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  • So I'm here today with author Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Tight.

  • Greg is president of Fire, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Education, and Jonathan Height is, Ah, an eminent social psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business.

  • They have co authored a new book called The Coddling of the American Mind, which is an elaborated version of Ah, famous Atlantic Monthly as, say, they published a while back.

  • And so today we're here to talk about their new book and in both the state of the universities and I suppose, society at large.

  • So thanks guys very much for joining me today.

  • Thanks for asking.

  • So I thought maybe we'd start talking about the book.

  • So do you guys want to provide some background?

  • Uh, maybe you could talk about the Atlantic Monthly essay and what led up to the book, and then we'll get into the details.

  • Sure, sure, that over the great Well, um, So it all started in 2007 when I was lucky enough to have a full on medical level depression.

  • Um, really, really bad.

  • I talk about it in some sordid detail in the in the book, I realized it's actually the level of which I don't even I realize I wrote about it with details that might.

  • My wife doesn't know My family does that, that there's that weird privacy thing that sometimes happens when you talk camp.

  • You know, dictating into a computer that you come like this just between me and a computer.

  • And I realize it's crying.

  • The most public thing, a liver right.

  • But the thing that saved me the thing that ultimately helped me deal with my depressions general, was cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • In a sense, it's sort of like applied stoicism.

  • You just look at your own thoughts.

  • You talk back to the really exaggerate one's.

  • You label them as cognitive distortions.

  • That does include things like generalization, uh, catastrophe izing, binary, thinking, thinking.

  • Everything has to be there all good or all bad.

  • I'm actually predictability of these, and amazingly, if you just actually learn what these distortions are and practice every day to sort of talk back to sort of the more anxious or depressed voices in your own head, it's an incredibly effective treatment for depression.

  • Anxiety and change absolutely changed my life.

  • Meanwhile, asked this is changing my life.

  • I still work.

  • I'm so the president of fire, which means I defend free speech and due process and active freedom on campus.

  • And I was what?

  • And while I was learning all of these intellectual habits all these ways to sort of talk yourself down.

  • I was looking around at what administrators were doing and then asked and saying to myself, Wow, it's actually kind of like the administrator to single, By the way, do engage in cognitive distortions.

  • Do engage in binary thinking, do over generalizing most of all catastrophe eyes all the time.

  • And I remember thinking to something to the effect that well, thank goodness the students don't seem to really be buying it.

  • And that's what changed in 2013 2014 prior to 2013 24 teams since I started in 2001.

  • The worst constituency for free speech on campus was actually administrators.

  • The best, most reliable fans of free speech you could run into on campus were generally the students themselves.

  • And then sometime around 2013 2014 we saw you know, suddenly they were demanding, you know, everything trigger warnings to my progression policies to dis invitations for even people.

  • But but both the left and the right on the spectrum.

  • And it seemed that, like we said, it seemed to happen almost overnight.

  • And this, Ah, and when I want to talk Thio John about it way become friends through a mutual friend.

  • And I said, It's almost that I talked about my whole theory that we're teaching a generation the the habits of interest and depressed people from Cargo Bay bro therapy.

  • John got really excited about the idea of and asked if I wanted to write about it.

  • And I was already a fan of John's work, so I was like, Absolutely yeah, So I thought that his his insight into what had changed was absolutely brilliant.

  • I had just begun to notice this in my own teaching.

  • I've been teaching since 1995 theorist Virginia originally, and it was a bust, seemingly overnight, right around 2014.

  • These new ideas, you know, students, of course, our political.

  • They protest, they object to things.

  • But what was new?

  • Greg put his finger on it.

  • What was new was the idea that his words are going to arm and me not just offend me, not just be unjust harmed me.

  • We have to protect It was this idea that since our fragile and need protection protection should come from administrators from adults.

  • That's what was new and disturbing.

  • Where were you guys talked in the book about concept creep, you know, in envy and the over generalization of the idea of trauma.

  • And, you know, one of the things that's really struck me as interesting about the safe space movements and the micro aggression policies and all the bodies that it does run so contrary to what every clinician worth his or her salt knows about treating anxiety or depression.

  • And it's one of so that's kind of a remarkable phenomenon in itself.

