Fragile students, nervous professors

Declining student resilience is a serious and growing problem on campus, writes Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College, in Psychology Today.

Last year, he was invited to meetings at a major university to discuss the problem. Emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled in five years, he learned. “Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life.”

Professors are afraid of sobbing students in their office if they give C’s, and sometimes B’s. Many students see a poor grade as a world-ending failure, they reported.

They “see a poor grade as reason to complain — the professor didn’t explain clearly enough or give sufficiently explicit instructions — rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively,” faculty members said.

Much of the discussions had to do with the amount of handholding faculty should do versus the degree to which the response should be something like, “Buck up, this is college.”

Colleges across the country are reporting “a decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life,” write the university’s head of Counseling in a recent email. He summarized:

Less resilient and needy students have shaped the landscape for faculty in that they are expected to do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.

. . . Students are afraid to fail; they do not take risks; they need to be certain about things.

College mental health centers are overwhelmed by anxious, depressed students, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education in An Epidemic of Anguish.

“We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems,” writes Gray. “They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention.”

Overcontrolling, overprotective parents raise emotionally fragile children, writes Diane Dreher.

From HUMAN, here’s the story of two survivors.

‘You can do anything’

Saturday Night Live celebrates the self-esteem of the YouTube generation in this skit.

Self-esteem is making your kids weak and dumb, warns Gawker.

Perfect parents, fragile children

If parents could engineer the perfect child, would he grow up to be unbearable? Katie Roiphe takes on overparenting — familiar ground but always good for a rant — in Slate.

You know the child I am talking about: precious, wide-eyed, over-cared-for, fussy, in a beautiful sweater, or a carefully hipsterish T-shirt. Have we done him a favor by protecting him from everything, from dirt and dust and violence and sugar and boredom and egg whites and mean children who steal his plastic dinosaurs, from, in short, the everyday banging-up of the universe? The wooden toys that tastefully surround him, the all-sacrificing, well-meaning parents, with a library of books on how to make him turn out correctly— is all of it actually harming or denaturing him?

Someone I know tells me that in the mornings, while making breakfast, packing lunches and laying out clothes, she organises an art project for her children. An art project! This sounds impossibly idyllic – imaginative, engaged, laudable. And yet, is it just the slightest bit mad as well? Will the world, with its long lines in the passport office and traffic jams, be able to live up to quite this standard of exquisite stimulation?

It is more than slightly mad. It’s nuts.

It’s good for children to know “that your parents have busy, mysterious lives of their own, in which they sometimes do things that are not entirely dedicated to your entertainment or improvement,” Roiphe writes.

I decided when my child was very young that the greatest gift I could give her was a sane mother. So I didn’t let her do things likely to drive me crazy.  It worked for both of us.