dinsdag 1 september 2015

The coddling of the American mind

The Altantic has an article ("The coddling of the American Mind - How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus") about the increasing sensitivity of students at universities in the US. It notes the movement for "trigger warnings". This claims that if a college or prescribed book might trigger an emotional response in some students because it contains passages about violence, rape, racism or something else sensitive, the students should be warned up front and should be enabled to avoid the subject by making it optional. One example the article mentions is law students who don't want to study the law on rape. It also mentions "micro-aggressions". Where before harassment might trigger repercussions now "micro-aggressions" are enough. The difference is that micro-aggressions only need to happen once to be considered offensive and that they are subjective. If someone feels offended it should be taken seriously. The article links the phenomena to the protective way in which the present generation has been raised. Gone are the times when children played for long times outside the house without adult supervision. There may also be a link with the present attention to bullying. No one can expect that everyone likes him. There will always people who do not like you and who harass you. However, if the whole social universe of a child consist of a few quarters of an hour around school time he hasn't much opportunity to find alternative social worlds and people who do accept him and where he feels safe. The article notes that the psychology on fear and trauma teaches confronting the fears - not condoning them. And that by condoning them the universities are not only failing to learn those sensitive students to deal with their sensitivities and to get used to the real world, but that they are also teaching the rest of the students to adopt such sensitivities. In contrast to the movement for political correctness a few decades ago the present climate focuses on emotions. The article foresees much trouble as a result. Those sensitive kids might become very eager to start law suits against anyone hurting their feelings. In fact we see the effect already in politics - where Republicans and Democrats have become different tribes who hardly interact and have very negative images of each other.

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