What’s the matter with kids today?

I’m crashing to get a story done, after which I have to nose-grindstone it on the next one, so some more shortness of shrift today. Fortunately, some of you will have already read this, the New Yorker piece on the tender nature of the aggrieved students at the nation’s liberal arts colleges. In fact, it’s about the students at one liberal arts college – Oberlin.

You might remember the Derringers toured Oberlin, and Kate applied, and was admitted, but opted to become a Wolverine instead. After reading this, all I can say is: Whew.

But I don’t want to come down too hard on these kids. It’s easy to forget how high emotions can run when you’re 19 or 20 years old; most of us channel it into relations with our love interests, but many don’t. It’s also easy to forget that, at its basic level, complaints about micro aggressions and political correctness is essentially one person telling another not to be an asshole. (Seriously, when someone tells you they’re “not politically correct,” what do you immediately assume? That the person is an asshole. And aren’t you almost always right? Thought so.)

Even with those caveats, though, I think these kids are nuts, one literally so. But if nothing else, it should make you feel good about your community-college, or some other less impressive school, graduate. Because those kids are going to wipe the floor with these kids, the Oberlin kids.

Beyond that, I don’t have much. Lively conversations in comments yesterday, for which I thank you all. Someday we’ll all get together for a big party, maybe in the next world. But it’ll be fun.

Back to the grind.

Posted at 12:18 am in Current events |

39 responses to “What’s the matter with kids today?”

  1. Jerry said on May 26, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Dexter asked about cider sales here in Britain. I have no idea how sales of cider, lager and bitter shape up against each other. I very much doubt that cider outsells lager. I understand more people drink cider than lager but imagine people drink more lager than cider. High strength lager is particularly popular with young people looking to get out of their heads for as little cost as possible. Speaking as a bitter drinker I find it reprehensible. Except, except that when I was at university in Exeter fifty years ago I would on occasion drink draught cider in preference to bitter – it was a few pence cheaper a pint and certainly more potent.

    Terrible how as we get older I become more censorious of the young, or is that just me?

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  2. Linda said on May 26, 2016 at 6:17 am

    No, Jerry, it ‘s not you. Everybody thinks the young’ns are too soft, or too coddled, or too uppity, or 20 years ago, too apathetic.

    On micro aggressions: everybody has them. People uptight about being asked a language when they use the ATM, when people wish them a happy holiday rather than a Merry Christmas, etc.

    There is even a sort of reverse touchiness going on that you see in Facebook: being offended at the supposed offensiveness of various things. For instance, there is a persistent urban legend that Facebook does not like military insignia, and so the posting will ask you to support them. Of people who are supposedly offended by the American flag (does anybody know who really is?) and so you are supposed to like their posting with a big flag on it. Really.

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  3. David C. said on May 26, 2016 at 6:18 am

    I think it’s like uptalk, vocal fry, and all the other shit kids do now that we’re supposed to get all exercised about when columnists write about it. Maybe I don’t get out enough, but I just don’t notice it. Like the past is a foreign country, so is the present to we elders. Somehow or another, in the end, things work out. We have bigger fish to fry than what’s wrong with kids.

    I found this interesting. We’re told technology in the classroom is helpful, but if I had a box filled with things more interesting than economics, which is probably a box filled with air but anyway, I think I would have paid less attention to the class.


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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 26, 2016 at 6:26 am

    My son has an acquaintance from marching band who went two years ago to Oberlin; a few days before the New Yorker story ran, she posted this —

    “public reminder that you are worth more than your finals. you are worth more than how “productive” you are this week. you are worth more than your GPA. you are not worth less if you need to take an emergency incomplete. you are not worth less if you fail one of your classes. you are not worth less if you fail all of your classes. you are not worth less if you don’t come back to school for whatever reason.
    you are worth so much more than your contributions to this bullshit system”

    I read it and thought “I don’t, in principle, disagree with any of those statements one-by-one, but taken together, I really wonder if you’ve got this college thing figured out.” It *is* a bullshit system, and you’re there to learn (among other things) how to work it, otherwise you’re preparing for working outside of it. Revolutionary is one stance, off-the-grid is another, but trust me, these folks are neither Enjolras nor Jeremiah Johnson. Maybe they’re going to create a third way, but unless it involves someone paying bills, it’s likely to end in bigger sorrows than a D- in Biology lab.

    My son finished his Eagle Scout rank yesterday, turns 18 today, and graduates Sunday, so we’ll see how this all looks from the college parent viewpoint in a few months.

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  5. adrianne said on May 26, 2016 at 6:46 am

    Jeff, congratulations on your son’s achievements! Sounds like a chip off the old block.

