Coddling Our Children’s Minds

baby graduate-croppedOK, I admit it. This post is pretty much a rant.

Several things happened last week that spurred my thinking. First, my son Seth sent me an interesting article about how colleges have become so concerned with making sure none of their students are “offended” by what’s being taught that campuses are being scrubbed clean of “words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.” Just a sampling of perceived offensive statements included: asking Asian or Latino Americans “Where were you born?” (could be perceived as implying the person is not a true American), stating that “America is the land of opportunity” (could be perceived as a put-down of other cultures), or saying “I believe the most qualified person should get the job/award” (could be interpreted as a “qualification and/or racial bias”).

Then a friend who works in the university system shared an email sent to her by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion advising employees to no longer use the pronouns “she” and “he” because those words might offend the transgender community.

And, finally, I came across an article in Psychology Today examining the declining resilience of today’s college students. It seems students’ emotional fragility has become such a serious problem that professors have “grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance,” since students were prone to see a poor grade as a reason to lodge complaints about their teachers rather than a reason to study more. “Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.”

I have to admit I read those articles with disbelief. To me, education was never intended to shield students from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable, but to expose them to many different points of view so they could learn to think for themselves, make informed decisions, and develop the knowledge, skills, and mental/emotional resilience to succeed in the real world—a world that rarely caters to a person’s fears, almost never shields them from being emotionally triggered, hardly ever limits their exposure to people or ideas they might find offensive, and seldom holds their hands when things get rough. In other words, a good education equips students to deal with the complexities, inequities and challenges of life, of which there are many.

Although I deplore racism, misogyny and all other forms of stereotyping and class or ethnic bias, I agree with the conclusions of the Atlantic article: “The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.” Why? Because it creates a generation of self-absorbed young adults who feel entitled to a world that never offends them, challenges them, nor demands of them anything they don’t want to give—a life in which all of their problems can be blamed on someone else.

“Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are bad for the students. They are bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. And they are bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship. When the ideas, values, and speech of the other side are seen not just as wrong but as willfully aggressive toward innocent victims, it is hard to imagine the kind of mutual respect, negotiation, and compromise that are needed to make politics a positive-sum game.

Rather than trying to protect students from words and ideas that they will inevitably encounter, colleges should do all they can to equip students to thrive in a world full of words and ideas that they cannot control.”

If this trend continues, home schooling may become the last bastion of true education (with no intent of offense to those who aren’t home schooled).

Feel free to express your own rant below.

Comments

  1. James Davis says:

    Well said. I have found these articles as shocking as you, and almost had trouble believing they were real at first.

    It makes me want to debate some of them, asking them a few hard questions to see their responses.

  2. Michael Fendrich says:

    Ellyn – Excellent article. It’s no wonder that many now consider the faith in Christ a pathological disorder and psychologically disorienting given the need to recognize and repent of our sin and sinful nature and seek a redeemer. The message doesn’t work well with one who can’t conceive of, much less accept, any message that may challenge their own immaculate self-worth. But praise God that He is in the saving business and the will of man cannot withstand His marvelous grace. Great article, thanks again.

  3. Ellyn Davis says:

    Thank you for the comments. As an aside, I’ve been recently running across articles about “cultural appropriation” that accuse people of being culturally derisive when they adopt the dress, mannerisms or lifestyles of cultures other than their own.

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