Coddling Generation Safety Blankey? Or Affirming Shared Truths?

Having been on the receiving end of student protests in the UK, philosopher Kathleen Stock in an important piece says the following about today’s all too often ”offended” Gen Z.

There’s a now-standard story about the psyche of the student that protests about speech, popularised by Lukianoff and Haidt’s book, and advanced by Frank Furedi before themThis story says: the parents of these students probably overprotected them in childhood and adolescence, smoothing their way through school and praising them to the hilt, whilst playing up the spectre of multiple physical hazards and risks outside the home. With fewer opportunities for independent interaction with peers, and with the internet as their main proxy for real-life experience, the students haven’t learnt the kind of resilience and confidence that would allow them to absorb the feelings of anxiety produced by hearing robust challenges to their views. Instead, they expect the adults around them to take care of their needs and to protect them from unpleasant experiences. They arrive at university as passive consumers in search of parental substitutes, revelling in their own sense of victimhood, and not as autonomous and effective self-movers. This, in other words, is Generation Z framed as Generation Safety Blanket.

I’ve also read Lukianoff and Haidt’s book The Coddling of the American Mind in the past year. $9.99 on Kindle is a steal!

A timely investigation into the new “safety culture” on campus and the dangers it poses to free speech, mental health, education, and ultimately democracy.

The generation now coming of age has been taught three Great Untruths: their feelings are always right; they should avoid pain and discomfort; and they should look for faults in others and not themselves. These three Great Untruths are part of a larger philosophy that sees young people as fragile creatures who must be protected and supervised by adults. But despite the good intentions of the adults who impart them, the Great Untruths are harming kids by teaching them the opposite of ancient wisdom and the opposite of modern psychological findings on grit, growth, and antifragility.  

The result is rising rates of depression and anxiety, along with endless stories of college campuses torn apart by moralistic divisions and mutual recriminations.   

The subtitle is “How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation For Failure.” But Stock isn’t sure they got it completely right. She has some other ideas about the dysfunctions of today’s youth.

All the talk today is about “safeguarding” “safe spaces” etc. And the desire to reduce “harm.” What about undeniable Truth? Is that available to us today? Not completely, but truly (verily, verily). Are some things, if not all things, certainly knowable by the community? And would that reduce, not increase harm?

Some say yes. Others say no.

As a Christian I would point to, for example, the creation of a bi-natured cosmos, Heaven and Earth, Male and Female, Soul and Body (I’m an equality dualist! Not a Platonic Dualist. Read more about that here.)

Stock would not follow me along those lines. But she would say:

The old idea of the University as a vibrant and cohesive community of individuals, forced into productive relation with one another in the shared pursuit of truth, is very old hat. For a start, nobody really believes in truth anymore.

Well. Some of us do. Including Stock.

She offers sound advice to isolated individuals (primarily social media denizens) and warns those who have “become far too cocky about (their) own moral judgements.” The reason for this precise warning is because “body and soul” interactions matter. There is no substitute for real body and soul community. For “shared communal activities with others face-to-face.” This will “not only help you to develop a full range of moral capacities, but also (give) you a sense of proportion.”

Because LIFE is not exactly as YOU experience it.

Civil interactions with those with whom you might disagree are a must in a civil society. Otherwise, we are reduced to power struggles, most often framed by today’s Critical Theorists as a struggle between oppressor and oppressed. Or cynical political activists more concerned with “winning” than true Justice for All, rich and poor. For them, there are no real Truths, just power relationships between groups. And if you are moral, in the sense they define morality, you will align yourself with marginalized groups (real or imagined) or with your political party and “win.” By any means necessary, if it comes to that.

Of course the classic Christian response (not Stock’s) is to remind everyone that all of us, white, black, brown, etc…rich and poor, male or female are broken people who frequently miss the mark of becoming truly human, which is to say human like Jesus. Our job as Christians is to humbly point toward a pathway of real recovery, body and soul. Only found “in Christ.” For rich and poor. Male and Female.

Stock reminds us that our own moral judgements need to be tested “in the crucible of daily human relations” where we can get “good feedback.”

For Christians, that must mean community dialogue with Scripture, the Church Universal and our Historic Traditions.

But far too often today’s social justice warriors are not interested in dialogue and feedback, certainly not with the past. Add to that the fact that so many kids today are fed an unending series of “catastrophic” possibilities UNLESS they get involved in rescuing the planet, or standing up for someone else’s “identity” they are told great harm will result.


They shout. They cancel. They shutdown. Those cocky young “speech-sanitizers.”

Disrespectfully sure of themselves, they cancel their opponents. Ironically, all for the sake of “inclusion.”

By not wanting to cause perceived harm to expressive individuals (like themselves) or to the planet, they silence “immoral” dissent. For the pursuit of real and sometimes unavoidably messy communal interaction, which may assist in uncovering difficult to uncover truths, and tempering their own sharp edges, they don’t seem to care. They feel hurt themselves, or they virtue signal by “hurting” for others. Because they “know” enough to know that those who disagree must be oppressors, or on the side of oppression and therefore must be silenced.

The alternative of being open to disagreement, and allowing those who speak the Truth as they understand Truth, a Truth which may sometimes hurt. A Truth that may be critical of individual choices….simply cannot be allowed. Besides. For them, there is only “my truth and your truth.” And they have organized to see that their truth wins. They are vigorously for the “victims” after all. So they must be right.

Any deviations must be silenced by the speech-sanitizers clutching their “harmless” safety blankeys.

With this logic expressive individualists may only be “affirmed.” All 88 genders (at last count). At all costs. Unfortunately, as I’ve documented on this blog, those costs will be many.

Because Too much caring, not enough sharing is not truly caring at all.

Read the whole thing.

Other posts about Kathleen Stock.


Love Refuses to Affirm Confusion