What’s Behind The Student Activism And Turmoil On Us Campuses? An Analysis Of Overprotection And Its Long-Term Effects
College campuses across the United States have become increasingly politically volatile.
Newspaper reports, shocking headlines and student protests make it clear – something is happening on US campuses.
In The Coddling of the American Mind, the authors set out to uncover what’s going on by examining the root causes of campus politics.
They focus on an alarming trend – young people are being chronically overprotected from a young age, resulting in turbulent college life.
The long-term consequences can be significant, as highlighted by the event disruptions, demonstrations and violence taking place across universities in America.
In these sections, you’ll delve deeper into how this political turmoil is affecting college life in the United States.
From learning about what “peanuts” can teach us to discovering why some students were banned from talking about their problems, you’ll build up a picture of how much difficulty we’re running into when trying to develop healthy adult identities in our society today.
The Dangers Of Overprotection: Why Young People Need To Take Risks And Face Adversity
It’s an undeniable truth that young people need to face challenges in order to become strong and capable adults.
That’s why a 2015 study on peanut allergies shed some light on the importance of exposing children to risks.
When researchers followed a group of infants from birth to age five, they found that those who had not been exposed to peanuts at all were more likely to develop serious allergies than those who had been exposed early and often.
Similarly, when an entire generation is shielded from life’s challenges for too long and doesn’t learn how to deal with difficult emotions and situations, it can begin developing habits of avoidance or even causing them difficulties later in life.
A great example of this phenomenon is safetyism, wherein students participate in campus activities primarily aimed at protecting them from uncomfortable emotions, dissenting opinions, and other perceived risks—all under the guise of “safety”.
This kind of overprotection does not just limit one’s opportunities for growth; it can also be incredibly damaging when these young people eventually leave the perceived safety net and entre adulthood.
Rather than allowing oneself or one’s peers to become complacent behind the walls of “safety” we should be encouraging our youth to embrace adversity and learn real strength so that they are prepared when facing life’s unavoidable ups and downs.
The Benefits Of Giving Others The Benefit Of The Doubt In Difficult Situations
On college campuses, many students are operating under the assumption that others have malicious intentions.
This is leading to increased tensions as students assume the worst about each other’s motivations.
The concept of microaggressions is a prime example of this trend.
The term refers to the daily slights and indignities experienced by minority groups, but according to Columbia University Professor Derald Wing Sue, microaggressions don’t need to be intentional – it doesn’t matter what the actual intention was–it’s how someone else interprets it that matters.
So when a white person comments “America is a melting pot,” that could be taken to suggest that minorities should conform to the dominant culture and can become classified as microaggressions.
By assuming negative intentions, students are letting themselves fall prey to cognitive distortions that make the world seem far more hostile than it actually is.
Not only does this lead to feelings of anger and frustration in the individual who misinterprets situations, but it can also fuel existing tension between different student groups on campus.
To avoid escalating campus tensions, then we must try our best not to jump to conclusions and instead take time to really think through potentially ambiguous or misunderstood situations.
Doing this allows us look at each situation critically and with an open mind before declaring anything as malicious or wrong–a much healthier tactic all round!
Campus Politics Can Fan The Flames Of Tribal Conflict
Campus politics has a tendency to encourage tribal thinking and instigate intergroup conflict.
Through its messages about privilege and oppression, it paints different groups of people as enemies instead of recognizing their humanity.
This can have damaging results; for example, when a Latino student wrote an article with the headline “Your DNA Is an Abomination” in 2017, they were met with hate mail and death threats from conservative readers.
Intersectionality is one concept on college campuses which often encourages this harmful tribalism.
The goal of intersectionality is to examine the ways that various forms of discrimination overlap and interact.
While this is a worthy goal, depending on the interpretation some versions paint privileged groups as oppressors—encouraging students to think of others in extreme black-and-white terms, rather than as complex human beings who are capable of change.
It’s important for us to be conscious of how campus politics can exacerbate tribal conflicts instead of looking for common ground between people who differ from us.
If we keep this understanding at the forefront, we’re more likely to move past our deep-rooted instinctive tendencies toward tribalism and foster greater understanding across disparate groups.
The Rise Of Emotional Comfort And The Stifling Of Intellectual Debate On College Campuses
Tensions on college campuses have been growing rapidly and it is no surprise that something like what happened at UC Berkeley in 2017 occurred.
