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Grit

When I ask veteran college teachers and administrators to describe how college students have changed over the years, I often get an answer like this: “Today’s students are more accomplished than past generations, but they are also more emotionally fragile.”

That rings true to me. ... Whatever one thinks of the campus protests, the desire for trigger warnings and safe spaces does seem to emanate from a place of emotional fragility.

And if you hang around the middle aged, you hear a common story line to explain the rise of the orchid generation. Once upon a time, the story line goes, kids were raised in a tough environment. They had to do hard manual chores around the house....

But today, helicopter parents protect their children from setbacks and hardship. They supervise every playground conflict, so kids never learn to handle disputes or deal with pain.

There’s a lot of truth to that narrative, but let’s not be too nostalgic for the past. ... There was a greater tendency in years gone by... for some women to be... untouchable. ...

In short, emotional fragility is not only caused by overprotective parenting. It’s also caused by anything that makes it harder for people to find their telos. ... It’s caused by the ethos of the modern university, which in the name of “critical thinking” encourages students to be detached and corrosively skeptical. ...

If you really want people to be tough, make them idealistic for some cause, make them tender for some other person, make them committed to some worldview that puts today’s temporary pain in the context of a larger hope.

Emotional fragility seems like a psychological problem, but it has only a philosophical answer. People are really tough only after they have taken a leap of faith for some truth or mission or love.

- David Brooks, Making Modern Toughness, NYT, Aug. 30, 2016


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