A Remedy for “Safetyism”

Like many, I have become more and more frustrated with the lack of civility in political discourse. I remember when we could disagree with someone’s politics without considering them a monster. We all largely saw the same problems. We just disagreed with how we should go about solving them collectively. That no longer seems to be the case. When I went looking for an explanation and (hopefully) a remedy for this, I came across the book The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. I was thoroughly impressed with the authors’ thinking, research, and conclusions.

They came to write this book after wondering what had changed in American universities around 2013 that resulted in so many calls for “safe spaces” and violent protests against speakers that students disagreed with. The core of the book is what the authors call the three great untruths:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Weaker
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always Trust Your Feelings
  3. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a Battle Between Good People and Evil People

After describing these untruths and their causes, the authors then go on to show some of the results of this erroneous thinking. These include intimidation and violence as well as witch hunts.

In the meat of the book, the authors outline their analysis for how we got here and then follow it up with how we address and correct for the state our youth and universities are in. I found myself nodding along with their descriptions of the problem and hopeful that their solutions can lead to an improved community in the nation, not just at colleges and universities. This is an important book for our time that all citizens should take the time to read.

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