The title of this post is taken from a Peter Tosh song, in case you were wondering. Thomas H. Benton has written a two-part piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education (part 1 – part 2) about the — you probably guessed it — decline and fall of intellectualism in the younger generation. Spare me your yawns, as I am having trouble keeping my own away. He seems to have a fondness for bulleted points that summarize his position nicely and make it easy for commentators like me to poke fun at him. His observations on the younger generation of which I count myself a part characterize them as (and I quote):
Primarily focused on their own emotions — on the primacy of their “feelings” — rather than on analysis supported by evidence.
- Uncertain what constitutes reliable evidence, thus tending to use the most easily found sources uncritically.
- Convinced that no opinion is worth more than another: All views are equal.
- Uncertain about academic honesty and what constitutes plagiarism. (I recently had a student defend herself by claiming that her paper was more than 50 percent original, so she should receive that much credit, at least.)
- Unable to follow or make a sustained argument.
- Uncertain about spelling and punctuation (and skeptical that such skills matter).
- Hostile to anything that is not directly relevant to their career goals, which are vaguely understood.
- Increasingly interested in the social and athletic above the academic, while “needing” to receive very high grades.
- Not really embarrassed at their lack of knowledge and skills.
- Certain that any academic failure is the fault of the professor rather than the student.
Well, lets see here. Before I venture to even discuss this guy’s argument (if I even do), lets get a little checklist going here. Argument that the younger generation isn’t carrying the helm of progress forward? Check. Argument that the younger generation has been perverted by its new technologies and habits? Check. Argument that there is not enough respect for the academics who are tasked with teaching these children the lofty idealism of American academia? Check.
So, what in intention started out as an indictment of the internet and American parenting has actually ended up a silly little polemic against American anti-intellectualism. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not someone who believes that those ‘liberul professors outta be tied up and shot’. Far from it. But when an English professor gets after me and my chums for not having enough respect? Please. This guy is trying to give me a hard time because I apparently do not have enough respect for all of these enlightenment ideals he holds dear. His chief concern, I suppose, is that my generation will not have the desire or capability to produce enough GDP to give him a tidy stipend in his twilight years from the social security fund.
Pardon me for speaking for my generation, but if this baby boomer wants to give us shit for our perceived stupidity, he should know that we’re all actually quite resentful of what they have given us: A world whose environment is almost certainly headed towards catastrophe, a Middle East fundamentally opposed to the idea of the United States, not to mention the ideas we are supposed to stand for.
Forgive me for being unimpressed by the best efforts of this shoddy English professor. And they can’t seem to stop wondering where America’s perpetually healthy anti-intellectualism comes from!
I am being a little unfair to the guy. He did finish off his little paper with an argument about how things are not really all that bad and that this is mostly just the older generation’s fear of the younger generation’s new methods. I’m only unforgiving because this guy is just spewing out the same-old points and counter-points instead of confronting the thing that this article really does point out: his own uselessness.