At some point, America’s high schools, liberals arts colleges, and universities got taken over by Leftist radicals, who starting in the 1960s had burrowed into the system as eternal graduate students and who gradually emerged, like parasites, to devour their hosts. The result has been increasingly politicized, feminized institutions that, in many cases, bear almost no resemblance to their original incarnations besides their names. They’ve become an expensive parody of education, some costing into six figures per year, all in. Obsessed with “social justice,” they bristle with diversity administrators and other barnacles; teaching has become secondary to the schools’ primary mission of ideological indoctrination; and the diploma has become simply a very expensive certificate of attendance, different from a mail-order diploma mill only in the prestige of the name on the piece of paper.
Okay, okay, we all know that by now. But what we didn’t know for sure — but were certainly beginning to suspect — is that all this “education” is also making our kids crazy…
This story by Sylvia Mathews Burwell in Foreign Affairs seems to me to have the wrong end of the stick. The snowflakes streaming into the shrinks’ offices have, in some cases, literally been driven mad by the “intellectual” atmosphere they’ve been marinating in for years. Further, she accepts with credulity the value of “mental health professionals,” most of whom never met someone who was not also, in their eyes, a prospective “patient.” When you have a degree in psychiatry or psychology, everybody looks like a nut to you.
There are several possible causes for all this angst, agita, and anomie examined, but for my money Burwell could have just stopped with this one:
Today’s young adults seem to arrive at college with less resiliency and a lower appetite for risk and failure. In raising their children, parents have focused more on protecting them from stress and anxiety and less on teaching them how to cope. Today’s incoming classes are of a generation that received athletic trophies merely for participating. Becoming so used to winning makes it all the harder to deal with losing. It makes it harder to learn resiliency. On top of this, parents have created a culture of risk aversion. Today’s students were warned as children not to walk home alone, and they grew up playing on playgrounds designed to break their falls. In many ways, children have been taught both explicitly and implicitly to avoid risk, and for many of them, the resulting safety has made them less capable of coping with failure and disappointment.
Right on the money, although I’d say it’s by no means the whole story, and that the problem has its origins way, way before college. Either way, Walsh offers a solution:
The real solution, of course, is not to be found in Viennese Voodoo, but in forcing children to confront the fact that life isn’t fair, that bad things happen to good people, and that bumps, bruises and broken bones aren’t all bad if the trade-off was worth it. Today’s students are suffering from a problem inherent in liberalism: that when the gap between what ought to be and what actually is becomes unbridgeable, something’s got to give.
Naturally, Burwell’s “solution” is “more education, creating awareness, and teaching faculty, staff, and students how to prevent, recognize, and respond.” In other words: more talky-talk, more touchy-feelz, more “dialogue,” more “counseling,” more bootless self-absorption and navel-gazing. More of the very thing that created the problem in the first place.
And round and round and round it goes, never getting anywhere. As with psychiatry itself, there’s never any cure, just eternally ongoing therapy—which means no resolution, ever. Even the very concept of “cure” itself is rejected as an unenlightened view, a sort of false consciousness one needs to be “educated” out of; the process is all that matters. Walsh calls it “the perfect racket,” and that’s exactly what it is.