The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

Author: Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt
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by The_Fooder   2019-07-21

My kid just started at Montessori pre-school last month. We had all of the same concerns and observations. I can add a few things, all anecdotal...

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TL;DR: lots of qualitative data; no quantitative data; long-read

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Part 1: My oldest

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First, I have a college aged kid and a toddler (life is crazy). When the 20yr old was pre-k aged, I was essentially broke and sent her to a pretty normal, school-based, pre-k. The pre-k was in the basement of a Montessori school and was probably influenced by it, but was definitely not Montessori. From there she went on to a parochial Kindergarten and then to suburban public school for the rest of her pre-college career. She now is a 3.6-ish GPA junior at U of I, so academically, she did fine (not outstanding, but good enough).

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The issue, however, in my opinion, was all of the non-academic stuff: low self-esteem, a seeming lack of stake in the outcomes, an inability to make life choices or long-term plans, lack of functional skills (i.e. knowledge of banking and credit, time management) and a general fragility a la Haidt. I was not pushing college on her, but it ultimately seemed like the right call, partly because there was no other plan, but largely because she needed to get out from under her parents and take some responsibility for her future. So far it seems that this has been effective in that she has really started blossoming into a person who has interests and takes initiative and hasn't had an issue with her academics.

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The difficult thing to suss out is if any of her success or failure modes had anything to do with pre-k. Maybe? A little bit? Most of the difficulty in her teenage years might be due to a healthy dose of normal juvenile issues coupled with a major personal disruption during her high-school years with her mother's living situation. She definitely seemed to regress somewhere around 14 or 15 and I'm happy that she's getting back on-line, so to speak.

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Part 2: My Youngest

That said, my plan for the current kid is a bit reactionary, but largely influenced by my personal circumstances. First, I'm in almost the opposite financial situation and able to absorb both college and pre-k costs, which, 20 years later seem to have sky-rocketed across the board. All formal options (excluding home day-care/pre-k) in my area seem to be in the range of $1-1500/mo. There are probably more affordable options but I haven't researched them. The Montessori was less expensive than the day-care she had been in from 9 months to 2.5 years.

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Second, I have a lot more experience with kids and raising them this time around (in addition to child rearing, I've also been a teacher and a youth worker--I like kids and generally prefer them to adults). I'm able to envision the whole school career in a way I couldn't before, therefore it's easier for me to see where the mile-markers are. Also, my wife, child and I have a pretty good, high trust relationship going on. Everyone has a stake in the family functioning and there's little fussing, disobedience, or histrionics; it's really mostly pleasant and fun. I think this has a lot to do with us being older parents who are able to easily align ourselves with the child. To contrast, when my other daughter was little, I was 25 and in a rock band...I had goals and desires that weren't always aligned with hers. My guess is this will have a far bigger impact on my youngest daughter's outcomes than pre-school or even elementary school. Stable home life is no joke!

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While, it will be another five years before I have a reasonable gauge of how it went, it seems ok right now, but not amazing. The teacher we were going to have left the school suddenly just prior to us starting and the school's founder and administrator is running the classroom. For some reason my kid has a beef with her and it's a bit of an issue. (It's also an opportunity where I get to teach my toddler that one of the most valuable skills we can learn in life is how to get along with people we dislike). We're going to stick it out and see what happens next, but if my kid still seems to hate it a few months from now, we're going to try something else.

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Part 3: What Other People Have Told Me

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I've heard plenty of good stories about Montessori, I've also heard that it doesn't work for all kids and the school will tell you if they think your kid needs the structure a more formal school provides. That said, I have two other direct examples of Montessori education.

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The first is my coworker who attended Montessori as a kid in the 90's. His trajectory was Montessori pre-k, public school k-12, State University with Masters in CS to a cushy programming gig in the financial sector. He was also an Eagle scout, plays a musical instrument, is an avid gamer and, IMO, a very thoughtful, if soft spoken fellow. He seems to be popular in his group of friends and possibly even the Alpha of his pack (just an observation from going to a few of his parties--he's no 'Alpha' in the strict sense).

