If you have not already done so, The Coddling of the American Mind, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt is a must read for all educators and parents of children between the ages of pregnant and 25. It is a powerful review, with significant quantitative and qualitative data in support, of the realization that the current generation is less well prepared for the real world than any in the past, and we are all complicit in the problem.
Like Jean Twenge in her best-selling iGen, Coddling paints a picture of a generation of children raised by over-protective parents, rushed through over-planned days, pressured to excel on tests in school at very early ages, prevented from gaining the muscle of individual play and invention, and locked in to massive doses of screen time at the expense of social development and human interaction. The results are kids who go off to college vastly underprepared to navigate a complex world on their own. Some of the results are finally showing up in ways we can’t ignore:
Much of the narrative of the book delves into the trends at colleges and universities around “protecting” students from ideas and experiences that run counter to their own world-view, which will be the death knell of higher learning if “protection” becomes the default instead of inquiry. But the antecedents of fragile iGen minds are rooted in parenting and K-12 practices that fall into the traps of a 24/7 wired, social media world where we worry that every kid who leaves the front door or classroom will break a leg, be kidnapped, or worse.
We are finally starting to see real commitment on the part of educators to student wellness, but the answers will not be found in merely adding moments for mindfulness at the start of the school day (though that is a great start!). Students are less well because they are less independent, less sure of their surroundings, and less confident in their own independent abilities without constant validation on their social media streams. Educators will play a key role, both by creating learning experiences that look more like real life and less like a cloistered, protected, pre-programmed classroom, and by educating parents about the long-term dangers of raising their kids in a bubble.
I heartily endorse Coddling (right after Thrive, of course!) as an all-school read.
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