The coddling of college students

By Christopher Harper

Instead of readying college students for the rough-and-tumble world of work, it appears that a growing number of professors want to enhance the coddling of this generation.

In an article in the faculty union newsletter at Temple University, where I teach, Amy Lynch of the College of Public Health argued for an emphasis on “trauma-informed teaching.”

Following is some of the pablum she preaches:

–Do not have any penalization for students who feel unsafe attending a class in person.

–When possible, have students sitting in a large circle or square, with no one’s back facing another individual.

–Offer choices to students concerning assignments. “You can complete this assignment as a written paper of 2,500 words, or you can submit a flipgrid with at least 4,000 words.”

Note: I had never heard of a flipgrid until now. Here is a definition: Flipgrid is a website that allows teachers to create “grids” to facilitate video discussions. Each grid is like a message board where teachers can pose questions, called “topics,” and their students can post video responses that appear in a tiled grid display.

–Show unconditional positive support for students, directly to students, and in conversations with colleagues about students. 

–Actively acknowledge and discuss when current events trigger emotions related to systematic oppression….

–Educators can promote student resilience.. [by] celebration of “missed successes,” [and] with warm compassion-based “social autopsy,” growing together with the discovery of what went wrong…. 

Note: I had never heard of a social autopsy. Here is a description: A social autopsy is a problem-solving strategy designed to support social skills. Students with difficulties understanding social interactions can use a social autopsy to analyze the social errors they made. Examples of where social autopsies may be used include:

–Ignoring others’ greetings
–Asking a question in a class without raising a hand
–Continuing to talk on the same topic
–Sneezing without covering one’s mouth

For more information, see https://buildingmomentuminschools.blog/2016/02/05/social-autopsy-and-other-social-teaching-tools/

If my colleagues and I follow this plan, Professor Lynch argues, “the seeds of trauma-informed education are planted with the hopes of a full forest of trauma-informed education stakeholders soon to emerge.”

If a student has difficulties, I always want to help. But I am not a psychologist; I am a teacher. I make suggestions to students on how they can seek help outside of the classroom for difficulties they might have.

For the 26 years I have been teaching, I always encouraged students to get outside of their comfort zones. That was the best way to prepare oneself for the tough job a journalist had to do. Now it appears I’m supposed to make students feel more comfortable.

Simply put, It’s unlikely that graduates will enter a “trauma-informed” workplace once they leave the comfort of college. 

One thought on “The coddling of college students

  1. Unfortunately, this pablum has already moved into the workplace and we are seeing coddling of workers as well. This will of course not end well.

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