Parents want our children to be set up for success — self-confident, optimistic, resilient, and prepared to work and make friends with people from many backgrounds.

But schools that teach equity ideology do the opposite. They divide students into us-versus-them groups based on race. They make them fragile by trying to shield them from any idea or experience that might disturb or challenge them.

This conditions kids for mental distress and self-doubt, not productivity and happiness. New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff explain how in their best-selling book, The Codding of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.  

This kind of teaching trains young people to “engage in the mental habits commonly seen in people who suffer from anxiety and depression,” say Haidt and Lukianoff. “If someone wanted to create an environment of perpetual anger and intergroup conflict,” they warn, this instruction “would be an effective way to do it.”

How does neo-racist teaching harm kids?

  • It conditions them to see the world and their school as bleak and hostile places where things never seem to get better.
  • It drives toxic wedges between them, damaging their ability to make friends and work effectively with others.
  • It teaches kids they must bow to authority, and promotes a destructive “call-out” culture at school that requires “constant vigilance, fear and self-censorship,” in Haidt and Lukianoff’s words.
  • It saps young people’s motivation and sense of personal responsibility by pressuring them to submerge themselves in a race-based group identity. For example,
  • White children may learn that they carry collective, race-based guilt, and can’t take pride in their accomplishments because these are just a function of their “white privilege.”
  • Non-white children may learn that, because they are “victims of oppression,” they aren’t responsible for their behavior or can’t meet high standards.
  • All this produces hopelessness: for black and other minority students, because they are taught the world is stacked against them, for whites, because they believe they are guilty of racism no matter what they do.

Today’s kids already lag well behind their older peers in maturity and readiness for adult responsibilities, say Haidt and Lukianoff. They also suffer from record-high rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Today’s Neo-racist “equity” ideology is likely to make both problems worse. Here’s why:

  • It teaches kids that feelings (anger, resentment or guilt) are better guides for action and understanding the world, than thinking and evidence.
  • It conditions them to blame others when things don’t go right, to expect the worst from other people, and to take exaggerated offense at the smallest things.
  • This makes them fragile, dependent and easily defeated, rather than strong, independent and resilient. As a result, they fail to develop the self-control and mental skills they will need to effectively resist life’s inevitable slights and disappointments.

They never learn to push back against teasing and mean-spiritedness by “keeping power” for themselves. Remember “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me”?

What should we tell school leaders we expect for our kids?

  • The surest path to “equity” is a great education. Schools should focus on academics — reading, writing, math, science and history — with high standards for all, and a commitment to give kids the help they need to get there.
  • Schools should teach students to behave charitably toward others, not automatically assume they have hostile motives.
  • Schools should not promote victimhood, but a culture of dignitythat encourages self-confidence, kindness to others and mental toughness.
  • Schools should teach the “success formula — good character, hard work and resilience — that has lifted Americans of all backgrounds and skin colors.

More resources:

Haidt’s and Lukianoff’s original article in The Atlantic that inspired The Coddling of the American Mind: How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus – The Atlantic.

Haidt’s and Lukianoff’s web site,, which explains the book, features videos, and offers solutions for parents to a broad spectrum of mental health problems that today’s children are encountering.