    I also read the Oberlin story in the New Yorker and came away more sympathetic to the kids’ concerns than I thought I would be. There are legitimate grievances on their part. What I object to is kids thinking all these problems should be solved, like, right now. Never has been, never will be. But we can work on it!

    On the subject of microaggressions – for some reason, my workday was filled with them yesterday, culminating in my boss questioning a $25 expenditure on lunch with one of my reporters to talk about her interest in senior reporting positions and what she’d have to do to get the promotion. Twenty.Five.Dollars. At a diner. For a clearly work-related lunch. I suppressed my first instinct – to reply, “Are you fucking kidding me?” – and instead offered to eat the cost. No response to this, so I guess she OK’d it.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 26, 2016 at 7:10 am

    You’re gonna spend over $15 to buy some lunches for two at Wendy’s, for pity’s sake.

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  7. Deborah said on May 26, 2016 at 8:29 am

    We’re at Midway, I had heard horror stories about the TSA lines so we got here early. We both had TSA pre but even without that it wouldn’t have been bad. But there sure are a lot of people flying today. Is this a holiday weekend? Memorial Day? Since I’m retired I don’t pay much attention to that anymore.

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  8. Charlotte said on May 26, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Oh Oberlin. It’s always been precious. I do agree with Adrienne upthread — it’s good these kids want to address some of this stuff, but I get irked by the undercutting of achievement. We forget that being young means living in a state of low-level terror, and that’s how you get things done — get through college, get through those first few shitty jobs, figure out how to get the next not-so-shitty job. Terror can be useful.

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  9. Dorothy said on May 26, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I don’t have time at the moment to read the Oberlin piece but I definitely will at some point. Just wanted to mention that my boss went back there last weekend to celebrate her 50th reunion. I think she said they had 136 alumni come to the reunion. The current president of my former employer, Kenyon College, came there from Oberlin.

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  10. Andrea said on May 26, 2016 at 9:46 am

    I think the thing with micro aggressions is that everyone assumes malicious intent, rather than benign intent. I heard a grad student from the University of Chicago complain about micro aggressions when another student placed her backpack too close. The first student imputed the motive to racism. Is it possible that it was simply rudeness or carelessness?

    I had an employee who carried this to an extreme. She accused her supervisor of all sorts of malicious acts, including one that had me rolling my eyes so hard. She was tasked with ordering lunches for a meeting with our funder. The funder requested a caprese salad. The caterer did not have one. The supervisor suggested ordering a caesar salad instead. At the lunch, the funder did not eat her lunch. Turns out she was a vegetarian, and the caesar salad was a chicken caesar salad. Instead of chalking it up to a mutual lack of communication on both sides, the employee accused her supervisor of deliberately setting her up to look bad to our funder. Truly. In what world are we better served if our funder goes hungry on purpose?

    Everyone is making assumptions about the other, and often assuming the worst about the other. That in turn, creates defensiveness and a mutual sense of being ill-used. This is no way to function in society.

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  11. nancy said on May 26, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Right. Sometimes I think the most useful, all-purpose advice we can apply to ourselves is this: It’s not about you. It’s hardly ever about you. If it were about you, you’d know it. If you only think it might be about you, it’s not.

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  12. Jeff Borden said on May 26, 2016 at 10:10 am

    I’m still pretty optimistic about this generation of college students. At both Loyola University Chicago and Oakton Community College –which draw very different student populations– the students have been good natured and accepting of each other and the materials I teach. At Loyola, for example, the final speech is a 10-minute presentation on a significant issue, local, regional, national or global. Two young women delivered their speech on the evils of abortion. They were followed by a gay male student discussing the challenges of transgenders. At Oakton, where students tend to be more socially conservative but also more racially and ethnically diverse than Loyola, we heard speeches that were so strongly pro-gun they might’ve been written by Wayne LaPierre and speeches that were powerfully anti-gun. No complaints or grievances in either case.

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  13. Judybusy said on May 26, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I just finished a really thought-provoking book related to today’s topic. It’s called Galileo’s Middle Finger. I don’t have time to type out a description, but it’s all about the need that, when pursuing social justice, it’s critical our path relies on evidence, not feelings, not outrage, not self-righteousness. Here is the NYT review. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/books/review/galileos-middle-finger-by-alice-dreger.html?_r=0

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  14. adrianne said on May 26, 2016 at 10:31 am

    The kids are all right!

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  15. Peter said on May 26, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Oh, this hits a raw nerve with me. I’ve had a few employees over the years who were like the person Andrea talked about. Of course, it doesn’t help that I can be flippant when the occasion arises.

