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Publisher's Summary

A timely investigation into the new "safety culture" on campus and the dangers it poses to free speech, mental health, education, and ultimately democracy

The generation now coming of age has been taught three Great Untruths: their feelings are always right; they should avoid pain and discomfort; and they should look for faults in others and not themselves. These three Great Untruths are part of a larger philosophy that sees young people as fragile creatures who must be protected and supervised by adults. But despite the good intentions of the adults who impart them, the Great Untruths are harming kids by teaching them the opposite of ancient wisdom and the opposite of modern psychological findings on grit, growth, and antifragility.  

The result is rising rates of depression and anxiety, along with endless stories of college campuses torn apart by moralistic divisions and mutual recriminations.   

This is a book about how we got here. First Amendment expert Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt take us on a tour of the social trends stretching back to the 1980s that have produced the confusion and conflict on campus today, including the loss of unsupervised play time and the birth of social media, all during a time of rising political polarization.    

This is a book about how to fix the mess. The culture of “safety” and its intolerance of opposing viewpoints has left many young people anxious and unprepared for adult life, with devastating consequences for them, for their parents, for the companies that will soon hire them, and for a democracy that is already pushed to the brink of violence over its growing political divisions. Lukianoff and Haidt offer a comprehensive set of reforms that will strengthen young people and institutions, allowing us all to reap the benefits of diversity, including viewpoint diversity.    

This is a book for anyone who is confused by what’s happening on college campuses today, or has children, or is concerned about the growing inability of Americans to live and work and cooperate across party lines.

©2018 Greg Lukianoff (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Our behavior in society is not immune to the power of rational scientific analysis. Through that lens, prepare yourself for a candid look at the softening of America, and what we can do about it.” (Neil deGrasse Tyson, director, Hayden Planetarium, and author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry)

What members say

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Enrich Understanding

As a Hockey Coach for the Past 12 years, I have experienced changes with kids of all ages. Bluntly put, the change is NEGATIVE. Kid's ages 5 - through College who I coach and interact with are having more and more trouble with dealing with adversity and that is simply because of the safety nets at every turn of their lives. Moreover, athletes in general tend to be more successful in life because of the life skills learn through sport which directly correlate to the books crucial concepts that help people develop and evolve as thoughtful individuals with comprehensive thought processes. I think every coach, parents and students in HS/College should read this book. Break the cycle of fearing failure. Fail and fail often and continue learning from your experiences to develop yourself and your mind.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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A Triumph.

An excellent description and history of the current social trends (outrage culture, safe spaces etc.) that have become pedestrian on US university campuses. The two authors have a tone that is clear and informative and a concern for the truth of the matters they bring forth. This book is not an attempt to tickle the ears of anyone of any political persuasion but is directed to everyone who has a stake in seeing our country succeed in the statements of our founding documents.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Great follow up to a great article

I read the article of this in The Atlantic and thought it was great without noticing the authors. I later hear John Haidt on a podcast with Sam Harris talking about this and immediately downloaded it. No regrets. It’s just as good if not better than the article. Very balanced and super insightful. Great for understanding a large part of what’s going on in American politics and great for any parents raising the next generation.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Oh so needed of a book by teachers and students alike

I recently graduated from an American university. I first hand experienced the three untruths this book outlines, I saw the pendulum swing voraciously towards safetyism.

The Coddling is a well researched book coming at an important time. Teachers in college and below as well as students in college and below should read this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • JB
  • Columbus, OH United States
  • 09-25-18

superb book.

I really loved the insights in this book. Not Conservative or Liberal, just honest. Both sides will be uncomfortable and both will have moments to cheer. If you read the whole book you can't help but be impressed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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thought-provoking work

I think this book really tries to understand the phenomena occurring among college-age kids in the past five to ten years. I don't know if this is a complete picture of the forces causing the things we've all seen on the news, but it feels complete. I think the authors did a fair job of balancing the legitimate concerns of the kids described in this book with the very real issues those kids find so concerning.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Read it to make you think!

