Is it really too traumatizing for college students to read “The Great Gatsby?”
That’s the idea behind the “trigger warnings” professors are putting on some books — including “Gatsby” — as well as articles and movies their students are expected to study. The idea is to shield young people from ideas they might find disturbing.
But that in itself is disturbing. As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (a co-founder of Let Grow) pointed out in their Atlantic essay, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” this kind of automatic and extreme protectiveness “may be teaching students to think pathologically.” In other words, overprotection leads to over-reaction, sort of the way we’re now learning that withholding peanuts can lead to (rather than help stave off) allergies.
Teaching young people to avoid all words, conversations and ideas they don’t agree with is not doing anyone any favors. When we treat young people as remarkably fragile we actually MAKE that happen. So, to help a rising generation of high school students consider the value of free speech in all its glorious discomfort, Let Grow is sponsoring a “THINK FOR YOURSELF” essay contest.
All high school students are eligible. The deadline is Jan. 15. First prize is a $2500 scholarship. Two second prizes are $1000 each. Essay prompts include:
1 Christopher Hitchens once asked: “To whom would you delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read? Do you know anyone…to whom you would give this job?” Do you? Why or why not?
2 Write about a time you or someone you knew didn’t speak up, or almost didn’t, for fear your idea might be unpopular. What did you learn from this and would you do the same thing again?
3 What makes you think free speech is important, even in high school?
4 Please write a thank you note to the jerk you listened to… and learned something from (though perhaps that didn’t happen right away).
Another question asks whether the “Sticks and stone may break my bones…” chant should be discarded or revived on playgrounds today.
Too often today, students on college campuses report they feel like they are “walking on eggshells,” for fear of offending their fellow students, even accidentally. Let Grow believes that the more that students get used to talking, debating, and opening their minds, the more they grow intellectually and personally. It’s also more fun!
Let Grow’s founding members include Daniel Shuchman, who is also chairman the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, and a great believer in the ability of young people to work things out, when we trust them and do not micromanage.
To enter the contest, students can click on our “Contests and Scholarships.” link.
Open to high school students who think for themselves!
First Prize: $2500 Scholarship
Runners up: Two $1000 Scholarships
Deadline: Jan. 15, 2018
Enter by clicking here!