  • Is that what we know clinically has been absolutely inverted by people who are hypothetically agitating on the part of students mental health?

  • And it's not as if the mental health community has stood up on Mars and denounced this so and I also don't I don't understand that I also don't understand how we got here.

  • You guys talk in the book a little bit about you're a little bit of you had thought that I was a little bit about the Internet generation, right?

  • And those of kids born after 1995.

  • You don't put the finger on the Millennials, but but let's talk a little bit about why you think things changed in 2013.

  • In 2014.

  • Just first, say your point about about how this is not his holster.

  • These is nobody's or not clinically supported.

  • Uh, something that we suggest in the book.

  • We don't know.

  • We don't know if the depleted which this is going on.

  • To what extent is this a sincere desire for protection and a sincere belief that students are fragile?

  • And to what extent is it?

  • The pursuing of of a political agenda and making political points and using mental health is a cover.

  • I think both our operative and so animate, depending on the context.

  • So why do you Why do you think the 1st 1 is operative?

  • Because this runs so contrary to everything that's known about the actual protection of mental health.

  • I'm very skeptical about attributing, um, positive motivation to it.

  • Like it seems to me that it's fundamentally driven by resentment.

  • Well, it's so, uh so you're absolutely right that the psychological community does not support this but yet has not stood up very vocally to condemn it.

  • So I we are hopeful that psychologists and psychiatrists, everyone we spoke to agreed that wrongly, yes, that's right.

  • That exactly the worst thing to D'Oh for someone who suffers from PTSD is to sweep clean their daily life of reminders, thereby denying that the chance to to devote to habituate to dina de condition the power of these quote triggers in the real world.

  • Oh, it's worse in some sense, too, because one of the things you do when you expose people who have anxiety disorders to the things they're anxious about is not make them less anxious, but make them more courageous, right?

  • And that's why generalize is because the psychoanalysts thought that exposure would just mean the fears would pop up somewhere else.

  • But they don't and it's because people learn that there's more to them than they thought.

  • And then when you protect them, not only view, not exposed them, which is a big problem, but you also teach them to generalize the idea of their weakness, which is a really terrible thing to do.

  • The people.

  • So you couldn't invent a more counterproductive mental health movement and instituted on campuses if you set out to design it and that that's something that we always try to emphasize and that love is a base so interesting for us to look at was the one thing because, you know, the third and I free speech movements coming from students in the relatively recent past, the late eighties and early nineties, for example.

  • But the thing that was so striking was that they were medicalizing all all of these claims And like, you know, of course, they're sitting there going like that doesn't sound right eye Doctor John.

  • He was like that didn't sound right.

  • And we interviewed for the original article, maybe seven different clinical psychologist CBT experts.

  • You know, for example, and the thing I keep on trying, but I keep on explaining it is it's as if returning up.

  • But what could be a minor aversion into something more like a phobia?

  • Because we're giving it so much more power.

  • And the worst thing of all that we're doing so much of our campuses were turning into a schema.

  • We're turning the idea that I'm actually in that I'm broken into into.

  • It's a permanent sort of self definition.

  • So that's why I do think that there's sort of a mixed motive thing going on here.

  • I think that we have a self fulfilling prophecy going on to some degree.

  • But I do think that that some of this kind of hopeless ideology is actually genuinely Harvard students actually making them more interesting, depressed.

  • And of course, it's great.

  • It's really incompatible how you have a You also cites statistics to that end.

  • So one of the things you guys concentrate on the book, these statistics indicating that there has, in fact mean there is evidence of decline in mental health over the last.

  • What is it about the last decade since around 22,009 to 2012 is when things that's the elbow, that's where things begin to our up and then they go steadily up, um, to about 2015 2016.

  • We don't know if they're still going up there flat towing, but this is what's going into a little bit of detail because it was just an article in The New York Times Richard Friedman.

  • It's like high interest, wrote an article.

  • Something about how the idea of Ah waving a new increased anxiety is a myth, he said.

  • I said It's just based on one or two You know, there's a couple of self report studies in which students say that they're more anxious.

  • And he dismissed that and said, Don't worry, America, Your kids aren't becoming more anxious.

  • So we thought we dug into this in detail.