    For instance, we had a HUGE deadline that had to be met. I needed a lot of drawings and details to be worked out by 5:00 p.m., and my lovely coworker asked “Well, what if I can’t get it done?” I replied “Then I’ll get someone else to get it done” “Then what would I do?” “Look for a new job!”

    Jeff TMMO, congratulations on your son earning Eagle. I was so proud the day my son made his.

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  16. Jakash said on May 26, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Charlotte says “being young means living in a state of low-level terror.” At what age was one supposed to transition out of this condition, I wonder. ‘Cause I was ignoring micro-aggressions in college during the Carter administration, and I ain’t there yet! ; )

    “It’s not about you. It’s hardly ever about you.” True, and important to keep in mind, Nancy. My wife is always telling me that as I yell at the mailman to get off my lawn! ; )

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  17. Heather said on May 26, 2016 at 10:57 am

    The situation in that Oberlin article was very similar to what happened in the online group situation I alluded to a couple days ago. I think pointing out white privilege and thinking about the ways in which our society is oriented to that can be beneficial, and no doubt our society will change to become more truly inclusive (I hope). But when you start making ad hominem attacks on people who want to have a discourse to help them explore the issue, and basically say “either you’re with us or you’re a terrible person,” um, no. Also, the one student was angry because she was spoken sharply to by a professor? Good luck in the world.

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  18. Andrea said on May 26, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Jeff, congratulations to your son! Apple, tree and all that.

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  19. brian stouder said on May 26, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Judybusy – it sounds like I’m in a book similar to the one you describe, called the Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand.

    It’s a shaggy dog of a book, with lots of interesting anecdotes and sketches; sort of a history of 19th and 20th century thought – at the (nominally) highest levels (think Harvard, mainly)

    As I roll through mid-life (hopefully it ain’t 4th quarter!) the question I’ve been pondering is whether “progress” is real, or only spotty, and ephemeral

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  20. basset said on May 26, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    JeffTMMO, congrats… what was his project? Basset Jr is an Eagle, never got past Second Class myself.

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  21. Sherri said on May 26, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    If you react to every single micro-aggression as if it’s a personal attack on you, then you will be pissed off and exhausted all the time. That said, I can understand when one seemingly innocuous micro-aggression which isn’t about you is the one that just pushes you over the edge. If you’re young and emotional and don’t have any tools in effective means of handling such situations, then you blow up and all those pent-up real and perceived micro-aggressions can seems like real aggression.

    The kids at Oberlin haven’t learned that when you’ve got victory sitting right in front of you, take it. The president is willing to talk to them; making non-negotiable demands just sets you up for failure.

    In other university news, Ken Starr didn’t get fired at Baylor, he was removed as president but remains chancellor, and the football coach got fired after all.

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  22. adrianne said on May 26, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Sanctimonious prick catches another break. Oh, well.

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  23. Bitter Scribe said on May 26, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Starr has been failing upwards for a long time.

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  24. MichaelG said on May 26, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Yeah, but he still has to live in Waco, Texas.

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  25. LAMary said on May 26, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    There is that, MichaelG. When he first left the government he worked at Pepperdine in Malibu. Definitely nicer than Waco.

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  26. Snarkworth said on May 26, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Well, now. Not all Oberlin students. My son went there, and he’s not whiny or overly tender. Of course, he graduated a while ago, so maybe the students have tenderized since then.

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  27. Colleen said on May 26, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    I agree with the “not all about you” idea. As a friend of mine put it…don’t worry so much about what other people thing about you, because they hardly ever do.

    Micro aggressions? Really? Isn’t life tough enough without actively LOOKING for things to get pissed off about?

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  28. alex said on May 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    The whiny Oberlin students didn’t strike me as a whole lot different than the student activists who were in college in my day. Being gay, I got somewhat involved in it alongside feminists and other aggrieved minorities but my enthusiasm waned as I soon found that everyone felt their own moral superiority and claim to victimhood trumped everyone else’s. After being told to shut up and quit invoking my white male privilege for simply attempting to speak–and this happened more than a few times–I decided that my grievances against these assholes were even greater than those that had brought us all together in the first place. Had safe spaces and trigger warnings been invented back then these people would have been even more insufferable.

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  29. Sherri said on May 26, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Here’s an interesting post by Al Giordano that distinguishes between activism and organizing: http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield/end-activism-and-renaissance-organizing

    Most of these kids are still at the activism phase. Some of them will figure out the limits of pure activism, and become organizers.

