Can a Jesuit education decrease anxiety?

Kathleen and I have been discussing several troubling trends we see in our student population and at college campuses. I happened upon a very interesting podcast by Sam Harris featuring a new book: The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. The discussion was wide ranging touching on several very important topics that are especially relevant during the COVID19 pandemic: skyrocketing levels of teenage depression, anxiety, social media use, mental health issues, limiting free speech on campus and potential systemic causes of these problems.

The root causes are varied but the authors had several positive suggestions that can be addressed through K-12 education systems, higher education and parent education. I have been interested in creating a new website/book platform to discuss the benefits of a Jesuit college/university education. The idea is not about a Catholic education, but a Jesuit education centered around the six core values. Many of the solutions presented in the book and podcast were around the ideas presented both in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Jesuit core values. There is even an article that I read recently that states, "St. Ignatius can be considered the first practitioner of CBT." You can read that article here.

Jonathan Haidt also wrote a book called "The Happiness Hypothesis" The Happiness book along with the Coddling book present ancient wisdom (including Marcus Aurelius) as well as current scientific principles that all center around mindfulness, care of the whole person, striving for excellence in all pursuits, and becoming agents of change. I have been raised Catholic and have explored many religions including Buddhism, Judiasm and Vedas. "Life is difficult" is a statement I have lived by since reading M. Scott Peck's profoundly influential "The Road Less Traveled." But somehow as parents we want our children to avoid all difficult experiences and are creating a generation of anxiety-riddled, depression-filled young adults. The above books explain to both the parents and young adults how they need to seek out painful experience for personal growth and mental health. We are creating a new website centered around the benefit of a Jesuit education to develop a method of living and thinking that will benefit young adults in troubling (as well as normal) times. It is tentatively titled: The College Advantage: How teaching young adults Jesuit values will lead them to happy and healthy lives. That link is here.

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