Apathy is the new buzzword used to describe our generation.
Those using this term claim that as a generation of college students, we are selfish, greedy and self-centered. They say we live in a time that is individualistic, materialistic and egotistic. They point to the low voter turnout among college students as case and point. To them, most college students are so uninformed or uninterested in politics, current events and the general state of the world around us that they won’t even participate in the democratic process.
It seems students are more concerned with themselves and their own problems than those of society. They are disappointed by the fact that students aren’t protesting and demonstrating. These critics of our generation recall that in the ’60s, student demonstrations were common events on college campuses. They wonder why students aren’t protesting the war in Iraq or at the very least showing some kind of opinion.
I’ll admit, our generation isn’t as involved in the political process as previous generations, and that there is room for improvement. I agree that more college students need to vote and become politically aware. Despite our low voter turnout, I don’t think it’s accurate to label our generation as self-centered or individualistic. Compared to the past, college students today live in a much different environment. We are busier than ever and have more distractions than any other generation. We live in the world of iPods, laptops and cell phones. We are constantly on the move, studying for classes, working jobs, going to parties, hanging out with friends and exploring personal pursuits. We are concerned about the future, but we are occupied with the present.
Instead of complaining about our generation, we should be celebrating our strengths and potential. We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity. We have more access to information through our internet connections than our parents did in their entire college education. The technology in our world is constantly changing. Our generation still cares about helping people and making the world a better place, but we don’t express that desire through political activism. Instead of being involved politically, today’s college student wants to help society through different methods.
One way is by being more committed to school so that we can help through our future job. This career minded approach should be applauded, not criticized. Our generation also volunteers more than ever. According to the Youth Services California Web site for California’s state universities “-over 135,000 students at 23 campuses performed a total of 33.6 million hours of community service annually.”
Our world still has important challenges, but it seems that college students like other Americans recognize importance of meeting these challenges. We still have war, but in this war people agree in the merits of fighting terrorism as aggressively as possible and developing some sort of peace and stability in the Middle East. Although we disagree about the specifics of how to do this, we agree on what needs to be done.
Our current situation isn’t desperate, and the claims that Iraq is the “next Vietnam” simply aren’t true. There isn’t any draft and there aren’t mass casualties. Likewise, college students aren’t protesting (this makes sense). Although there are many important issues facing America, most students don’t see how these issues affect them personally. This lack of care by college students is indicative of a culture that has few major or obvious problems to become concerned about.
Our generation lives in one of the best and brightest times in American history. Although many are critical of our generation, I think it’s too early to judge. Personally, I think that after our generation leaves college and enters the workforce, we will be a generation that advanced science, medicine and technology farther than any other before us.
Brian Eller is a materials engineering sophomore and a Mustang Daily columnist.