Monday, November 26, 2007

Generation Zzz?

My column in today's Diamondback is a response to Naomi Wolf's Sunday Washington Post column "Hey, Young Americans, Here's a Text for You", in which she bemoans young people's lack of involvement in the "democratic process".

I take exception with her attempt to paint all "young people" with the same stroke, while also explaining what is causing some people to tune out. At the same time, I agree with her that Americans need to have a greater awareness of and appreciation for the values and principles our country stands for.

Sample grabs:
One popular explanation for our generation's disinclination toward politics is the supremacy of pop culture today. Another is that there is a lack of focus on government in schools. The first point is rubbish. Even in the time of Grover Cleveland, people paid more attention to the latest hit march from John Philip Sousa. The point about education does have some merit, and I wish there was more of a focus on democracy, the Constitution and American history during the K-12 years. Yet I severely doubt that your average schoolboy in the 1800s knew his Preamble from his 11th Amendment, and he didn't even have Wikipedia to look it up.


What has gone relatively unnoticed, and quite disturbingly so, is a loss of confidence in the good that the United States represents. This is especially true among people our age, for whom patriotism is a lost cause. Never mind the unique freedoms that we as Americans enjoy or the richness of our diverse multi-cultural society, college students are more likely to cynically (and often ill-informedly) bemoan globalization and U.S. military power. I'm all for criticizing your own country to make it better, but I wonder if the cynics realize they have it better here than they would anywhere else in the world. The principles our country is based on are worth being informed about and worth defending.

Read my entire column here: Generation Zzz?

1 comment:

Andrew said...

In your second self-quoted section, you're right in explaining that the general feeling that the United States is a force of good has been lost. But instead of bemoaning the rise of cynicism in young people, we might want to ask *why* people don't believe in the US Government anymore.

Another thing that may be a factor is the amount of academic pressure on high school and college students today. For all I know I could be way off and we have way more free time and less pressure on us than previous generations. But sometimes I get the feeling that people work so hard on their academics (and ECs) that when it comes to politics we don't feel like expending the mental energy to give the issues more than cursory consideration.

Personally, I have a few issues that drive me crazy and I follow at about the "reads the occasional few articles on CNN" level (like gay rights and IP policy) and a few more that I consider relevant but am only generally aware of (like the war). For some of these issues, neither party has come up with a response that satisfies me, but most of the others that I actually follow fall pretty clearly along party lines. The increasing levels of rhetoric and political maneuvering in everyday politics make it hard for me to stand following too religiously.