  • We did not want to catastrophes.

  • We did not want to foment a moral panic.

  • So we didn't want to say, you know, Oh my God, the sky's falling Kids are depressed and anxious So we looked into this in great detail.

  • Uh, and we were heat.

  • So we were looking for this data in our Atlantic article and it wasn't there.

  • That is that.

  • There were anecdotes everywhere.

  • People were saying the mental health centers are swamped, so there were plenty reports from mental health centers.

  • But isn't this just because kids these days are more comfortable seeking treatment?

  • That's why the mental health centers or swap.

  • Maybe there's no real increase.

  • So in Atlanta card, if we could not make a strong case, we left it very speculative.

  • But just two years later, when jean twenties book came out, i jen and she brought in data from four National National Representative surveys showing that it really is an increase.

  • Again, those were almost all self report What convinced us, but convinced us that Israel is that there was a There was a major study done published in a Journal of American Medical Association, looking at hospital admission data.

  • So they broke it down by gender, and you always have to look male, female separate.

  • They broke it down by sex and by age group within teenagers and for all of the age groups of the girls teenage girls, hospital admissions for self harm, for cutting yourself taking, which is non fatal.

  • It's flat, flat, flat and then right around 2011 2012 2013 he starts going up and up and up.

  • And of course, the raid is lowest for 11 to 13 year old girls.

  • They're less like to do this, but the increase was the largest, and 20 says that social media over social comparison seems to be hardest on the youngest girls.

  • So the cell phone data confirms this is behavioral data.

  • This is not self report, Uh, and then the real kicker.

  • Unfortunately, it's suicide.

  • If you look at the suicide statistics, they show the same pattern as the self report of depression data, which is, if you look at the first decade of the century, So 2001 to do 2010.

  • Take the average.

  • A number of kids who killed himself successfully commit suicide.

  • The rate for boys from that decade up through 2015 2060 those two years of data goes up up up, up 25% which is gigantic.

  • There's been an enormous increase in boys suicide.

  • The increase for girls is 70% 70 So, boys, the rate is higher for boys because girls make many more attempts.

  • But boys methods so so the increase is actually really apparently, but as a percentage, it's much higher for girls.

  • Social media.

  • At least this is twenties argument, and we think there's some validity to it.

  • Twenties argument is that the spread of iPhones and social media has brought boys into play video games.

  • They play a lot of video games, but those aren't actually that harmful.

  • It's the social comparison sites.

  • It's ah um Instagram and other things where girls are comparing their lives to other girls and feeling left out that we think we don't know for sure.

  • That we think, is the most powerful reason why the girls rates have increased so much.

  • Sorry, John's rebirth that data to because even Citizens 2007 if you just pick 2007 we're talking about a doubling in terms of but the 2007 that was a project that was the lowest here.

  • So if you just so that's why it's best to not take 2007 it's best to just take the average.

  • It just bounces around.

  • There's no trend in the first decade case a week and hypothesize, perhaps, that there's something approximating a positive feedback loop going on here.

  • So imagine, because I'm trying to figure out why things have got out of control, say, since 2013.

  • It's like there's been a tipping point, and so I'm going to offer a few ideas and you guys could tell me what you think.

  • Okay, so let's let's think of four or five reasons.

  • So I think there's an increase in political perceived political polarization and maybe riel political polarization because the mainstream media mainstream media is dying.

  • And as it dies, it gets it gets more attracted to click bait journalism and exaggerates the degree of extremism on both sides.

  • And that's a consequence of a technological revolution that the threat that they're under from that love from Internet media sources.

  • So that's one.

  • The next one would be the UN, um opposed rise of the postmodern Marxist doctrines that characterized disciplines, particularly like women's studies.

  • Now you guys talked about woman who generated intersectionality theory.

  • Kimberly Crenshaw and I've been looking into Kate Millett to establish patriarchy theory or one of the people who established it.

  • And she was a radical lesbian for political reasons and had an alcoholic and abusive father.

  • So I think that's quite interesting.

  • And I think that these theories friend Shaw and Millets theories were basically ignored by serious scholars in the in the act academic world.

  • But they've spread and have had a disproportionate effect on the university's and their combined with the kind of Marxist few points that divides the world into victimizer and victim.

