Let's Get Ready to Coddle!!!!!!!!!!

The Atlantic article "The Coddling of the American Mind" by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt is an excellent and comprehensive overview of how many Americans are starting to view the world-- especially college students; the article's subtitle is "in the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don't like . . . here's why that's disastrous for education-- and mental health" but the article covers more than college campuses-- it connects social media, politics, and society as a whole to the thesis; the article is insanely long, and while I suggest you read it in its entirety, I will offer a summary here for those of you who like to be coddled:

1) social media makes it "extraordinarily easy to join crusades, express solidarity and outrage, and shun traitors" so we've entered a new age of polarization, where it's easy to "like" a point-of-view skip the dialogue, debate, discussion, and negotiation that comes with actually listening to someone else's perspective;

2) the youth of America have grown up in a completely politically polarized environment-- surveys from the 1970s show that Republican and Democrat antipathy was "surprisingly mild" but the negative feelings of each party toward the other have grown steadily, a process called "affective partisan polarization," which is a serious problem for a country that considers itself a democracy;

3) hypersensitive college students have created a new term called "microagression," which can apply to any phrase or action that might be construed offensive-- whether it was overt, subtextual, or accidental-- and this led to the whole "shrieking girl" incident on the Yale campus protesting the hypothetical possibility of unregulated Halloween costumes;

4) hypersensitive college students are now demanding "trigger warnings" from teachers if they are about to encounter something uncomfortable in a text, so that they are not traumatized by something shocking or unexpected . . . even though this goes against all psychological logic, as this system will keep students in a state of anxiety about these issues-- racism, terrorism, abuse, etc.-- instead of the time-tested use of "exposure therapy," which rewires your brain to be able to deal with the difficult topic;

5) emotional reasoning has become the dominant mode of discourse on college campuses, with a subjective definition of offense-- if it offends you then it is offensive-- and this has bled into workplace harassment policies, where the same language is cropping up: there is no objective definition of harassment, it is simply if the person being harassed takes umbrage, then it is harassment;

6) cognitive therapy is a technique that probably needs to be taught on college campuses; "the goal is to minimize distorted thinking and see the world more accurately" and this is done by learning the most common cognitive distortions that people fall prey to-- overgeneralizing, dichotomous thinking, blaming, emotional reasoning . . . all twelve are listed at the end of the article and I am going to use them in class during my logical fallacies unit . . . this is one of my favorite things to teach in Composition class, though I warn the students that they may get in hot water when they start pointing out these "cognitive distortions" . . . especially when a parent or teacher employs one.

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