Coddling the University of Colorado's students' minds

I sat with colleagues and friends as I waited for my intellectual hero, Dr. Jonathan Haidt of New York University, to take the stage on the campus of UCCS.  Haidt was there to speak on his book, The Coddling of the American Mind, the book that inspired me to change course on my doctoral dissertation and focus on Gen Z.  I leaned over to my friend and said, "I wonder if there will be protests here tonight."  He replied, "I've wondered the same thing."

We had good reason to wonder if protests were a possibility.  All across the U.S., Gen Z college-aged students engage in some type of confrontation with university leadership or protest free speech for fear the words could do not physical harm, but mental or emotional health harm.  My friend and I chuckled quietly when the professor who introduced Haidt pointed out that UCCS is an intellectually engaged campus and his expressed assumption that there would be no shouting down as he scanned the packed auditorium.  Students behind me chuckled out loud.  This seemed like a campus actually seeking out good ideas and not adhering to bad ideas.

Haidt took the stage.  He stood mere feet from me as he spoke about the epidemic of anxiety and depression and the assault on free speech and thinking on American college campuses.

He began with the telos of a university, to which he asked the audience, what should the aim or goal of a university be?  The audience replied, "Truth."  I echoed the words of Pontius Pilate to Jesus — "What is truth?" — in my head.  Do UCCS students really want to know truth?  Perhaps postmodernism and intersectionality do not reign supreme as truth at UCCS?

Haidt pointed out that many a university, since the foundings of Harvard and Yale, contain in their seals and mottos some variation of the search for truth.  Truth is the purpose of the university in America. Haidt bemoaned the student protests of the past few years and challenged the exaggerated fears of students of dealing with the truth.  Haidt said we are not to be afraid of truth.  We are to be courageous and search out truth that makes us uncomfortable.  Such are the paraphrased words of Thomas Jefferson, one of America's Founding Fathers.

Haidt went on to share about his co-author, Greg Lukianoff, a man whose depression had grown so severe that he sought to take his own life in 2007.  Greg made a plan but essentially chickened out, thank God.  Greg learned about Cognitive Behavioral Training or CBT.  He realized he could deal with the anxiety and depression through logic, better thinking, and breathing exercises.

Years later, Greg noticed anxiety and depression going through the roof on college campuses.  He realized that the capitulation to students in order to coddle them from the hard search for truth made students more paranoid.  One study shows that if one holds progressive ideology, you are less happy than your conservative counterparts.  We know that students on college campuses are less happy and are influenced by predominately progressive professors.

Haidt closed his lecture by asking the audience to raise their hands if UCCS is a campus that allows free speech and debate.  All except three or so students raised their hands, affirming that UCCS is such a campus.  Then Haidt asked students to raise their hands if they fear retribution for expressing unpopular ideas.  Only three or four hands went up.

With the affirmation of hands from the audience, Haidt said UCCS students' responses were different from University of Colorado–Boulder, where the culture is the opposite of free inquiry and feared retribution.  Haidt then pointed out that students were fortunate to be at UCCS rather than "a Smith, Middlebury, Brown..."

"UC Boulder!" a student called out from right behind me.  Haidt repeated the student's comment with a chuckle as the audience burst into light laughter.

Yes, there are better universities to be at in America.  From my experience at Haidt's lecture, the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs seems to be one of those universities.

I sat with colleagues and friends as I waited for my intellectual hero, Dr. Jonathan Haidt of New York University, to take the stage on the campus of UCCS.  Haidt was there to speak on his book, The Coddling of the American Mind, the book that inspired me to change course on my doctoral dissertation and focus on Gen Z.  I leaned over to my friend and said, "I wonder if there will be protests here tonight."  He replied, "I've wondered the same thing."

We had good reason to wonder if protests were a possibility.  All across the U.S., Gen Z college-aged students engage in some type of confrontation with university leadership or protest free speech for fear the words could do not physical harm, but mental or emotional health harm.  My friend and I chuckled quietly when the professor who introduced Haidt pointed out that UCCS is an intellectually engaged campus and his expressed assumption that there would be no shouting down as he scanned the packed auditorium.  Students behind me chuckled out loud.  This seemed like a campus actually seeking out good ideas and not adhering to bad ideas.

Haidt took the stage.  He stood mere feet from me as he spoke about the epidemic of anxiety and depression and the assault on free speech and thinking on American college campuses.

He began with the telos of a university, to which he asked the audience, what should the aim or goal of a university be?  The audience replied, "Truth."  I echoed the words of Pontius Pilate to Jesus — "What is truth?" — in my head.  Do UCCS students really want to know truth?  Perhaps postmodernism and intersectionality do not reign supreme as truth at UCCS?

Haidt pointed out that many a university, since the foundings of Harvard and Yale, contain in their seals and mottos some variation of the search for truth.  Truth is the purpose of the university in America. Haidt bemoaned the student protests of the past few years and challenged the exaggerated fears of students of dealing with the truth.  Haidt said we are not to be afraid of truth.  We are to be courageous and search out truth that makes us uncomfortable.  Such are the paraphrased words of Thomas Jefferson, one of America's Founding Fathers.

Haidt went on to share about his co-author, Greg Lukianoff, a man whose depression had grown so severe that he sought to take his own life in 2007.  Greg made a plan but essentially chickened out, thank God.  Greg learned about Cognitive Behavioral Training or CBT.  He realized he could deal with the anxiety and depression through logic, better thinking, and breathing exercises.

Years later, Greg noticed anxiety and depression going through the roof on college campuses.  He realized that the capitulation to students in order to coddle them from the hard search for truth made students more paranoid.  One study shows that if one holds progressive ideology, you are less happy than your conservative counterparts.  We know that students on college campuses are less happy and are influenced by predominately progressive professors.

Haidt closed his lecture by asking the audience to raise their hands if UCCS is a campus that allows free speech and debate.  All except three or so students raised their hands, affirming that UCCS is such a campus.  Then Haidt asked students to raise their hands if they fear retribution for expressing unpopular ideas.  Only three or four hands went up.

With the affirmation of hands from the audience, Haidt said UCCS students' responses were different from University of Colorado–Boulder, where the culture is the opposite of free inquiry and feared retribution.  Haidt then pointed out that students were fortunate to be at UCCS rather than "a Smith, Middlebury, Brown..."

"UC Boulder!" a student called out from right behind me.  Haidt repeated the student's comment with a chuckle as the audience burst into light laughter.

Yes, there are better universities to be at in America.  From my experience at Haidt's lecture, the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs seems to be one of those universities.