Published Humanitas, Volume XXXI, Nos. 1 and 2, 2018

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Penguin Press, 2018. 338 pp. $28.00.

Soon after reading The Coddling of the American Mind I came across a “Dear Abby” column in which a woman asked how to deal with a neighbor who wanted her to withdraw her athletically talented son from a charity race lest he outperform the neighbor’s not-so-talented son by “winning the race and boasting to the point where her child would feel like a loser and have more self-esteem issues.” I read “Dear Abby” to keep my generally dim opinion of human nature intact, but this seemed a new low. Had I or almost any boy of my generation discovered his mother had made such a request, he would have put a sack over his head and run away from home in embarrassment—an option probably not available to the neighbor’s son whose mother most likely won’t let him cross the street by himself. In so far as she is typical, this mother is part of the problem analyzed in The Coddling of the American Mind—rather than encouraging her son to train better to run faster, she wants to reduce the competition, to make the challenge easier. The Dodo Bird in Alice in Wonderland may have spoken for this emerging ethos…

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