Nassim Taleb taught us in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (2014) how vital understanding the concept of antifragile is to human flourishing. Things that are fragile break easily under pressure, stress or trauma. Things that are durable resist being broken down by stressors. Things that are antifragile are beyond durable; they actually improve when subjected to stress. All complex adaptive systems, including the human mind and body, are antifragile.
The societal folly that Lukianoff and Haidt point out in their new book, The Coddling of the American Mind (2018) is that academia has embraced the opposite of antifragile (the first Great Untruth of fragility), by implementing overprotective policies, which have the opposite of their intended effects. They hurt, degrade and devalue people instead of protecting them.
Chapter 1 of their book uses the example peanut allergies. Overprotective schools banned all peanut products in the 1990’s, which then caused a surge in deadly allergic responses because kids were no longer exposed to peanuts. Studies later proved that regular exposure to peanut-containing products from infancy will elicit an immune response instead of an allergic reaction. This is just one example of the harm caused by the Untruth of fragility.
The recent coddling, overprotective nonsense at colleges (safe spaces, micro aggressions, trigger warnings and speaker shout downs) is weakening the minds of young people. Walter E. Williams recently wondered why so many millennials embrace brutal, murderous regimes founded on socialism. He asks are they miseducated or stupid? It’s both. They are being made stupid.
Wind extinguishes a candle but energizes a fire. We are not candles and academia should not try and turn students into candles. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind – not weak, overprotected, snowflake flickering candles. Our Estate Planning War Chest is an antifragile raging fire of awareness. Next week, we move on to the second Great Untruth.