The recent brouhaha with the elitist parents buying their children into colleges and universities illustrates a societal problem. It appears the “helicopter parents” could not help themselves. These parents and others like them are producing children who cannot cope with life’s up and downs.
The Quaker William Penn once wrote “No cross, no crown.” The great Catholic mystic John of the Cross explained to his followers that only in journeying through the crucible of the Dark Night of the Soul could one discover beatitude and ultimate truth.
The post-Millennials seem more fragile, less self-directed, more in need of adult protection and more often angry and less tolerant of viewpoints they disliked than even the Millennials. The widely circulated video of Yale University students shouting down Yale University sociologist Nicholas Christakis, who publicly defended his wife’s universitywide email suggesting that students select Halloween costumes of their own choosing seemed emblematic of the psychic fragility and snowflake intolerance.
Dr. Jonathan Haidt, a noted social psychologist, and Greg Lukianoff, an attorney and author, assembled a sizeable amount of supporting material, and published their claims in a book entitled, “The Coddling of the American Mind.”
The first thing that they noticed was a “cult of safety.” The cult consists of overly protective parents and school administrators who go overboard protecting children from the normal slights and disappointments of childhood. Instead of being trained to deal with the bumps along the road, they are given a smooth road to adulthood.
They also found a distortion in thinking among the post-Milliennials: They see the world in good guys and bad guys rather than a more nuanced understanding of human complexity; they take the most ungenerous view of other people and their action; and parents and educators underestimate the “anti-fragile” nature of human beings once they acquire coping skills.
According to Dr. Haidt and Mr. Lukianoff, the greatest importance is that children are given extensive free time and unsupervised play activities in order to develop the self-reliance and internal control necessary to deal with life’s challenges.
Education at home and at school should have the goal of teaching self-transcendence, the search for and the fulfillment of meaning outside the self. We have definitely dropped the proverbial ball that was passed to us by the Greeks, Romans, Jesus, Paul, St. Augustine, Aquinas, Martin Luther, Schweitzer, Grandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Billy Graham and so many others!