Is free speech under threat on campus? 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 expanded until they lose all meaning. ‘Violence’ used to mean causing someone physical harm. Now ‘violence’ is used by many to describe emotional harm caused by views or ideas they strongly disagree with.
Is Haidt right? Or is he overstating and misinterpreting a cultural shift which is actually making universities more inclusive and open to minorities?