Lukianoff is president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—a campus free speech advocacy organization originally established by Alan Charles Kors—and author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate (2012) and Freedom From Speech (2014). Haidt is a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business and author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012).
They argue that we are treating students precisely the way we shouldn’t if we are trying to help them become resilient, functioning, and free people and exactly the way we should if we are intent on creating an army of neurotics. They focus on what they call “Three Great Untruths,” which they call “The Untruth of Fragility,” “The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning,” and “The Untruth of Us Versus Them.”
The Untruth of Fragility
So how do these work and how are they Untruths? The first, “The Untruth of Fragility,” mangles Nietzsche’s maxim “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” into “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Weaker.” It counsels avoidance of the unpleasant, the uncomfortable, and the inconvenient and accomplishes precisely the opposite of what real learning should do.