopted by the IMF raised some concern. Lukianoff and Haidt stated that if campus natures a culture that demands visitors to be saints with profiles that don’t offend the students, it will create an environment where students cannot tolerate diverse viewpoints.
They go ahead to claim that if students graduate thinking that they cannot learn anything from those they dislike or have a contrary opinion, then we would have done them some intellectual injustice. The points of concern brought forward are true since individuals need to be challenged as this is a mirror image of what they will face out there in the society. However, testing students to get out of their comfort zone does not mean exposing them to people who can influence them negatively. According to Haltiwanger (2015), Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are observed to justify rape proclaiming that it can be used as a recruiting tool and a weapon. Exposing students to ISIS sympathizers can prove to be bad based on what they believe in.
From the article, we can see and agree with the writers concerning some issues. Students need to be exposed to an environment that encourages critical thinking, challenges their mental reasoning, and allows freedom of speech. Nevertheless, during the expression of our rights, people should be mindful of others. They shouldn’t engage in topics that may heart others or insulting issues. Consequently, measures that are taking into accounts the two viewpoints need to be adopted so that everybody feels included.
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Bridges, George S. Why students need trigger warnings and safe places. 29 August 2016. 30 October 2017. <https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/why-student-need-trigger-warning-and-safe-places/>.
Chow, Yung-Hwa Anna. “Race, Racism, and International Students in the United States.” June 2013. Nacada. 30 October 2017. <http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Race-Racism-and-International-Students-in-the-United-States.aspx>.
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The Hudson Group. What Are The Advantages Of Social Media To Students. 15 8 2013. 30 October 2017. <www.hudsongrp.com/blog/what-are-the-advantages-of-Social-to-students>.
Volokh, Eugene. The University of California,’microaggressions,’and supposedly anti-semitic criticism of Israel. 31 August 2015. 30 October 2017. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/08/31/the-university-of-california-microaggressions-and-supposedly-anti-semitic-criticism-of-israel/?utm_term=.f06160555967>.