Fascinating piece in the Atlantic by David Brooks about the new culture of organisation and over-achievement at elite universities like Princeton and in the US as a while. He argues that rebellion and political awareness are declining, being replaced by obedience, hard work and resume-building:
Not only at Princeton but also in the rest of the country young people today are more likely to defer to and admire authority figures. Responding to a 1997 Gallup survey, 96 percent of teenagers said they got along with their parents, and 82 percent described their home life as “wonderful” or “good.” Roughly three out of four said they shared their parents’ general values. When asked by Roper Starch Worldwide in 1998 to rank the major problems facing America today, students aged twelve to nineteen most frequently named as their top five concerns selfishness, people who don’t respect law and the authorities, wrongdoing by politicians, lack of parental discipline, and courts that care too much about criminals’ rights. It is impossible to imagine teenagers a few decades ago calling for stricter parental discipline and more respect for authority. In 1974 a majority of teenagers reported that they could not “comfortably approach their parents with personal matters of concern.” Forty percent believed they would be “better off not living with their parents.”
Walk through any mall in America. Browse through the racks at Old Navy and Abercrombie & Fitch and the Gap. The colors are bright and chipper. The sales staff is peppy. The look is vaguely retro—upbeat 1962 pre-assassination innocence. The Gap’s television ads don’t show edgy individualists; they show perky conformists, a bunch of happy kids all wearing the same clothes and all swing-dancing the same moves.
Brooks makes some brilliant points about how the emphasis on merit is leading to a reduced emphasis on moral character. Definitely worth a read.
The Organization Kid [The Atlantic]