The Coddling of the American Mind – Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt Book Summary

The Coddling of the American Mind – Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt | Free Book Summary

The Coddling of the American Mind – Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt

How good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure.

Untruths That Spread Throughout The Culture


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Three great untruths are spreading throughout college campuses, high schools and many homes. These untruths are rarely taught explicitly. Instead, they are conveyed to people by the rules, practices, and norms imposed on them, often with the best intentions.

  • The untruth of fragility: what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker
  • The untruth of emotional reasoning: Always trust your feelings
  • The untruth of us versus them: Life is a battle between good and evil people.

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Children are “anti-fragile”

Children are “anti-fragile”


The term anti-fragile describes things that have the capacity to not only tolerate stress but to flourish and grow as a result of it.

Everybody will face completely unexpected events. When we have limited exposure to unexpected events, we will likely find navigating them difficult. 

When our brain and cognitive processes encounter unexpected events, they learn to adapt and grow, making them more likely to navigate uncertainty successfully.

Parents and educators should help children learn and grow by letting them face risks and stressors, not shielding them from them.

Nine Common Cognitive Distortions

Many colleges encourage students to indulge in these cognitive distortions:

  • Emotional reasoning. Confusing feelings with thoughts or reality is a cognitive distortion.
  • Catastrophizing imagines a sequence of events. But it’s seldom true. 
  • Overgeneralising. 
  • Dichotomous thinking. All-or-nothing thinking.
  • Mind reading.
  •  Labelling. Because someone belongs to a category doesn’t mean they embody all the traits of that category.
  • Negative filtering. Amplifying negative signals, so it overwhelms the positive.
  • Discounting positives. Rationalising away positive evidence as if it doesn’t count.
  • Blaming.

A Loss Of Professorial Diversity Decreases The Quality Of Scholarly Research

University professors are generally left-leaning in their politics, yet the percentage of professors who lean left has increased in recent years. 

A more uniform group of people will cause a decline in the quality of scholarly research. Because they share a similar view, they won’t be as rigorous in potential counterarguments or the quality of their work.

Paranoid Parenting

Parents have become overly concerned with the safety of their children. This has led to less free play, less independence and more fear instilled in children, which may increase the desire for safety provided by third parties for young adults.

Keeping children safe is important, yet trying to eliminate all risks in a child’s life can severely stunt their development, sense of independence, and ability to confront adversity.

From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.

Dignity culture vs. victimhood culture

The “dignity culture” is increasingly giving way to “victimhood culture.”

Dignity culture is characterised by assumed dignity and worth regardless of what people think of you. People are expected to have enough self-control to think little of irritations, slights, minor conflicts and even direct insults as threats to their dignity that should be met with a response.

Victimhood Culture

People and groups try to cultivate an image of victims who deserve assistance. They are highly sensitive to slights and tend to handle conflicts through complaints to third parties.

Your Unguarded Thoughts Can Harm You

Teach your children Cognitive Behaviour Therapy so they can learn to recognize and moderate the hallmarks of emotional and motivated reasoning.


The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being

Give people the benefit of the doubt.

Practice the virtue of intellectual humility.

Help Schools Oppose The Great Untruths

  • Encourage potential changes to the local education system.
  • At the elementary level, suggest minimal homework and more recess with minimal supervision.
  • At middle and high school levels, cultivate individual virtues such as humility, teach debate and encourage debate clubs, and assign readings that promote critical thinking and reasoned discussion.

Limit and refine device time

  • Encourage children to spend more time outdoors.
  • Place clear but reasonable limits on device time. 
  • Light use of screen time is not harmful, except if it displaces the many other activities children could be doing. 
  • Children should have no social media until high school. From high school, agree on a reasonable time budget for each child.
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