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Author Topic: "The Coddling of the American Mind."  (Read 709 times)
Marokai Backbeat
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« on: September 13, 2015, 04:28:10 pm »
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I thought this was a good read. So much more of it is worth reading than any excerpts I'd be allowed to provide (of which there are loads), so I really encourage reading and thinking about it. The following excerpt is more of the premise behind the essay. It's an interesting angle on the usual "anti-political correctness" stuff.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

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For millennia, philosophers have understood that we don’t see life as it is; we see a version distorted by our hopes, fears, and other attachments. The Buddha said, “Our life is the creation of our mind.” Marcus Aurelius said, “Life itself is but what you deem it.” The quest for wisdom in many traditions begins with this insight. Early Buddhists and the Stoics, for example, developed practices for reducing attachments, thinking more clearly, and finding release from the emotional torments of normal mental life.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a modern embodiment of this ancient wisdom. It is the most extensively studied nonpharmaceutical treatment of mental illness, and is used widely to treat depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and addiction. It can even be of help to schizophrenics. No other form of psychotherapy has been shown to work for a broader range of problems. Studies have generally found that it is as effective as antidepressant drugs (such as Prozac) in the treatment of anxiety and depression. The therapy is relatively quick and easy to learn; after a few months of training, many patients can do it on their own. Unlike drugs, cognitive behavioral therapy keeps working long after treatment is stopped, because it teaches thinking skills that people can continue to use.

The goal is to minimize distorted thinking and see the world more accurately. You start by learning the names of the dozen or so most common cognitive distortions (such as overgeneralizing, discounting positives, and emotional reasoning; see the list at the bottom of this article). Each time you notice yourself falling prey to one of them, you name it, describe the facts of the situation, consider alternative interpretations, and then choose an interpretation of events more in line with those facts. Your emotions follow your new interpretation. In time, this process becomes automatic. When people improve their mental hygiene in this way—when they free themselves from the repetitive irrational thoughts that had previously filled so much of their consciousness—they become less depressed, anxious, and angry.

The parallel to formal education is clear: cognitive behavioral therapy teaches good critical-thinking skills, the sort that educators have striven for so long to impart. By almost any definition, critical thinking requires grounding one’s beliefs in evidence rather than in emotion or desire, and learning how to search for and evaluate evidence that might contradict one’s initial hypothesis. But does campus life today foster critical thinking? Or does it coax students to think in more-distorted ways?
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PJ
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« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2015, 11:45:08 pm »
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This is an utterly fascinating article, particularly the tidbit about how trigger warnings are actually harmful toward those with PTSD and those with certain fears in that it reinforces said fears by encouraging avoidance of them.

Haidt is also spot on about how taking offense often stifles debate and obstructs critical thinking as a whole. What I find most absurd and perhaps the most legitimately damaging aspect of extremely PC sentiments and trigger warnings is that they're not exactly prevalent or even easy to find outside of college campuses, so the overly offended attitude "coddled" in college will be crushed when someone actually has to address a controversial issue that they may find uncomfortable or offensive.
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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2015, 11:03:30 pm »
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In The Atlantic's latest cover story, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt insinuate that trigger warnings and "vindictive protectiveness" are behind the college mental health crisis. "A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense," they write, adding that a "campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically." Which is just an academic way of saying that politically correct students are driving themselves crazy.

How have trigger warnings, of all things, been elevated to explanatory value akin to academic and professional pressures, increased accessibility to college, familial and broader economic pressures, reduced sleep, sexual assault epidemics, social media image policing, and any number of other factors that experts have identified as serious contributors to mental health problems on college campuses? I don’t doubt that emotional coddling can play a negative role in the mental health of college students, and so is worth investigating. But I also think Lukianoff, the head Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Haidt, a social psychologist at the NYU-Stern School of Business, are granting certain practices of care on college campuses outsized and in some cases misleading roles in the mental health crisis.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122543/trigger-warning-myth

I read this article and found it more than a bit disturbing that the author likened attempts to reduce racism to attempts to institute campus trigger warnings, which made him seem quite disingenuous. After all, anti-racism bears little relation to concerns about trigger warnings, it has been a part of campus politics since the 60s. Sure enough, I discovered that Lukianoff is the head of FIRE, which embraces a very classical liberal conception of "liberty", which has little room for diversity or tolerance.

This is a very intellectually dishonest article written by a man who has no real understanding of psychology or the role of education. It's a polemical piece and should be treated as such.

Note: I'm opposed to mandating trigger warnings, which should be a matter of individual discretion depending on how comfortable a professor might be about playing "armchair psychologist". I'm not opposed to "political correctness" if that means censuring someone's ability to express racist sentiments in the classroom, either through an expression of disapproval or through something more formal.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2015, 11:07:38 pm by TheDeadFlagBlues »Logged



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