The Coddling of the American Mind

How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

[Amazon Link]

Another book that some UNH faculty member is sitting on ("checked out, due date 04/25/2020"). Prof, it doesn't take that long to read!

So, I'm happy that I got a Portsmouth Public Library card.

The authors, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, start off by revealing the three Great Untruths:

  • "What doesn't kill you makes you weaker."
  • "Always trust your feelings."
  • "Life is a battle between good people and evil people."

Hey, you don't have to convince me. Those statements look like garbage to me too. But Greg and Jon make a solid case that those untruths have been promulgated in American society, and (to the extent they've been successfully promulgated) have been the source of much mischief and misery, especially on American college campuses, but also slopping over into the larger polity.

The book exudes an aura of sweet reasonableness; the authors go out of their way to understand the social trends they're criticizing, and bend over backwards to give them points for earnestness. Especially their chapter on "social justice"; it would have been very tempting to rhetorically nuke the concept, like some conservatives/libertarians have ably done. But they try, somewhat successfully, to extract a small baby before throwing out the bathwater. People aren't wrong to observe that some groups deserve a better shake.

Greg and Jon wind up with recommendations for reform, mostly in schools. They are cautiously optimistic. Maybe they're right about that: at least at the University Near Here, the stridency seemed much turned down in the previous academic year: no snitfits over Cinco de Mayo or Halloween costumes, no hate crimes, no videos of sorority girls singing rap songs. Fingers crossed.

URLs du Jour

2019-07-30

[Amazon Link]

  • At the Daily Wire Ashe Schow points out the Selective Outrage From Media: Trump Also Called New Hampshire A ‘Drug-Infested Den’.

    President Donald Trump has been called a “racist” for several days now over his comments regarding the cleanliness and safety of Baltimore, Maryland.

    Trump this weekend tweeted that the city — which is in Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-MD) district — is “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” and a “very dangerous and filthy place."

    Media outlets rushed to defend the city and label Trump a “racist” for allegedly using “dog whistles” — since Baltimore is a majority African-American city.

    In reality, Trump verbally attacks cities and states where he has a real or imagined issue. As Republican political strategist Andrew Surabian pointed out on Twitter, Trump also called the entire state of New Hampshire “a drug-infested den” while discussing the state’s opioid problem with Mexican President Pena Nieto.

    The National Institute on Drug Abuse's latest data (2017) still has NH right up there with 34.0 opioid-involved overdose deaths per 100K persons. Among the states/cities reported, that's only behind West Virginia (49.6), Ohio (39.2), and Washington DC (34.7). But slightly ahead of Maryland (32.2). Where, last I checked, Baltimore is.


  • Reason's Scott Shackford has discovered: Presidential Candidate John Delaney Has a Plan for America’s Young Adults. It’s Called Forced Labor..

    A presidential candidate hopes to break out from the back of the pack and into America's hearts by promising to force America's high school graduates to spend a year working for the government, whether they want to or not.

    John Delaney has made it into the Democratic Primary debates this week, despite polling between 0 and 1 percent recently and looking and sounding like a character invented by Will Ferrell. Over the weekend he attempted to grab some attention by rolling out a plan for mandatory national service:

    Like all decent plans for saving America, it's announced in a tweet:

    Democrats get a little thrill up their leg when they see that word "mandatory".

    Delaney is the CongressCritter from Maryland's 6th congressional district. Not that it matters, but it was one of the districts used as an example of partisan gerrymandering in the recent Supreme Court case.


  • Philip Greenspun asks the musical question: Should state taxpayers subsidize state-run universities?. (And Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies.) Inspired by a report of Alaska Governor using his line-item veto to impose a 41% cut in funding on the state's University system, Phil asks:

    Shouldn’t folks who are against income inequality also be against taxpayer-subsidized university education (and therefore support this governor’s initiative)? A university graduate will earn more than the median taxpayer. From the perspective of someone passionate about equality, why does it make sense to tax median earners to subsidize people who are primarily above-median earners (either because they work for the university or will be getting a degree and getting the higher wages that college graduates earn)?

    Appropriate questions for Milton Friedman's upcoming birthday.


  • [Amazon Link]
    Jim Geraghty is a Mean Old Man to point out: If You’re Not Old Enough to Rent a Car, I Don’t Think You’ve Solved the Mysteries of Life. A rant triggered by the case of one Joshua Harris, who penned a book titled I Kissed Dating Goodbye back in 1997, and…

    Let me get this straight: In 1997, at age 21, Harris wrote a book contending that he had made a great discovery about romantic relationships: Dating should be avoided because it was harmful to future marriages. He wrote this before he got married, the following year.

    A few years ago, he backtracked from the book’s anti-dating stance and now he’s revealing, whoopsie, he doesn’t know how to make a relationship work, that he’s separating from his wife, that be believes his past teachings contributed to bigotry against the LGBT community, and oh, by the way, he doesn’t consider himself a Christian anymore? Come on, even Emily Litella would say you can’t just wave away all of this with a “never mind.”

    Can the book-buyers get a refund?

    And as mad as some folks might be at Harris, could we spare a little irritation for everyone who genuinely believed an unmarried 21-year-old had cracked the code on how to find love and maintain a healthy marriage? If you want to learn skydiving, don’t you want a teacher who’s at least jumped out of a plane before? (I’m not saying Pre-Cana was an endless thrill ride, but at least we had some old married couples bickering in front of us to let us know what awaited us down the road.)

    I reflexively put an Amazon link for the book up. But I suspect nobody's gonna take me up on that, even at the "bargain price" of $12.49.


  • Speaking of Mean Old Men, James Pethokoukis wonders: Why did conservatives become so cranky about America’s leading technology companies?.

    The recent Republican embrace of trade protectionism is pretty weird. Plenty of economic and historical evidence shows tariffs to be harmful, self-defeating policy. They certainly never made America great. Then there’s how the same supply-side ideology that intellectually powers GOP tax policy also blames the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 — a pretty big tax, by the way — for the Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression. (As President Reagan once put it, “We should beware of the demagogues who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends — weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world — all while cynically waving the American flag.”) Like I said, pretty weird.

    Yet, if not for the Great Protectionist Reversal, the escalating Republican offensive against Big Tech would take the top spot for policy peculiarity. First, the attacks betray an embrace of tech optimism that’s been a big part of the modern GOP. “We’re breaking through the material conditions of existence to a world where man creates his own destiny,” Reagan told the students at Moscow State University back in 1988. American technology companies continue to do their part in pushing forward the technological frontier. Europe would love to have them, and China is working hard to duplicate them. Yet some in Washington think America would be better off without them.

    One can be grateful for the goodies big tech companies shower upon us, oppose efforts to regulate or break them, and (yet) still criticize them. That's what passes for a "nuanced" position beyond the mental skills of a lot of politicians.