Anxious About Anxiety

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By Bill Maher

As a comedian, I couldn’t help but notice the story about a university in England that decided to do away with clapping in favor of the silent “jazz hands” because clapping could cause some students to experience anxiety. This comes on the heels of a story in The Atlantic, which tells us many American high school students say having to speak in front of the class can also cause anxiety, and they should be allowed to opt out of those assignment. (Even though over 90 percent of hiring managers say oral communication is one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace.)

Okay, this triggers me.

Talk to anyone who works in education and they’ll tell you this is the hallmark of the generation coming through school now: anxiety. The Atlantic cites a recent study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, which found that "Anxiety is increasing at a faster rate than depression as the leading mental-health issue affecting teenagers." And, as always, it's not the kids’ fault; it's the parents. 

When the Millennials came of age, you heard a lot about "helicopter parenting", where Mom and Dad were super involved in everything their kids did. Well, now the term is "bulldozer parents." Those are parents that don't hover so much as remove any obstacle in their child's way, so that they never learn how to overcome anything on their own. Like speaking in front of the class. Kids are never asked to get out of their comfort zones and attempt difficult things, and soon they can’t leave those comfort zones and attempt difficult things. That’s where the anxiety comes from. 

It’s counterintuitive, because you often hear how stressful kids have it these days, but the problem isn’t that kids have it too hard. It’s that a lot of kids have it too easy. So, I get it when the Trump supporters hear about well-to-do suburban kids and their anxiety problems and their traumas and their triggers and think, “These kids and their parents are so soft, and that’s not the America I want.” I get it. 

Is it still okay for a liberal to prize mental toughness? Hard work? Suck it up, no excuses? 

Watch Bill’s interview with Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure."