School Speaker Alliance of Los Angeles presents Jonathan Haidt on “The Fragile Generation – Are Bad Policies and Paranoid Parenting Making Kids Too Safe to Succeed?”

On October 17, School Speaker Alliance of Los Angeles (SSALA) presented a lecture by New York Times best-selling author Professor Jonathan Haidt at the American Jewish University. Professor Haidt, the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, NYU’s Stern School of Business, is the co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind – How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, and his topic for the evening was “The Fragile Generation – Are Bad Policies and Paranoid Parenting Making Kids Too Safe to Succeed?”
Professor Haidt spoke to a full house of parents from SSALA member schools eager to learn more about how they as parents and their schools can better prepare students for the inevitable challenges ahead. Viewpoint is a member of SSALA, a consortium of 12 Los Angeles independent schools founded two years ago, which aims to present dynamic and cutting-edge speakers to our parent communities by sharing resources and working together.
Dr. Haidt, who is also the author of The Righteous Mind, has long been interested in why good people are divided by politics and religion. He is particularly concerned about how these divisions impact elite universities on the East and West Coasts and Chicago and the students who attend these schools. Both the data and the stories in the news indicate that students today (and particularly those who are part of what Dr. Jean Twenge terms the “iGen” – those born after 1995) are less comfortable with dissenting ideas, are prone to catastrophizing non-catastrophic situations, and are suffering in record numbers from depression and anxiety. In this new culture of what Professor Haidt calls “safetyism,” students “think they are fragile, in a dangerous/hostile country and university; need protection from words, books, and speakers.”     
Professor Haidt despairs of both this kind of thinking and intuitional responses that universities have adopted to create environments where this current generation of students feel “safe.” He had a number of recommendations for the audience, which included:
  1. Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.
  2. Remind the child that your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts. (This means teach children the basics of cognitive behavioral techniques.)
  3. Share that the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
  4. Encourage your school to limit homework in the early grades; give more recess with less supervision; discourage the use of the word “safe” or “safety” for anything other than physical safety; cultivate intellectual virtues; teach debate or offer a debate club; promote or assign reading that promotes reasoned discourse.
  5. Limit and refine device time.
  6. Support a new national norm: service or work before college.
Viewpoint is pleased to be a part of the SSALA consortium of schools and looks forward to announcing their next event. Viewpoint will also be presenting two other speakers as part of the School’s 2018-19 Parent Education Speaker Series: on February 13, 2019 - Mary Hofstedt from Challenge Success will speak on “Making Homework Work,” and on March 12, 2019, Cindy Pierce will speak on, “Helping Kids Navigate Their Culture and Peer Pressure to Develop Healthy Relationships.” Please visit our website by clicking here for more details. 
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