Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Kids and bones are anti-fragile

From a recent interview:
John Leo: What happens to the academy now? You used the word “die.” Is it dead or dying? Most academics think it’s just aflutter. They seem to have no idea that something important happened at Yale.

Jonathan Haidt: The big thing that really worries me—the reason why I think things are going to get much, much worse—is that one of the causal factors here is the change in child-rearing that happened in America in the 1980s. With the rise in crime, amplified by the rise of cable TV, we saw much more protective, fearful parenting. Children since the 1980s have been raised very differently—protected as fragile. The key psychological idea, which should be mentioned in everything written about this, is Nassim Taleb’s concept of anti-fragility.
Leo: What’s the theory?

Haidt: That children are anti-fragile. Bone is anti-fragile. If you treat it gently, it will get brittle and break. Bone actually needs to get banged around to toughen up. And so do children. I’m not saying they need to be spanked or beaten, but they need to have a lot of unsupervised time, to get in over their heads and get themselves out. And that greatly decreased in the 1980s. Anxiety, fragility and psychological weakness have skyrocketed in the last 15-20 years. So, I think millennials come to college with much thinner skins. And therefore, until that changes, I think we’re going to keep seeing these demands to never hear anything offensive.

Leo: Like micro-aggression, trigger warnings, safe spaces and different forms of censorship for anything that bothers them?

Haidt: Yes, that’s right. Even much of the gender gap in STEM fields appears to result from differences of enjoyment—boys and girls are not very different on ability, but they’re hugely different in what they enjoy doing. Anyone who has a son and a daughter knows that. But if you even just try to say this, it will be regarded as so hurtful, so offensive. You can get in big trouble for it.
Yes. In my experience, most people do not grasp this simple concept.

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