Kids Today Work Too Hard To Be Romantic

Stupid kids, trying to succeed:

About a decade ago, one began to notice a profusion of Organization
Kids at elite college campuses. These were bright students who had been
formed by the meritocratic system placed in front of them. They had
great grades, perfect teacher recommendations, broad extracurricular
interests, admirable self-confidence and winning personalities.

they had any flaw, it was that they often had a professional and
strategic attitude toward life. They were not intellectual risk-takers.
They regarded professors as bosses to be pleased rather than
authorities to be challenged. As one admissions director told me at the
time, they were prudential rather than poetic.

Yes. Because there’s nothing more awesome than a New York Times columnist telling you that success is passé and vaguely boring, and working for it even more so. I look forward to him quitting his job to spend time painting landscapes and backpacking through Europe writing sonnets. You know, to prove he has a soul.

Driftglass pretty thoroughly eviscerates this bullshit:

As both Sullivan and Brooks damn well know, while the New Capitalism
claims to celebrate the rebel and the risk-taker, it actually destroys
them, and anyone else who can’t come to the table armed with enough
wealth, position, “private knowledge and web of social networks” to keep their shirt past the first or second spin of the wheel.

would also add that the hilarity really peaked for me in the moments of
pure, sublime, comic absurdity when Andrew Sullivan bemoaned the “private knowledge and web of social networks
that made the Kagan nomination possible…from safely beneath the
sheltering, career-sustaining bower of his own “private knowledge and
web of social networks”…

… and David Brooks, the reigning
King of Calculatedly Hollow Beige Conservative Doublespeak, loudly
tsked-tsked the kind of critters that “a system that punishes creativity and rewards caginess” produces. )

But you know, it really does make me think how catastrophically fucked those college kids Brooks bemoans are. If they spent all their time protesting and drinking and studying philosophy, they’d be lazy privileged brats who expected the world to be handed to them, who compare poorly to hard-working children in Africa or something (maybe that’s Friedman, really … eh, six of one …). If they bust their balls and do everything right, and I mean everything, Brooks whines that they’re boring climbers and have no romance in their hearts.

Just once I would like to see a column in a major American newspaper basically stating that kids today are as bad or as good as they ever were, even with their Xboxes and their iPods, and enough with this generational generalizing because it’s generally horseshit.



5 thoughts on “Kids Today Work Too Hard To Be Romantic

  1. I recall talking to a much-older former friend (he graduated from undergrad in the mid-1970s, whereas I graduated in the late 1990s) about what the ethos was like at his school when he was there, and being utterly appalled. He and his friends had gone to university and come out with what essentially amounted to vocational training because when they weren’t smoking pot, they were running the student newspaper and or fucking around, and had basically been allowed to completely skate on their actual coursework by professors who had come to the (completely ethical) conclusion that flunking these guys out would have resulted in their being shipped to Vietnam, post-haste. Naturally, being upper-middle-class white-enough (they were both Jewish, but in downstate New York that doesn’t matter much) Boomer guys, they took that leeway for everything it was worth. (I never saw a guy who made a living at writing who was more illiterate than that particular ex-friend of mine.) I was absolutely aghast. In the 1990s, especially if you were female and trying to climb out of what amounted to a small town, if you coulddo school, well, by gods and goddesses, youdid school, because that wasentirely where your bread was buttered. You sure as shit didn’t fuck off during class time and then whine to your profs that you deserved to pass anyway just because.
    Four years ago, I was teaching community college business writing and couldn’t communicate the concept of “business ethics” to my students, because as far as they were concerned, the only “ethics” a business needs is to make money, and as long as something makes money, it’s automatically “ethical.” And they pretty much applied that philosophy to their own lives — anything they could do to be successful, they’d do, even if it was something like plagiarism. (I caught a number of them doing this and they genuinely didn’t get why this was wrong, despite repeated explanations, aside from that “plagiarism is against the rules.”)
    Both situations seem So yeah, I do think context does matter in this case, but I’d guess it’s less “generational” as “circumstantial.” I’m not a whole generation younger than my former students, but theydid grow up in a world where Reaganism hasalways existed and fundamentalist Christianity (aka Lying For Jesus) hasalways been obvious and politically powerful…and I didn’t.

  2. I might choose an option of they are as bad or good as they ever were, but with their badness and goodness revealed in different ways.

  3. i found my folder of old report cards. man, i knew didn’t pass trig, but F? i didn’t remember that. i got a C the 1st semester of chemistry?!? i am shocked i tried after seeing the 1st equation.
    i had no interest is being one of those honor roll students.

  4. …I’d guess it’s less “generational” as “circumstantial.”
    I suppose when an entire generation shares circumstances then it amounts to the same thing. I think of how we tend to relate to our grandparents better than we do to our parents.

  5. When I was going to school — late 70s, early 80s — people were already bemoaning the onset of “grim pre-professionalism”. And if the job market then had been anything like it was now, I would never have taken the courses I did, done the extracurricular things I did, or allocated energy to having the friends who have often enough made life worth living. The idea that you study the things that deeply interested you and still making a living was pretty much gone by the time I finished.
    And then when I became a reporter, I found time again that it was the fsckups, the people with highly-imperfect transcripts, the weirdos who had done all the interesting and groundbreaking things. But now the weirdos and the failures get culled early.
    And it’s the fault of Brooks and the people he idolizes that they do. In a society where inequality keeps growing, where the consequences of being in the lower half can range from “sucks” to “dead”, where everybody but the top 9 percent is losing ground every year, kids have to be idiots or have sluggish schizophrenia to do anything out of line.

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