Articles politics video

Have College Students Become Too Fragile?

Is free speech under threat on university campuses? Many would argue the rise of trigger warnings, safe spaces and no platforming of controversial speakers are symptomatic of a dangerous crackdown on the free exchange of ideas in the institutions where they are needed most.

In this video Professor Jonathan Haidt author of The Coddling of the American Mind discusses the increasing emotional fragility of America’s young and how we can counter this trend by teaching students the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy.

Haidt argues students are increasingly retreating from ideas they fear may damage their mental health, and presenting themselves as in need of protection from any viewpoint that might make them feel unsafe. The ‘culture of safety’, as Haidt calls it, may be well intentioned, but it is hampering the development of young people and leaving them unprepared for adult life, with devastating consequences for them, for the companies that will soon hire them and for society at large.

Haidt is particularly perturbed by the development of ‘concept creep’ in which important societal labels are expanded and and expanded until they lose all meaning. He argues that ‘violence’ used to mean causing someone physical harm. Now we are seeing a trend on campuses where ‘violence’ is used to describe emotional harm caused by views and ideas students strongly disagree with.

Is Haidt right? Or is he overstating and misinterpreting initiatives which are actually making universities more inclusive and open to minorities to express their views and opinions?



12 comments on “Have College Students Become Too Fragile?

  1. The Red Flag

    Protection from viewpoints we don’t like? Look up Genocide Awareness Project. They display graphic images of KKK lynchings and murdered holocaust victims alongside bloody, aborted fetuses. They use our university’s -mandatory free speech zone- as required by law. Free speech is not “under attack” but as a university student I’d like the option to be able to study for the degree I pay thousands for without having to see 15 foot tall billboards of burned corpses in front of the library. Universities shouldn’t have to give an equal platform to every uneducated, hateful “viewpoint”, they’re supposed to be institutions of higher learning. Unchecked “free speech” at universities drags everyone down.


  2. Concept creep is very destructive. Stable and well-defined concepts enable us both to understand the world and to act consistently with rules that use the concepts. When concepts are rapidly, progressively, and unpredictably redefined to promote political agendas, we can no longer rely on them to guide our understanding and conduct, so we don’t know what we are or aren’t allowed to do. Conceptual anarchy inculcates the “learned helplessness” that makes some college students (and others) so fragile.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Why are these changes making “… universities more inclusive and open to minorities to express their views and speech”?

    People need to be robust and able to counter-argue views they find fearful. Ignoring them, or hiding from them, can’t be the answer?


  4. What is politically correct today could change overnight. It makes for difficult conversation.


  5. The Red Flag

    You asked whether or not liberals are censoring dissenting opinions, yet you deleted my comment for disagreeing with you. You literally censored me for disagreeing. You don’t really want debates and discussions and free speech. Clearly, you just want people to agree with you, just like you claim liberals do. How ironic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi red flag, I’ve never deleted a comment on this blog. I think you might be mistaken here. All best, Conor


      • The Red Flag

        I was the first to comment on this post and you approved every comment (aside from mine) and left mine in cue, unapproved, until this morning. Actually.


      • The Red Flag

        Those comments were from 3 days ago.


      • Hi Red flag, thank you for flagging. Your comment didn’t appear in my notifications. It’s been approved. Have a lovely day, Conor


  6. It´s always the same with the left. Here in Spain and when I lived in the US, here in Spain is worst.

    I´ll just get to the point, students are not fragile, for me they are just idiots that get into that type of group mentallity, having ¨safe spaces¨, or something like that, again, the left is very good at delivering a short message but that will enter the mind of people who are predespose to think like that. I went to a univertisty in the ¨Communist Republic of California¨, there was no safe zone or dumb things like that, but I did experience and fellow students, the wrath, if you will, of the left and obviously including the teachers.

    If you or me or the neighbour do it, if we lean twoards the right, we will call fascist.

    Back to my initial point, the best way to combat them is delivering what would seem a simple message but effective.

    Two examples. ¨Make America First¨, or something like that, I do live in Spain but I keep up with the country I love(USA) and have good friends there.

    That message is simple for people, but it is very elaborated, that ¨simple¨ message gets people to the polls.

    The right in general, including here in Spain, have a problem with the information message.

    That was a long comment, I have my two neurons doing willies right now.


  7. My concern isn’t with students, it is with the professors and the deans and the university administration. The whole point of academia is Socratic questioning. Challenge, challenge and challenge some more. Question the answers, question the questions.

    Liked by 1 person

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