Coddling in an age of outrage

  • Virendra Mistry LJMU
Keywords: Gen Z student, mental health


Every so often, a book arrives on the scene that challenges us to think about the nature of higher education and its purpose.  Some generate a lot of attention.  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, has had a fair share of the media spotlight.  Critiqued by The Guardian (Weigel, 2018), one of the co-authors (Jonathan Haidt) was even invited to take part in a discussion-based programme, ‘Start of the Week’, on BBC Radio 4. 

Continuing a thesis developed in Allan Bloom’s (1988) Closing of the American Mind, in which Bloom asserted that HE had ‘failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s students’, Lukianoff and Haidt posit that students in 2018 aren’t so much ‘closed’ but are being ‘coddled’ to a point that is making them too fragile to encounter challenging ideas.  On Radio 4, Haidt (2018) referred to ‘protections’ being put in place against certain ‘microaggressions’, with ‘Gen Z’ students demanding protection from “words, books, speakers and ideas”; in other words “speaking a language of safety”.  This is possibly a symptom of smartphone addiction or “paranoid parenting”.  In a period where HE institutions are becoming more diverse, ‘safetyism’ could lead to “further misunderstandings” and, more pointedly, students may not have the tools or resilience required to succeed in professional life.

[Editorial continues]