It’s Time to Make Our Young People Tough

3 ¾ min

In mid-November, students at Eastern Illinois University took two days off from their rigid academic schedules for R&R.         

University administrators and faculty members provided their young adults with a festival of ice cream, cocoa and cookies, coloring books, yoga, affirmation cards, and yes, trikes and LEGOS. All this, writes Alex Parker at RedState, because it was feared that students were fading in the face of their arduous assignments and COVID-19.         

Parker contrasts this event with another one that took place almost 80 years ago on the beaches of Normandy, when young men who were roughly the same age as these students charged from their landing crafts into the face of deadly enemy fire, many of them dying from bullets or drowning. Yet they persevered and won the beach and the war.         

This contrast should raise a huge question: How does the coddling of these university students with trikes and hot cocoa prepare them for the real world—a world which is promising to be much tougher than that which their parents faced?         

Soon, very soon, they will graduate and compete for jobs, deal with office deadlines, and be forced to exert themselves in a world that would laugh at the use of trike rides and crayons to relieve stress.         

Twenty-one years ago, I picked up my daughter and three other first-year students and drove them home from their college in Virginia for Christmas break. They had just finished final exams for the semester and looked like the walking dead: pale, groggy, burdened with suitcases and backpacks, close to collapse. On the six-hour drive south, they spent part of the time discussing an exam question asking whether a dog has a soul—who could forget such a conversation? For most of the ride, however, they slept, exhausted by their ordeal.         

And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Young adults need to be pushed to their limits and to handle stress, not be treated like children coming off a bad day in fourth grade.         

Instead of creating a carnival of “Big Pink Volleyball” and “Spa-On-The-Go Kits,” I would suggest that university officials bolster these wilting souls by having them read Jocko Willink’s Way of the Warrior Kid book series.         

A renowned podcaster, author, speaker, and ex-SEAL, Willink has written three books aimed at late elementary to middle school kids, which means college students should have little difficulty reading them. In each of these novels, we meet Marc, a boy struggling with the usual adolescent problems—schoolwork, bullying, responsibility—and his Uncle Jake, a former SEAL who pushes Marc to excel mentally, physically, and morally. He introduces his nephew to judo classes, takes him on morning runs, and has him doing pullups until he’s exhausted, all the while offering him advice on living with honor and following the right path.

Marc takes Uncle Jake’s advice to heart and shapes it into a Warrior Kid code, which includes such precepts as these:         

The Warrior Kid trains hard, exercises, and eats right to be strong and fast and healthy.

The Warrior Kid treats people with respect, doesn’t judge them, and helps out other people whenever possible.

The Warrior Kid stays humble, controls his ego, and stays calm. Warrior Kids do not lose their tempers.       

In short, Jocko Willink’s Warrior Kid is not a wimp.         

Those who are truly “woke” right now understand that our country is entering hard times. Our economy is in turmoil, our public educational system is falling apart, our own government seems intent on reducing our liberties, and we are facing international conflicts with countries like Russia, Iraq, and China.

Those who are old, as I am, may escape some of the mess that lies ahead of us, but the young will need strong hearts and stiff spines to fight the battles awaiting them. When we fail to train them to face the challenges coming down the road, when we think we’re doing a 21-year-old a service by letting him remain an adolescent, we are making a grave mistake.         

Tough times may make tough people, as the old saying goes, but tough times can also devour weak people. If we want the best for our children, we’ll give them the tools required to survive and overcome the ordeals of the future.


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Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick lives in Front Royal, Virginia, and may be found online at He is the author of two novels, Amanda Bell and Dust on Their Wings, and two works of non-fiction, Learning as I Go and Movies Make the Man.

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Sending the pre-adults to both K-12 govt controlled institutions and to most universities will only result in emasculated males too dumbed-down to fight their way out of a wet paper bag. The military used to toughen up the men but it's gone woke now as well.....This is all by design to destroy this nation....don't have too much further to go.


How did we, as a society, become so fragile, and why do we continue to foster this fragility with nonsense like safe spaces? Everybody deserves to BE safe. In fact, that is the primary role of government -- protecting it's citizenry. FEELING safe, however is an entirely different matter. If you see someone lawfully and responsibly carrying a firearm in public, as an example, and that makes you FEEL unsafe, well, that's on you. I will likely be unable to assuage your irrational fear. Toughen up, buttercup.


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If we want to make young people "tough," whatever that means, reinstate the draft, or better yet, enact universal military conscription for all young men in the United States for a minimum of 2 years, no exemptions or deferrals except in cases of extreme disability or hardship, and no women. Eliminate federal government students loans also.


"Reinstate the draft"? "Universal military conscription"? Both are insane ideas. Why? Firstly, because both amount to forced servitude and secondly, because our 'rulers' would then have a ready and never-ending supply of young bodies to continue their destructive wars of empire. The "toughness" you refer to stems from a lack of self-reliance and personal responsibility. Little of either are taught or exampled these days. But we don't need forced military service to provide them.
I totally agree with what you've said, as well as, what's written in the comments.


Gilgamesh Jones
You’re so right. It’s so discouraging to see how lacking in resilience people are becoming. And it’s extra sad that, for some reason, vulgarity and slovenliness have come along with that. I guess we’re victims of our past success. Like that quote:“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” I once read a great book called “Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age,” By Frank Furedi, which posited that “In recent decades virtually every sphere of life has become subject to a new emotional culture.” I’ve noticed that many younger people seem like rich children I saw in the past who’d been over-therapized their whole lives to the point they were self-obsessed and emotionally weak. I hope we can turn this around. The first step is awareness, like the articles in non-“woke” publications like this one. Thank you so much for your work!