College Students Have Been Raised to Be Fragile

In the passage quoted below, John Leo interviews John Haidt, a social psychologist at NYU.

(p. A9) Haidt: . . . Children since the 1980s have been raised very differently–protected as fragile. The key psychological idea, which should be mentioned in everything written about this, is Nassim Taleb’s concept of anti-fragility.

Leo: What’s the theory?
Haidt: That children are anti-fragile. Bone is anti-fragile. If you treat it gently, it will get brittle and break. Bone actually needs to get banged around to toughen up. And so do children. I’m not saying they need to be spanked or beaten, but they need to have a lot of unsupervised time, to get in over their heads and get themselves out. And that greatly decreased in the 1980s. Anxiety, fragility and psychological weakness have skyrocketed in the last 15-20 years. So, I think millennials come to college with much thinner skins. And therefore, until that changes, I think we’re going to keep seeing these demands to never hear anything offensive.

Source of the Haidt interview passage quote:
“Notable & Quotable: ‘Anti-Fragility in Children.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Feb. 23, 2016): A9.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the quotes from the interview with Haidt has the date Feb. 22, 2016, and has the title “Notable & Quotable: Our Weak, Fragile Millennials.”)

For John Leo’s full interview with Jonathan Haidt, see:
http://www.mindingthecampus.org/2016/02/a-conversation-with-jonathan-haidt/

The Taleb book referred to, is:
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. New York: Random House, 2012.

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