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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Psych out: Why are we teaching kids to be hopeless and helpless?

"Anti-racists" are demoralizing black students, write Julian Adorney and Jake Mackey on Quillette.

Teenage depression and suicide rates have been "rising farther and faster" among black teens than among their non-black peers, they write, citing the federal Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2011–2021).

Photo: Ron Lach/Pexels

"When we tell black children and teens that the system is rigged against them, that police have declared “open season” on them, and that they cannot succeed in life, we should not be surprised when some of them become depressed or even express a desire to end their lives," Adorney and Mackey write.

"For some on the farther reaches of the progressive left, it’s considered acceptable to claim that minorities lack any agency at all; they are crushed beneath a vast, racist machinery that they cannot hope to escape," they write.

So why try? If the goal was to ensure that kids who start out poor stay poor how would the message be any different?

Catastrophizing is bad for people's mental and physical health, writes sociologist Musa Al-Gharbi. Students of color are "cudgeled relentlessly with messages about how oppressed, exploited, and powerless we are, and how white people need to 'get it together' to change this (but probably never will)."

The more people "view their life prospects as hostage to a system that is fundamentally rigged against them, the more likely they become to experience anxiety, depression, psychogenic and psychosomatic health problems, or to behave in antisocial ways," he writes.

In a study published by the Manhattan Institute, black teenagers were asked whether to agree or disagree with statements on whether they felt in control of their own lives, such as: “When I make plans, I am almost certain that I can make them work."

Before answering the questions, some read a passage from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 essay Letter to My Son: “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body —it is heritage” and that “your body can be destroyed” if you “sell cigarettes without the proper authority” or even “turn into a dark stairwell.”

Others first read a passage arguing that “African-Americans are the descendants of conquerors” and that they lived in “sophisticated city states and kingdoms like the Ashanti Empire.”

Black teens who read Coates were "more likely to agree with statements indicating helplessness and disempowerment," write Adorney and Mackey.

Optimists are made to feel like fools, writes Maarten Boudry in The Seven Laws of Pessimism, also in Quillette. "Progress happens gradually," so we don't notice it, he writes. We notice the disasters.

My favorite law is #4.

The Law of Conservation of Outrage: No matter how much progress the world is achieving, the total amount of outrage remains constant.
As societies become safer and more prosperous, we demand more of them, and gradually raise the bar for what is considered “safe” or “prosperous.” As a result, even though fewer disasters are happening than ever before, people still have the impression that the world is going downhill.

The seventh law states that "the freer the society, the more ugly things will surface." Boudry points out that "if everyone tells you that their country is marching gloriously forward into the future . . . you can be pretty sure that you're living in a ruthless dictatorship where no-one can speak their mind."


Jan 30

What? Teach black kids to be self-reliant? Then they'll get all uppity and complain about being replaced with international border jumpers. Can't have that. Better they get gaslighted and discouraged by the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates (DEI's own Lord Haw-Haw) so they can remain mascotas of the State and the White Elites.


R Hammond
R Hammond
Jan 30

I would suggest in the 1990s, some percentage (like one in forty teachers) entering the system....weren't qualified/capable or they had some serious quarks. They affected HS grads over the next 20 years, and the number of hopeless kids grew (year by year). The system didn't recognize the trend or the consequence. But as Covid's more obvious than ever that a serious issue is on the landscape.

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