  • And then maybe we have the what you just did it already given us too big theories.

  • Let's talk about them that, uh, it's on the political polarization.

  • Absolutely.

  • We have a whole chapter on that.

  • The way to think about this is universities are complicated, institutions nested within a broader society, and they're changing and the broader society has changed.

  • So we document how the rise in political polarization and you're the thing to focus on, is not polarization of attitudes about abortion or things like that is how much do you hate the other side that has been going up steadily since the 19 nineties.

  • And so if you have ah, left right battle, it's getting more and more intense at the same time as the Professor Torii is going from leaning left to be much further on the left.

  • So we document this in the book that the overall left right ratio for a variety of reasons went from a 2 to 1 overall, putting everybody to the one in the early nineties to 5 to 1 left right ratio by 2010.

  • So if you have a more politically purified institution at a time when the electromagnetic forces of cross partisan hatred are joining up, then yes, you have a more politicized institution, so there's a lot going on there.

  • It's not unique to the left.

  • It just so happens that universities have been polarizing, left other institutions polarized.

  • Right?

  • If you believe in diversity, if you believe that diversity makes people think better because it challenges thoughts in a loss of political diversity is harmful, and it's a contributor.

  • And it's not just the echo chambers that were great on the Internet, although although Social Media does pat you on the back for having a stick of an echo chamber is possible.

  • I'm definitely doing a big owners of the big sort hypothesis, but certainly lived this experience that we increasingly livin and more politically homogeneous community.

  • It's not a big sort, of course, talks about us living in more politically obvious counties, but Charles Murray and others have done research about how we actually live in even more politically homogeneous city blocks that actually we are sort of self sorting higher.

  • Cowan talks about this, too, and of course, if you have sort of, ah, social circle wearing practically never run into anybody who disagrees with you, be all the different sort of like tribalism experiments that polarization experiments they've done over the years shows the intended sort of spiral off into the distance.

  • So that's one of the reasons why I think of this is what we call in the book of problem of progress, that if you think about the idea that we can live in communities that reflect our values, going back the around angle heart was saying, It's the 19 seventies.

  • That sounds lovely.

  • That sounds great, Ray.

  • I could live in communities, perfect my values.

  • But if you've ever lived in a community that reflects just one political point of view and virtually none of the other, it does have a tendency to become a virtue signaling contest more than an actual place where he discussed ideas.

  • OK, so now let's move on to the postal surges of Marxism.

  • So I think you and I both agree that that postmodernism mark system that these are lenses that tend to amplify conflict is our son.

  • How involved I think you and I may disagree a bit on the dynamics here in the extent of it, so just leave it the way that I think about it.

  • These ideas, this way of looking at things.

  • Even these ideas of of trigger warnings, matrices of oppression.

  • Those ideas existed in feminist circles going all the way back to the nineties.

  • A za professor at N Y.

  • U and previously v A.

  • I have not seen that postmodernism remarks is Marin anyway spreading across the disciplines.

  • They've always been there in a few disciplines.

  • There's a lot of Marxist analysis, a sociology.

  • I have not noticed that spreading at all among the professorial or across this.

  • But I think what has happened is that social media, the Internet, especially social media, has knocked down the compartments.

  • A good society needs a lot of compartments, needs a lot of walls where different norms and different practices flourish, that you could do different jobs.

  • I think social media is knock down the walls so that certain ideas that maybe some students get from their gender studies or anthropology or sociology classes.

  • Uh, those ideas could spread among the students, and they're often not even really the accurate ideas.

  • That's a sort of a bastardized version Ah, modified in ways that I don't really even understand that can spread around this.

  • Now you get bad psychological ideas that political ideas.

  • I'm spreading around among the students.

  • That's what's been most striking to us is that this is really the changes, really.

  • Student led.

  • It's a generational thing.

  • Um, you could blame faculty and insert departments for you don't disagree with their ideas, but it's not that there's this conspiracy this, as far as we can tell a conspiracy among the professors to take over.

  • Maybe you'll disagree with that.

  • We see it.

  • I see it is more student.

  • I don't want to have one point here, though, and it's something I talk a lot about John and I talk a lot about.