Saturday, June 22, 2019

Are Children Today Being Raised "Too Safe to Succeed"?

"The worst of all public dangers is the committee of public safety."--C.S. Lewis

This past month I read The Coddling of the American Mind, an insightful book that helped me understand some of the controversial events taking place on campuses the past few years.  The book is by a first amendment expert (Greg Lukianoff) and a social psychologist (Jonathan Haidt), which I found to be an interesting combination.

The book is awash with disturbing anecdotes that show how screwed up things have become as the Z-generation enters into the college experience. One of the problems, which they go to great lengths to demonstrate, is that our efforts to raise children in a "safe" world has had the unintended consequence of making them fragile.

The authors have been fairly prolific writers, with articles in high profile magazines such as The Atlantic. The following anecdote is from an article in Reason titled The Fragile Generation, by Haigt and Lenore Skenazy. After citing two or three examples of society being overprotective they write:

And then there was the query that ran in Parents magazine a few years back: "Your child's old enough to stay home briefly, and often does. But is it okay to leave her and her playmate home while you dash to the dry cleaner?" Absolutely not, the magazine averred: "Take the kids with you, or save your errand for another time." After all, "you want to make sure that no one's feelings get too hurt if there's a squabble."

As you read that, you were probably as stunned as I to see the editors' rationale for not leaving the kids home. You don't want anyone's feelings hurt if there is a squabble.

Really? The subtitle of the article is "Bad policy and paranoid parenting are making kids too safe to succeed."

Whatever happened to the stories we were told about how baby birds had to break out of their shells on their own, or they wouldn't thrive. That illustration from nature was applied to life. You may want to help but then the baby birds will fail to learn something important that evidently is imprinted in their little brains.

When I saw the C. S. Lewis quote about "the committee of public safety" it dawned on me that our current over-protective parenting styles and "safety culture" did not suddenly spring up. It's had a much longer evolution than I'd realized.

Yes, it's good to have safe streets where you won't get mugged or shot, but safety from getting into an argument while playing, lest feelings be ruffled? If your kid sprains an ankle playing football in the front yard, should the parents worry about being carted off to jail for negligence?

When I was growing up we would have annual family reunions in which dozens of cousins would play unsupervised for 12 hours a day while the parents played cards or caught up on family stories. We played kick the can, spud and other games, and one year even created a "haunted house" in my aunt's basement.

When my parents went out and my brothers and I were left home alone we often played a game we'd created called Boston Strangler. The game didn't produce nightmares, nor did it cause any of us psychological damage. Sometimes my younger brothers couldn't wait for mom and dad to go out so we could play again.

My aim here is to raise questions and hopefully create an interest in learning more about what has been happening in our current period in history. You can follow these links to learn more.

Related Links
The Fragile Generation
The Three Great Untruths that Are Harming Young Americans

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