Okay. Obligatory disclaimers:
I am all in favor of reading for challenge as much as contentment and escapism. I wholeheartedly concur with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living. Turn off the tv, the computer, and go read a book, preferably one that gives you a new way of looking at or thinking about the world.
Yes, they sure did read some subversive material back in the sixties. And what good did it do? The hippies turned into the yuppies. David Brooks’s BoBos. The fucking New Agers, for fuck’s sake! I see a lot of smug back-patting about stopping a war that they didn’t really stop, but I don’t see a whole lot of lingering influence from those incendiary authors among today’s graying boomers. Didn’t we hear about how the world would be different once they started running things? Yeah, um, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the two boomer presidents. Stick that in your bong and smoke it.
Where are the Germaine Greers, the Jerry Rubins, the Hunter Thompsons, the Richard Brautigans — those challenging, annoying, offensive, sometimes silly, always polemic authors whom young people used to adore to their parents’ dismay?
He then — unwittingly, apparently — answers his own question.
A new survey of the attitudes of American college students published by the University of California at Los Angeles found that two-thirds of freshmen identify themselves as “middle of the road” or “conservative.”
The hell you say. Kids who grew up listening to their boring old parents, aunts and uncles droning on about Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury found that the best way to rebel was by becoming…conservative? Who’d’a thunk it? Has anyone thought to make a sitcom based on this idea yet?
I do agree with the professor quoted who sees this sort of pedestrian mentality in students as being reflective of growing up during the years of conservative backlash from 1980 onward. Really, why should they care about reading for its own sake? What good is that going to do them in the “real” world? Don’t we all know successful businesspeople who are just plain dumb? And don’t we know intelligent, well-read, creative people who scrape by on minimum-wage jobs because no employer gives a shit about that liberal arts degree? I mean, of course I wish it weren’t so, but this is the logical end result of a Puritan culture that only cares about practical, lucrative results. It’s not today’s students’ fault that they’ve internalized those lessons all too well.
Today’s toddlers and infants, though — those little tykes should be very entertaining in a couple decades.