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Elliott Lecture Book Club: Jonathan Haidt's Coddling of the American Mind

Wednesday, September 25, 2019 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Downtown Spark, 147 4th Ave. N.

Jonathan Haidt

Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership and Public Service and the Sycamore Institute would like to invite you to The Don R. Elliott Distinguished Presidential Lecture’s book club discussion on The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Jonathan Haidt, professor of ethical leadership at the Stern School of Business at New York University and a social psychologist who has studied morality across cultures.

This is the third installment of a series on Jonathan Haidt's works in anticipation of his upcoming visit to Lipscomb University in fall 2019. The Coddling of the American Mind is available for purchase on

This discussion will be led by Kenyatta Lovett of Complete Tennessee and Brian Straessle of the Sycamore Institute.

For more information or to register for the discussion, contact Kells Johnson at 615.966.7226.


Jonathan Haidt

Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, based in the Business and Society Program, at the New York University Stern School of Business, which he joined in July 2011. His writings appear frequently in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He was named one of the top global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine and by Prospect magazine.

Haidt's research on morality across cultures led to his 2008 TED Talk on the psychological roots of the American culture war, and his 2013 TED Talk on how "common threats can make common ground." In both of those talks he asks, "Can't we all disagree more constructively?"

Haidt's 2012 TED Talk explored the intersection of his work on morality with his work on happiness to talk about "hive psychology" -- the ability that humans have to lose themselves in groups pursuing larger projects, almost like bees in a hive. This hivish ability is crucial, he argues, for understanding the origins of morality, politics, and religion. These are ideas that Haidt develops at greater length in his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Haidt's latest book, released in 2018, is The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

The Coddling of the American Mind

Something has been going wrong on many college campuses in the last few years. Speakers are shouted down. Students and professors say they are walking on eggshells and are afraid to speak honestly. Rates of anxiety, depression and suicide are rising—on campus as well as nationally. How did this happen?

First Amendment expert Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt show how the new problems on campus have their origins in three terrible ideas that have become increasingly woven into American childhood and education: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people. These three great untruths contradict basic psychological principles about well-being and ancient wisdom from many cultures. Embracing these untruths—and the resulting culture of safetyism—interferes with young people’s social, emotional and intellectual development. It makes it harder for them to become autonomous adults who are able to navigate the bumpy road of life.

Lukianoff and Haidt investigate the many social trends that have intersected to promote the spread of these untruths. They explore changes in childhood such as the rise of fearful parenting, the decline of unsupervised, child-directed play, and the new world of social media that has engulfed teenagers in the last decade. They examine changes on campus, including the corporatization of universities and the emergence of new ideas about identity and justice. They situate the conflicts on campus within the context of America’s rapidly rising political polarization and dysfunction.

This is a book for anyone who is confused by what is happening on college campuses today, or has children, or is concerned about the growing inability of Americans to live, work, and cooperate across party lines.