The Coddling of the American Mind

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The Coddling of the American Mind
The Coddling of the American Mind.png
AuthorsGreg Lukianoff
Jonathan Haidt
Audio read byJonathan Haidt
CountryUnited States
PublisherPenguin Books
Publication date
September 4, 2018
Media typePrint

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure is a 2018 book by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.[1][2][3][4] The book is an expansion of a popular essay the two wrote for The Atlantic in 2015.[5]


Part I Three Bad Ideas[edit]

The first section of the book focuses on three great untruths that the authors say now "dominate college campuses"[6]—untruths that have been increasingly included as part of American childhood and education. These include the Untruth of Fragility: What doesn't kill you makes you weaker; The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings; and The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.[6] The authors specifically target microaggressions, identity politics, safetyism, and intersectionality.[6] The authors say that these "Great Untruths" are the cause of many problems for young people, on university and college campuses and liberal democracies.[7]

Part III How Did We Get Here?[edit]

Part III discusses "rising political polarization and cross party animosity".[7]:125 The authors trace the rise of a culture of safetyism on campuses from 2013 and 2017. They claim that the left and right are "locked into a game of mutual provocation and reciprocal outrage". They cited Allison Stanger, "Political life and discourse in the United States is at a boiling point, and nowhere is the reaction to that more heightened than on college campuses." Stanger ended up with a concussion as angry students protested as she accompanied Charles Murray on March 2, 2017 who had been invited by Middlebury College's American Enterprise Institute Club to speak about his 2012 book, Coming Apart: the State of White America, 1960-2010 at the College.[8][9]

Part IV Wising Up[edit]

In part IV the authors call on university and college administrators to identify with freedom of inquiry by endorsing the Chicago principles on free speech[7]:255, 257 through which university and colleges notify students in advance that they do not support the use of trigger warnings or safe spaces.[10] They suggest specific programs, such as LetGrow, Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids, teaching children mindfulness and the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).[7]:241 They encourage a charitable approach to the interpretations of other peoples' statements instead of assuming they meant offense. On this point they cite Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"[7]:243

In their conclusion, the authors predict that there will be positive changes in the near future as small groups of universities "develop a different sort of academic culture—one that finds ways to make students from all identity groups feel welcome without using the divisive methods." They say that "market forces will take care of the rest" as "applications and enrollment" surge at these schools.[7]:268


The book reached number eight on The New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction best-sellers list.[11] It spent four weeks on the list.[12]


Edward Luce of the Financial Times praised the book, saying the authors "do a great job of showing how 'safetyism' is cramping young minds."[13]

Writing for The New York Times, Thomas Chatterton Williams praised the book's explanations and analysis of recent college campus trends as "compelling".[14]

Writing for The Washington Post, Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University, gave the book a mixed review, questioning the book's assertion that students today are "disempowered because they’ve been convinced they are fragile". Roth however said that the authors' "insights on the dangers of creating habits of "moral dependency" are timely and important".[5]

Moira Weigel, writing for The Guardian, says that Lukianoff and Haidt, who live in safe spaces of Ted Talks and think tanks, where they are "genteel crusaders" against political correctness, and who have not experienced "discrimination and domination" themselves, "insist that the crises moving young people to action are all in their heads". The authors say that the students suffer from pathological cognitive distortions that fuel their activism and can be corrected by using self-help methods the authors provide based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).[6] She says that the authors have created their own speech codes, which includes the cant of progress.[6]

Weigel's review, however, was critiqued by Conor Friedersdorf who, writing in The Atlantic, notes that Weigel herself admits that the book has merits but that Weigel is nevertheless more concerned with speculating upon Lukianoff's and Haidt's psychological motivations rather than seriously engaging with the book's arguments.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Glancy, Josh (2 September 2018). "Generation snowflake: meet the professors who blame helicopter parents for coddling the minds of today's students" – via
  2. ^ "New Book Takes On The Coddling Of American Minds".
  3. ^ September 5, CBS News; 2018; Pm, 1:09. ""The Coddling of the American Mind": Are universities overprotecting students?".
  4. ^ Singal, Jesse (26 September 2018). "How 'Coddled' Are American College Students, Anyway?". Intelligencer.
  5. ^ a b Roth, Michael S. (7 September 2018). "Have parents made their kids too fragile for the rough-and-tumble of life?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Weigel, Moira (20 September 2018). "The Coddling of the American Mind review – how elite US liberals have turned rightwards". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Greg Lukianoff; Jonathan Haidt (2018). The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-7352-2489-6.
  8. ^ Stanger, Allison (13 March 2017). "Understanding the Angry Mob at Middlebury That Gave Me a Concussion". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  9. ^ Staff writers (3 March 2017). "Middlebury College professor injured by protesters as she escorted controversial speaker". Addison County Independent. Addison County, Vermont. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  10. ^ Kingkade, Tyler (15 May 2015). "Purdue Takes A Stand For Free Speech, No Matter How Offensive Or Unwise". Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers". The New York Times. 23 September 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers". The New York Times. 18 November 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  13. ^ Luce, Edward. "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  14. ^ Williams, Thomas Chatterton (27 August 2018). "Does Our Cultural Obsession With Safety Spell the Downfall of Democracy?". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  15. ^ Friedersdorf, Conor (16 October 2018). "The Idioms of Non-Argument". The Atlantic. Retrieved 22 September 2019.

External links[edit]