I found "The Righteous Mind" by Dr. Haidt inspiring, thought and provoking, particularly with his insights as to how morality could be shaped by evolution and genetics to make us a highly social species. "The Coddling of the American Mind" is quite a different book that is more disturbing insofar as it addresses the more sinister aspects of our social nature and how three false truths have crept into the academic environment to support stifling discourse through protest and intimidation. Having been a freshman at UC Berkeley in 1964 during the Free Speech Movement, I have stood in disbelief in what has happened more recently on campuses and elsewhere to mock and suppress this critical value. After listening to "The Coddling of the American Mind," I went back to listen to "Fantasyland" by Kurt Anderson. This book provides an historical perspective on the development of magical thinking in America from the religious zealots who settled America through the 1960's "do you own thing" generation to the present time. His premise is that from our founding as a nation, we, the people, have embraced "anything goes relativism" and "if I think it is true, no matter how or why, then it is true." So the current issues of on campus dogmatism, intimidation, and witch hunts may simply reflect the genetics of our nation, passed from generation to generation and parsed into communities, subcultures and tribes to serve our social coherence.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Frank
  • Mill Cree, Washington
  • 09-16-18

Helped me have compassion

This book helped me understand and have more compassion for young people who I previously dismissed as unhinged snowflakes. It helped me understand why they're engaging in illiberal behaviors. Perhaps I can now engage them productively, instead of using mockery and derision.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The consequences of overprotection

“Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child” this book is a gem, and should be required reading for all parents, specially those that have the means to provide everything for their children.

Sometimes we think we are protecting our children when in actual fact we are hindering them by not preparing them for the world. Children are by nature resilient “anti-fragile”. This book is about letting strengthening their capabilities by providing a challenging environment where they learn to accept to fend for themselves intellectually when they are right, and understand that they can also be wrong.

There are different point of views that have merit and require a voices and most of all listening ears. The views of the author are the antithesis of the us verses them toxic mentality that has plagued our society through the filtering bubbles of social media, where opposing views are not only not tolerated but heckled creating an environment of hate and dividing people.

Our children are our future. We should expose them to the other side, so that maybe they don’t make the mistakes that we too commonly do, the intolerance of an objector, the unchallenged righteousness of our beliefs. We are right they are wrong, we are good they are evil.

A great book, supported by facts and good evidence. Highly recommended.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 09-08-18

Ambitious and worthwhile social psychology book

The three great untruths: (1) That which does not kill us makes us weaker. (2) Trust your feelings. (3) Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

I listened to The Coddling of the American Mind because I'm a fan of the work of the two authors. Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt released The Righteous Mind in 2012. It is easily the best social psychology book I have ever read. The subtitle promise, Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, is fully delivered in The Righteous Mind. Greg Lukianoff in the founder and current leader of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE is a very effective organization that takes on cases of individuals who have suffered abusive punishments by universities. In 2015 Haidt and Lukianoff wrote a very long article in The Atlantic magazine with the same title as this book. The book expands the article dramatically by delving further into both the definition of the issues and recommendations for solutions.

I rate The Coddling of the American Mind only 3 stars because it seems to me that some of the recommendations lack adequate scientific basis, specifically for its over-dependence on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)and its questionable redefinition of igen (Internet generation or Generation Z). But make no mistake; I strongly recommend The Coddling of the American Mind although I consider it a work in progress. My comment about the authors' use of CBT should not be taken as a criticism of CBT itself. CBT is the gold standard of modern psychotherapy.

My Audible library now consists of approximately 2500 books, 90% fiction mostly of the mystery/thriller genre, and I have now written 2160 reviews. I've decided to stop reviewing all books I listen to choosing instead to write only occasional reviews. However, as I have done for several years I continue to follow Audible listener Shelley's reviews for recommendations of novels of my favorite fiction genre.

25 of 36 people found this review helpful