Is Safetyism Destroying a Generation?

A great piece Published by Quillette ( HERE). Some very salient points relevant to WHS. Most are likely to agree with the sentiments in the article. People get weary of walking on political eggshells and lament the paternalism and doublespeak of the Safety Crusaders. But, who is courageous enough to challenge them?

Is Safetyism Destroying a Generation?

written by Matthew Lesh.

imageA review of 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 (September 4, 2018) 352 pages.

In recent years behaviours on university campuses have created widespread unease. Safe spaces, trigger warnings, and speech codes. Demands for speakers to be disinvited. Words construed as violence and liberalism described as ‘white supremacy’. Students walking on eggshells, too scared to speak their minds. Controversial speakers violently rebuked – from conservative provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos to serious sociologists such as Charles Murray, to left-leaning academics such as Bret Weinstein.

Historically, campus censorship was enacted by zealous university administrators. Students were radicals who pushed the boundaries of acceptability, like during the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. Today, however, students work in tandem with administrators to make their campus ‘safe’ from threatening ideas.

Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s new book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, persuasively unpacks the causes of the current predicament on campus – which they link to wider parenting, cultural and political trends. Haidt is a social psychology professor at New York University and founder of Heterodox Academy. Lukianoff is a constitutional lawyer and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. In 2015, they wrote The Atlantic cover story of the same name.

Haidt and Lukianoff’s explanation for our era of campus craziness is primarily psychological. In sum, a well-intentioned safety culture which has led to ‘paranoid parenting,’ and screen time replacing unstructured and unsupervised play time, has created a fragile generation. Haidt and Lukianoff focus on people born after 1995, iGen or Generation Z, who began attending college in the last five years – just when things started to escalate.

This cohort is experiencing a dramatic rise in anxiety, depression and suicide. When they arrived on campus, in an increasingly polarised political climate, they were unprepared to be intellectually challenged. They – or at least the ‘social justice’ activists of this generation – responded by creating a culture of censorship, intimidation and violence, and witch hunts against non-believers. Universities, led by risk adverse bureaucracies, are treating students like customers and allowing an aggressive, censorious minority set the agenda.

The dangers of safety culture

Haidt and Lukianoff focus on the unintended consequences of safetyism – the idea that people are weak and should be protected, rather than exposed, to challenges. Safety culture has the best of intentions: protect kids from danger. It began with a focus on physical safety – removing sharp objects and choke hazards, requiring child seats, and not letting children walk home alone. Safety, however, has experienced substantial concept creep. It now includes emotional safety, that is, not being exposed ideas that could cause psychological distress. Taken together, the focus on physical and mental safety makes young people weaker……………


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