William Blake said that some men could see the world in a grain of sand, and he meant, I believe, that some men could see the portent of things. It is indeed remarkable how little things can sometimes condense the meaning of an entire world. Here’s one such little thing that appeared in my mailbox yesterday. It doesn’t condense the meaning of the world, but it does speak volumes one part of that world for those who have ears to hear.
As a result of the positive shift in attitudes towards mental health, more and more students are seeking out on-campus counseling services. One way of easing the growing burden on counseling centers is to actively promote resilience in your students, to help them acquire the mental fortitude needed to succeed in all areas of collegiate life.
Affected informality is pervasive, and just what you would expect in a world where people have no real friends with which to contrast total strangers. The author of this message does not know me and did not even type my first name in this breezy, computer-generated salutation. (The flight to first names also sidesteps the troublesome question of honorifics, where the catch-all Ms. was no sooner invented, then the peril of “misgendering” was invented.)
Generation snowflake is not, they would have us believe, a passel of crybabies or neurotics, but the natural result of an end to the stigma of mental illness. This is what we call “positive spin,” and it can be applied to any disquieting social development. There is, for instance, no opioid crisis, only a decline in shame over drug addiction, and a corresponding decrease in the number of families who burry their overdosed relatives in the back yard.
The end of this stigma has placed a “burden” on the poor people who ended the stigma, and whose job its is to deal with all of these crushed flowers. So they kick it to the professors who already have their hands full teaching math, science and, dare I say it, geography. We are now asked to add “resilience” and “mental fortitude” to the curriculum, perhaps by setting students adrift in a small lifeboat for three weeks.
And professors who lack the mental fortitude to use the lifeboat strategy are invited by the senders of this message to fly to Washington, pay the sender a large fee, and
paint the town red attend a conference with speakers and a workshop.
It’s not the world in a grain of sand, but it is my world in fifty-eight words.