Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Moral dependency

From an Interview with Jonathan Haidt, "The Revenge of the Coddled":
.... The great majority of people over 35 seem to dislike this coddling culture, they were not raised with it. Most of them had “free-range” childhoods where they spent time without adult supervision and were expected to fend for themselves. So the biggest divide is age. The only people who support the “coddling culture,” as far as I can tell, are under 35, on the Left, and on a college campus. There also seems to be a sex difference—women are more attracted to this view than men, perhaps because many of these ideas grew out of feminist theory in the 1990s. But the bottom line is that we have an emperor’s new clothes situation, where a small minority of people are bullying the majority, and I am hoping the majority will stand up and say, ‘You don’t get to tell me how to speak.’

I think we are due for a change in our thinking about diversity. It’s going to be very difficult but it’s essential. There was a time when racial diversity and gender diversity were the most pressing issues, when many institutions were all-white and all-male.... [But] with each passing year, racial diversity and gender diversity, I believe, while still important, should become lower priorities, and with each passing year political diversity becomes more and more important: our nation becomes more and more paralyzed.... In higher education, we have a lot of race and gender diversity and we have essentially no political diversity. ....

.... Children are anti-fragile. They have to have many, many experiences of failure, fear, and being challenged. Then they have to figure out ways to get themselves through it. If you deprive children of those experiences for eighteen years and then send them to college, they cannot cope. They don’t know what to do. The first time a romantic relationship fails or they get a low grade, they are not prepared because they have been rendered fragile by their childhoods. ....

If you try to reach students when they get to college it’s already too late.... As we say in the essay, childhood changed in 80s and 90s, there was much more protectiveness, there were new zero tolerance policies on bullying, which was fine when bullying was linked to physical aggression and to repeated actions. But bullying has gotten defined down over the last twenty years. There’s no longer a connection to physical violence, it no longer requires repetition, and it no longer requires intent. If someone feels excluded or marginalized by a single event, they have been bullied, and there’s zero tolerance for that. So that’s the way kids are socialized by the time they arrive in college...

What I would suggest is that if any school has an anti-bullying policy, they should balance it with an anti-coddling policy. They need to realize they can do a lot of harm if they coddle the students. They turn them into “moral dependents,” a term for people who cannot solve problems by themselves; they are morally dependent on adults or other authorities to solve their problems for them. .... [more]
Professor Haidt also explains why he is more inclined to discuss this subject at schools other than his own, and also why he believes there is hope.