12 October 2007


The letters after Friedman's article are funny, they are full of college students earnestly proclaiming that they would rather do something than "be outraged."

On one hand, there is obviously no point to being outraged, because we are being ruled by a classic bully, and everybody knows that you ignore a bully. And I would love to belive that these kids are quietly going about their changemaking business, all suit and tie instead of flowing hippie hair.

Their argument makes sense, because progressive social projects are inherently conservative--it's all about restoring and protecting The New Deal, the air we breathe, the ozone layer, the delicate fall leaves. It's what I do with my nasty old house. I work to make it incrementally less nasty, and I don't do that by razing it and starting over. Instead I slavishly attend to how old and new go together, so that it's still the same house when I am done...

...except that now the floors will once again take the weight of furniture and people.

This kind of restoration or conservation is simply not radical activity. It's boring, thinky labor. It is totally unromantic. Outrage has no place in restoration. It only distracts, creates bad decisions. To express outrage about the rotten wood is to wind up leaving it in place, or taking away too much too soon.

But is this what kids today are actually doing? Is this a nation of little worker ants, calmly, silently and dilligently marching along, protecting and preserving all that humanity from below, even as we lose it at the top? Is Generation Q so quiet because they are simply good taoists?

Or are Americans such great mythmakers with such an intact sense of self esteem that we simply cannot make ourselves look bad?

I don't know. But I have taught college recently. And I have called out enough plagarized papers and sat through The Grade Challenge Discussion enough times to have an opinion.


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