I just started reading “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.” After reading the introduction, I want to share a couple of quotes and an excerpt that resonates with me.
While the following quotes primarily focus on college students, I sense that they, and much of the book, may apply to high school students and their parents as well. In fact, my primary premise as a teacher is that the difficulties many students face today derive from the well-intentioned, but misguided efforts of their parents. In other words, and ironically, my peer group unintentionally harms their children as they seek to help them. I firmly do not believe that is their intent. However, until they recognize the potential for their actions to cause harm, the damage will continue to be wrought.
All students must be prepared for the world they will face after college, and those who are making the largest jump – the ones most in danger of feeling like strangers in a strange land — are the ones who must learn fastest and prepare hardest. The playing field is not level; life is not fair.
…adults are doing far more these days to protect children, and their overreach might be having some negative effects.
One of the reasons I became a high school teacher was the desire to help students ready themselves for the rigors of college. When I entered college in the fall of 1982, I realized quickly that the academic intensity in my courses, especially in mathematics and science, significantly surpassed that of high school. Students in my college were responsible for reading course content and completing assigned homework BEFORE a topic was addressed in class. Sylvanus Thayer pioneered this method at the United States Military Academy at West Point over 200 years ago. Learning this way became a blessing, and an integral element in my success in life but at the time it felt like a curse. Had I been sheltered from that demanding and sometimes overwhelming experience, I would not have obtained my bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering, of that I am sure.
The authors list three ideas to be “happier, healthier, stronger, and more likely to succeed in pursuing your own goals.”
- Seek out challenges, rather than eliminating or avoiding everything that “feels unsafe,”
- Free yourself from cognitive distortions, rather than always trusting your initial feelings, and
- Take a generous view of other people, and look for nuance, rather than assuming the worst about people within a simplistic us-versus-them morality.
As a parent of two boys ages 16 and 20, a former secondary mathematics teacher, a successful tech professional, and a graduate of three post-secondary institutions, I believe these are fine ideas.
I plan to share more of my thoughts from my reading of this book over time.