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  30. Joe K said on May 26, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    You get a little rain this afternoon? I was heading home from Jackson Mississippi, and had to divert east over Hopkins, found one hole and got thru, Bna was closed for a bit right after that.
    My two Millinium kids are doing alright, # 1 kid just finished her Master of Library science and is assistant director in Auburn,#2 all ready had her MLS, she gave a presentation in Lousville today at a conference, and is on
    Staff at Ohio Northern
    Proud Pilot Joe

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  31. alex said on May 26, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    And there was a memorable conference I attended one weekend in Oberlin, spring of 1980. The SDSers were there and they had a woman, probably in her 40s, who made a big splash, literally, by going into the men’s rooms, dropping her pants, backing up to the urinals and letting loose. Nobody was policing the toilets or seemed to give a shit. I could’ve gotten laid by a couple of bi-curious SDS guys, but instead went home with a handsome dude who didn’t inform me that he was the trophy of a sexagenarian prof and that I’d be expected to put out to both. Until I got there. I refused, needless to say. Gay liberation is about liberation from that tired, hideous scene too.

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  32. BethB from Indiana said on May 26, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Joe K, congrats on your two MLS kids. Where did they go to school? Is there another librarian in the family whose career path they followed?

    I’m a retired MLS myself.

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  33. Joe K said on May 26, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Both I.U. Grads, #1 majored in journalism and got a job editing the Auburn paper then found her library groove, got her MLS from Ball State online, #2 had her MLS at 22, went straight thru summer classes and such,graduated and moved to Colby Sawer college in New Hampshire to work for a couple years, then moved on to a bigger Midwest school.
    Both really love their careers.
    Pilot Joe

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  34. Joe K said on May 26, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    No one they followed but have a couple of relatives that are librarians, and both GGrandmothers were deeply involved as library volunteers, my wife is on the friends of the library in Auburn and I mow the library as a volunteer.
    Pilot Joe

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  35. Dorothy said on May 26, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    All this talk about “it’s all about me” just makes me think of a funny thing that happened at Oakland Nursery in Columbus about 5 years ago. My purchases were moving along the conveyor belt and the customer behind me had her things on there, and I think a separator of some kind was between our things. I turned away for a moment and then when I turned back, the cashier was doing something or other and the lady behind me was moving a few plants forward on the belt. I started to say something like “Oh those aren’t mine!” and the cashier very sweetly said “Oh honey, I know you want this to be about you but it’s not. I know they’re her plants!” I thought I’d die laughing, she said it in such a funny way.

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  36. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 26, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Basset — he built top-bar beehives for the school sustainable garden project, two of ’em, learned basic beekeeping, put the colony in the hive (wearing a bee suit!), and did educational programs about why honeybees are good and helpful and important, at the school and our church. His panels and powerpoint on “Bee, a Friend!” will be given to the environmental studies program at the HS and the village library for ongoing use.

    I am ridiculously proud of him. His dad knows no carpentry skills, so he had to work with men he recruited to do something he’d never done before, ditto with bees and the local bee-fanatic, and handled 5,000 bees in a box with aplomb and grace. Not to mention his public presentations . . . he’s learning how to speak in public and work an audience, which is delightful to watch from the back of the room.

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  37. basset said on May 26, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Most impressive, and with all the elements an Eagle project is supposed to have. Basset Jr did water quality monitoring and invertebrate counts in our local streams.

    Joe, we got a little rain but I missed most of it – planning commission meeting in a windowless basement is currently in its sixth hour with several agenda items still to go.

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  38. Dorothy said on May 27, 2016 at 9:14 am

    That is SO GREAT, Jeff, that he did beekeeping for his Eagle Scout rank! As the wife of a beekeeper I know the work involved. And now perhaps he’ll keep up with it, maybe not while he’s in college but after that, when he’s a homeowner. If we bump into each other at the Ohio State Fair again maybe Mike and your young man can discuss bees! We harvested some Spring honey recently – only got 16 or so lbs. But it’s sure yummy.

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  39. J Sinclair said on May 30, 2016 at 8:41 am

    It is just the evolution of language, as painful and grating as that is. When the old phrases have worn thin, when the analogies and imagery no longer resonate nor match the times, then the pressure begins for questioning the language, formulating new, and squeezing out the old. Language creates structure. New language destroys old structure to make way for the new. Painful perhaps but inevitable.

    It has been going on since the dawn of vocabulary. Human’s use of language expands and equally constricts our realities. The psyche has an imperative to name what it sees and feels. An evolving psyche requires an evolving language to create an evolving worldscape. The young and the poets are open to these process – painful yet glorious.

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