“Over the past decades, a tide of “safetyism” has crept over American society. As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt put it in their book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” this is the mentality that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. The goal is to eliminate any stress or hardship a child might encounter, so he or she won’t be wounded by it.
So we’ve seen a wave of overprotective parenting. Parents have cut back on their children’s unsupervised outdoor play because their kids might do something unsafe. As Kate Julian reports in “The Anxious Child and the Crisis of Modern Parenting” in The Atlantic, parents are now more likely to accommodate their child’s fears: accompanying a 9-year-old to the toilet because he’s afraid to be alone, preparing different food for a child because she won’t eat what everyone else eats.
Meanwhile schools ban dodge ball and inflate grades. Since 2005 the average G.P.A. in affluent high schools has risen from about 2.75 to 3.0 so everybody can feel affirmed.”
“. . .There’s absolutely no self-glorification here, just endurance. I’m reminded of Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s 1931 memoir. When hiring doctors for his hospital in the African jungle, he wrote, he never hired anyone who thought he was doing something grand and heroic. The only doctors who would last are those who thought what they were doing was as ordinary and necessary as doing the dishes: “There are no heroes of action — only heroes of renunciation and suffering.”
I’m also reminded of the maxim that excellence is not an action, it’s a habit. Tenacity is not a spontaneous flowering of good character. It’s doing what you were trained to do. It manifests not in those whose training spared them hardship but in those whose training embraced hardship and taught students to deal with it.
I’m hoping this moment launches a change in the way we raise and train all our young, at all ages. I’m hoping it exorcises the tide of “safetyism,” which has gone overboard.
The virus is another reminder that hardship is woven into the warp and woof of existence. Training a young person is training her or him to master hardship, to endure suffering and, by building something new from the wreckage, redeem it.”