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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

“A disturbing and comprehensive analysis of recent campus trends… Lukianoff and Haidt notice something unprecedented and frightening… The consequences of a generation unable or disinclined to engage with ideas that make them uncomfortable are dire for society, and open the door - accessible from both the left and the right - to various forms of authoritarianism.” (Thomas Chatterton Williams, The New York Times Book Review - cover review and Editors’ Choice selection)

"So how do you create ‘wiser kids’? Get them off their screens. Argue with them. Get them out of their narrow worlds of family, school and university. Boot them out for a challenging Gap year. It all makes perfect sense…the cure seems a glorious revelation." (Philip Delves Broughton, Evening Standard)

“Perhaps the strongest argument in Haidt and Lukianoff’s favour...is this: if you see this issue as being about little more than a few sanctimonious teenagers throwing hissy fits on campus then, yes, it is probably receiving too much attention. But if you accept their premise, that it’s really a story about mental wellbeing and emotional fragility, about a generation acting out because it has been set up to fail by bad parenting and poorly designed institutions, then their message is an urgent one. And it is one that resonates well beyond dusty libraries and manicured quadrangles, into all of our lives.” (Josh Glancy, The Sunday Times (UK)) 

What listeners say about The Coddling of the American Mind

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Only Praise

I listened to this one directly following a conservative perspective book on diversity. I knew right away that the authors were liberals from the way they spoke about Obama (or didn’t speak) vs the way they spoke about Trump. This however was the only way to know because the evidence presented was very fair, far more fair than the previous book I read with many overlapping themes. I am a conservative who really believes in the great lessons espoused in this book. We need far less antagonism and reaction on left and right if we want to remain a functional republic. I really believe this is what’s best for our nation and children.

56 people found this helpful

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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.

26 people found this helpful

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Great insights tainted by inclusion of false media spin

Dr Haidt’s book provides valuable insights into our perceptions of life driving dysfunctional behaviors and where we have opportunities to understand the dynamics, and right the course. These insights tend to be associated with Democrat/Liberal beliefs and behaviors, but are stated in a factual manner often backed by research facts. Where Dr Haidt falls short is promoting incorrectly President Trump’s statements regarding the Charlottesville episode (known widely as “the good people hoax), and the actions of the driver of the car that killed a woman in his escape from threats. Contrary to other parts of the book, this narrative seems to be a page out of a left-leaning media report. Dr Haidt either was influenced by his own political bias, or did not actually revue these events with the same clinical, objective eye a social psychologist researcher would do with other data in order to provide an accurate evaluation.
I’ve heard interviews with Jonathan Haidt and have no doubt he is a good person with good intentions and who’s work can benefit society. I do wonder how he reconciles his findings with what seems to be his own left-leaning politics, when the data for what is causing large scale societal strife is strongly aligned with attitudes and behaviors tied to people who vote Democrat.

15 people found this 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.

25 people found this helpful

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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.

78 people found this 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.

21 people found this helpful

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An even handed evidence based approach

The book is written in an even handed unemotional manner, it relies heavily on scientific evidence rather than ideological speculation, and offers actionable items to address the problem both at a personal and societal level.

8 people found this 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.

8 people found this 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.

43 people found this 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.

16 people found this helpful