Date: 12/05/2021
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Free Speech and Student Fragility




Jonathan Haidt Talks About Campus Free Speech and Student ‘Fragility’

When Jonathan Haidt spoke at an Institute for Humane Studies cosponsored event at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), he called for Gen Z students in the audience to reject the idea that “what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.”



“Gen Z often talks about emotional safety,” said Haidt, a New York University social psychologist and the bestselling coauthor of The Coddling of The American Mind. The concept of emotional safety is predicated on the belief that students are fragile and must be protected from “harmful” opinions, he explained. But everything we know about human physical and mental development suggests the opposite: humans are antifragile. We become stronger, not weaker, when our frameworks are tested and expanded.

“I urge you to embrace antifragility,” Haidt told students. He then played a video clip of “the best statement on antifragility ever.” In the clip, Democratic activist Van Jones explains to college students why safe spaces are a terrible idea:

I don’t want you to be safe ideologically. I don’t want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong—that’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. I’m not going to take all the weights out of the gym. That’s the whole point of the gym. This is the gym.

Haidt’s speech at UCCS was one of many campus events the Institute for Humane Studies is supporting in partnership with professors around the country who are researching classical liberal ideas, including freedom of speech, economic freedom, and human progress. Learn more at The Institute for Humane Studies.

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