On the night of February 1, 2017, campus politics came to a head with a riot breaking out sparked by Milo Yiannopoulos’ controversial visit.
The night showed just how far tensions had escalated – with professional grade fireworks aimed at police, Molotov cocktails being hurled, and attacks by protesters with sticks, barricades and pipes.
This was not the usual kind of protest that had previously been seen on campuses.
Desperate attempts to block speech rights had grown more than anyone could have anticipated and this incident highlighted that fact.
People from all backgrounds were shocked at scenes they hadn’t thought possible on college grounds.
The key factor behind this escalation in tensions over such issues as freedom of speech was a re-interpretation of what constituted “violence” which included harsh language or speech without sympathy.
This thinking allowed students to cast their own responses as self-defense which possibly justified further aggressive actions against those who dared to oppose opinions shared by their peer group.
We’ve even seen instances where respected professors have felt the brunt of the new atmosphere on college campuses when challenged with the wrong opinion.
Amy Wax and Larry Alexander’s views were met with open letters signed by dozens of colleagues accusing them of class-based white supremacy – rather than any attempt to engage in debate or present an alternative viewpoint.
An Increasingly Adversarial And Polarizing Politics: How Social Media Is Driving Us Further Apart
US politics is becoming more and more divided.
This is evidenced by the Pew Research Center’s independent research, which shows that Republicans and Democrats have increasing differences in opinion every year.
In 2004, the two parties had beliefs that were separated by 17 percentage points, whereas in 2017 they differed by 36– a 110% increase in just fifteen years!
Society has also adopted a newfound attitude when it comes to politics.
It seems that people are becoming less motivated by their own party’s enthusiasm and more motivated by their hostility toward the other party.
This suggests that politics revolves around fanning the flames of resentment among competing sides instead of seeking out common ground.
Experts cite two main reasons for this dramatic shift in political animosity: firstly, there was the dissolution of the USSR leaving Americans with no external enemy to band together against; secondly, with the arrival of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, citizens now have an easiy way to avoid those they disagree with, making it harder to reconcile differences.
Bureaucrats Are Stifling University Life Through Overregulation And Safetyism
The Coddling of the American Mind sheds light on an important issue: ever-expanding bureaucracies are stifling university life in a way that few people realize.
For example, at Northern Michigan University, a student went to see the on-campus psychologist with feelings of loneliness and was later sent a letter from an associate dean warning them not to share their thoughts with other students or else face disciplinary action.
This is indicative of a growing trend among universities – bureaucracy overreaching to shield students from even talking about their feelings with friends, for fear that it would place an unsafe burden on them.
It’s misguided thinking that denies students the chance to resolve their own conflicts and puts them in harm’s way.
In addition, political speech is another common target for overregulation.
Jacksonville State University implemented the rule that “no student shall offend anyone on University property”, which leaves little room for academic discourse and honest conversation in what should be a safe space for learning and growth.
By prioritising so-called “well-being” over freedom of expression, university bureaucrats are stifling creative learning opportunities and leaving students unprepared to navigate life’s challenges outside of college campus.
Teaching Young People To Be Critical Thinkers And Avoid Tribal Mentality
We can help our children develop better and healthier habits of thought.
It’s not easy, but it is necessary.
The key is showing them how to think critically about their own beliefs, ideas, and emotions.
We should instill in them the idea that it is important to question what they feel or automatically think so that they can determine whether their reactions are warranted or perhaps due to something more irrational.
We can also teach them to respect risk and challenge and not just be overcome by fear.
Show them how taking risks can lead to learning new things and gaining valuable life experiences – ones bound to make them wiser, more confident, and more capable in life.
Finally, we need to guard our young people against getting caught up in tribal thinking and the binary of “us” versus “them.” Help your children or students see that this type of mentality isn’t productive but rather only encourages conflict, both at a personal level as well as between communities and countries.
The Coddling of the American Mind provides a powerful examination of how our society’s approach to protecting young people from adversity may be having long-term negative effects.
The book’s main message is that sheltering students too much during college and beyond hampers their ability to thrive in later life; it is better to help children learn how to cope with challenge and give others the benefit of the doubt.
To make this point clear, the book advises parents to teach their children how to handle arguments productively.
Instead of seeing arguments as an unpleasant fact of family life, use them as an opportunity to teach your children about speaking respectfully to those with whom they disagree, and keeping their emotions under control in emotionally charged debates.
By doing so, you’ll be giving your kids invaluable life skills that will serve them well in later years.