He said that he doesn't remember much about it but that it was fun and easy. He thinks his parents had more to do with his upbringing as they were very focused on him hitting certain age appropriate goals (ex. Eagle scouts). My take-away is that there's no telling if it had any benefit.

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A second, ex-coworker has his daughter in Montessori at either Kindergarten or 1st grade level and they intend to continue with her at least through elementary. They are avid fans and the mom is very active with the school. Their daughter loves school so much she now takes supplemental classes--on the weekend-- at Northwestern University. In their area, there are Montessori High Schools, so it's possible for their kid to stay in Montessori all the way through to college if they so choose.

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The anecdotes they told us were that once some sort of Montessori inflection point is reached, if the kids are put back into public school, they are so far ahead of their peers in terms of discipline and precociousness that school becomes a boring mess where they are surrounded by buffoons. I have no idea how true this is, but I can imagine that if Montessori were successful this would be the expected result.

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Part 4: Conclusion

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To sum up my feelings about all of this, I'd say that let your wallet be your guide. In terms of pre-K, I sincerely doubt that Montessori will forever impact your child in such a way that you'd regret not sending them. Other pre-k programs seem to be just fine at acculturating children for school and the long-term academic and personal benefits seem modest at best; I'd rank things like diet, rest, exercise and family cohesion as higher.

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That said, if your plan was to keep the child going through some sort of alternate education system (i.e. alternate to U.S. public schooling) then you might see some real gains starting around elementary school and possibly rolling off around middle school. These benefits would be mostly in terms of personal development, which should prepare them for more rigorous academic study in a field of their choosing.

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There seems to be little downside to Montessori, but the upside is hard to gauge at the pre-k level. If placing you child in Montessori causes familial strife, ex. long commutes, financial burden, then I doubt the cost outweighs the benefit. It's also important to understand that Montessori has fairly high expectations of the parents and your buy-in is important as well.

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Let this little rant be the first entry in my diary of a Montessori educated child circa 2020 and I can follow up with observations in a few years after I've accrued some more experience and data.

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by ClintonHammond   2019-07-21

No cell phones till 16

No social media until 18

https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Generation/dp/0735224897

by thearw357   2019-07-21

https://www.amazon.de/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Generation/dp/0735224897

Cartea vorbește la un moment dat de screen time la adolescenți si cum sunt influențați de el. It's a good read.

by ClintonHammond   2019-07-21

Not even a little bit.

Try reading https://www.amazon.ca/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Generation/dp/0735224897

And tell me the objections are silly....

Try reading https://www.amazon.ca/Arguments-Deleting-Social-Media-Accounts/dp/125019668X

And tell me the objections are silly.....

by Mr-TotalLoss   2019-07-21

https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Generation/dp/0735224897

by nasty_nate   2019-07-21

You twice called speech "harmful". Be wary of this line of reasoning; it's led many to stop their ears and rush to a safe space when they could have learned something instead. The first chapter of this book explains it very well.

It's definitely a free speech issue. Speech can be limited by groups other than the government, and maximalist rhetoric about "harm" is a common first step. Find me someone that was actually harmed by what Crews said and I'll recant.

by 0x45454545   2019-01-13

Dette er et fryktelig skummel global (vestlig) trend, og det ser bare ut til å bli verre.

Et nytt studie viste nettopp at polariseringen i USA er verre enn mange tror. Og det blir ikke bedre med det første.

Tverrpolitisk samarbeid er ikke-eksisterende, fiendskapet er ekstremt, det hagler med merkelapper og skjellsord, det er ikke rom for nyanser, det er ekstrem vi-mot-dem-tankegang. Mye er svart-hvitt.

Se f.eks. på Kavanaugh-høringene nå. Twitteren min koker iallfall enda.

