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Backlash Against Generation Daycare

I like the idea of a global trigger warning. During freshman week all incoming students should be given a sticker like the one below that animates Columbia Journalism/Sociology Professor Todd Gitlin’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled: You Are Here to Be Disturbed:

Trigger Warning.jpg

Gitlin begins by asking, “Are we living through a plague of hypersensitivity?”

I can’t tell you how silly all this talk of microagressions, safe spaces, trigger warnings and the like sounds out in the real world. If employees in my business complained about a customer microaggression, I’d probably fire them on the spot, and tell them to leave the premises lest they risk a macroaggression. Such things might be taken seriously within the confines of the Dartmouth Bubble, but they come across as ridiculous in a society where customers can walk out the door at a moment’s notice and businesses have to fight hard every day to survive.

Harvard’s Harry Lewis hypothesized about the origins of student helplessness in his book Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future?:

Harry Lewis daycare1.jpg

Whatever the explanation, let’s hope that members of the faculty continue to tell kids to just grow up. Such frankness will serve as an important counterbalance to the armies of administrators who want nothing more than to coddle the little darlings as if they were still in the nursery.

A good example of the latter can be found in a recent NYT piece entitled: Anxious Students Strain College Mental Health Centers, which notes:

Nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last 12 months, according to the annual national survey by the American College Health Association.

Of course, you are anxious, young apprentices. You are at a demanding institution of higher learning where you are being stretched by challenging ideas and a heavy workload. The appropriate response to such anxiety is to gird your loins and study as hard as you possibly can. Such an effort will toughen you up for the days further out in the future when you will face real pressure — when you have to raise children, pay your mortgage, meet your quarterly numbers, get through boot camp, and maybe risk your life defending your country. I think that it is fair to assume that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are not allowed to take a break from a firefight to ask for counselling when they feel anxious. Think about that scenario, dear students, the next time you are terrified that you might get a B+ instead of an A-.

Addendum: The contrast between different parts of the College is always a source of amusement. Do you think that QB Dalyn Williams ‘16 is feeling anxiety below at the unwanted attention he is receiving from several 250 lb. Yale linemen?

Dalyn Williams.jpg

Does this Ledyard Canoe Club kayaker want to call a Dean to ask for a safe space?

Ledyard Canoe Clubber.jpg

Addendum: George Will’s recent column in the Washington Post goes further in deriding the infantilization of college students; he observes that free speech and the open exchange of ideas are being limited by an overwrought concern for students’ delicate psyches.

Addendum: A longtime reader writes in:

You ask the question if the QB or kayaker are feeling “anxiety,” and the answer is: of course, they are. But why is that wrong? Fear is a fabulous motivator, as is anger. Those are the emotions, though, that have become much less acceptable since, well, daycare.


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