Book Review No. 33 will remark more favorably on the analysis of logic and justice the authors present than on their discussion of academic matters, which suffers from a serious U. S. News problem.
They open by offering their understanding of three fallacies that lead to coddled minds: what doesn't kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people. Their elaborations are instructive, as these fallacies might be the basis of the exaggerated sensitivity that takes political correctness out of the realm of good manners and into fantasyland. Their understanding relies on a psychological practice called cognitive behavioral therapy that might be more effective and less esoteric than its competitors.
The authors might have anticipated their book being used by motivational speakers, as each chapter concludes with a summary that might easily be adapted to presentation software slides.
Their discussion of social justice is useful, explaining that people understand a set of institutions as just when rewards are proportionate to inputs and when everyone gets a fair go. The social justice warriors go wrong by advocating for institutions and outcomes under which rewards are not proportionate to inputs, and some people don't get a fair go in order that others get a better start.
But when we get to the social justice wars on campus, what happens? On one hand, young people are arriving at orientation with a lot of adolescence ahead of them, thus the authors suggest (starting at p. 250) a gap year, perhaps involving community service somewhere away from home. That's despite many of those young people learning in pre-school what they used to learn in kindergarten, because kindergarten is all about developing the habits of first-graders (pp. 186-88). Apparently Harvard Prep Day Care is a thing. Thus, Coddling commits a category error, one that Matt "Dean Dad" Reed frequently writes about. "As Bloomberg’s piece goes on, though, he moves from 'colleges' to 'top colleges' and 'elite colleges,' without acknowledging the shift."
That "gap year" might be a way for the Political Class to get its pet projects done on the cheap, although it might as easily breed cynicism (the Vietnam era draft, the Soviet era students going on potatoes) as it fosters social solidarity (the Peace Corps and church missions are voluntary, Hollywood's view of World War II is show business) and at the mid-majors, it might be a two or four year hitch or time spent in the warehouse getting the college money together.
I also have to wonder where the authors got the idea that the additional administrators running the Grievance Bureaucracy and all the other things are releasing professors from administrative duties (p. 198): in my experience each new office issues ukases dictating additional provisions to be provided for in the Conditions of Carriage, er, course outline, or they're sending out requests for progress reports as they shepherd the various sorts of unprepared (perhaps because they didn't go to Harvard Prep Day Care) clientele they've conned into matriculating through to graduation.
So much for institutionalized disconfirmation, the sifting and winnowing of competing claims. It's apparently missing among the institutions topping the U. S. News league tables. It's long been missing at the land-grants, the mid-majors, the regional comprehensives, the community colleges. I'll give Matt Reed the final word. "The real task would be to bring the colleges that serve the masses -- non-elite publics -- to a level worthy of their students."
As part of that task, no more mindless imitation of the Student Affairs fads at the elite institutions.
(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)