Leser Coddling of the American Mind av Jonathan Haidt nå, som ser ut til å toutche litt i innpå noen av fenomene man ser nå. Det gjelder kanskje først og fremst den nye generasjonen (iGen) som nå er kommet opp på universiteter, arbeidsliv og politikk.

Det er trist, mange snakker om polariseringen og ønsker å gjøre noe med det, men ingen ser ut til å vite hva som skal til.

Kanskje forby sosiale medier? :)

by captaindomon   2019-01-13

Two general thoughts, not related to the specific news item:

  1. Culturally, at least in my lodge, I would hope we are more strict on each other than the "world" would be generally. If a police officer brother pulled me over, I would expect him to be MORE LIKELY to give me a ticket than otherwise, because "A Mason should know better!"
  2. "Remember, you have promised to remind him, in the most tender manner, of his failings, as well as vindicate his character, when wrongfully traduced". I read the lesson there that we should encourage each other to be better, by talking to each other, not to push all our problems to a higher authority. There is a good book I was listening to the authors discuss: [https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0735224897) Their point is that society today is not teaching us to resolve our disputes with each other, it's teaching us that the only way to do things is to escalate and "report" to a higher authority - college president, boss at work, police, whatever. We have lost the ability, as a society, to solve most of our own problems in a dignified way by interacting directly with each other. Instead, we just report everything to someone else, and we expect them to solve the problem for us. Ultimately that doesn't work, because the higher authority is just another version of us - we as a society have to figure out how to solve things with each other.
by Edman006   2019-01-13

Social Media and less social interactions. Great book that breaks it down below.

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0735224897

by gnicholas   2019-01-03
Jonathan Haidt is a famous social psychology professor at NYU, whose work has been widely cited in recent years. He co-authored the book The Coddling of the American Mind: https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Gen...
by systemrename   2018-11-10

they are teaching students to nurture a kind of hypersensitivity that will lead them into countless drawn-out conflicts in college and beyond. Schools may be training students in thinking styles that will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health.

The Coddling of The American Mind

https://samharris.org/podcasts/137-safe-space/

by RideFarmSwing   2018-11-10

Thanks for your openess, I recognize your username from the sub and will do my best to summarize a pretty big issue down to a digestible size and will pop some resources at the bottom.

So Bret Weinstien was a evolutionary biologist at Evergreen state college down in the states. Since the 1970's that super leftist college has been doing radical things like having a day of absence that is designed to show how important People of Colour are to the campus by having all POC not show up on a particular day. In like 2017 (maybe 2016) the student organizers tried to switch it up to an all non POC don't come to campus day. Bret was objecting to this saying that it does not demonstrate the same message as the original protest. It takes it from how important POC are to isloating out non POC. IMO it took it from pro to con, which is never a great way for anyone to feel.

Bret wrote some staff emails about how he thinks they should shift it back to the old system and the student body goes wild. Start calling him racist, threatening him, threatening his wife who is also a professor there, demanding his resignation. Fast forward a few months and there are protests about him. Students are militarizing, holding university administration and making them listen to their demands, and being what can only be described as to an academic as radical.

That book I mentioned when through like 4 examples of things just as wild. The biggest thing I fear is that almost all of the targets that these radicalized call our culture folks are going after are fellow left learning people who were not towing the new party line. Layers who worked for the ACLU, Deans who started LGBT clubs in the 90's, and I just fear that it's people like me who since highschool have been out there grinding for progress.

The book I mentioned by Jonathan Haidt who also wrote great books in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and what makes people become polarized is 100% the most important book for people to read right now. It goes over a 3 point outline of why the campus culture is so damaging to future progression. The website to support the book also has tons of great reading about how we can redirect it positively.

https://www.thecoddling.com/wiser-kids

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bret_Weinstein

https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0735224897

Certainly open to discuss it more, I think it's super neat, but does scare me.