Sunday, December 9, 2007

Are Today's College Students Too Apathetic?

Thirteen members of Harvard University's class of 1967 are criticizing today's Harvard students as being apathetic and politically indifferent. They have sent a petition to the new university president Dr. Drew Faust complaining that the school is either not recruiting enough politically active students or is doing too little to promote "civic courage and political engagement". So what is the impetus behind the alumni's complaints? No big riots or mayhem such as violently taking over a university building such as occurred during their own student days.

Harvard's director of admissions, Marlyn McGrath, countered that today's students are active but use different methods than 1960's era protesters. "I don't think there's much of a lack of political engagement here," she said and noted that today's students prefer "civil discourse" to "throwing tomatoes."

Adds associate dean Judith Kidd, "students today often focus on causes they can see in front of them."

An example of this is 17-year-old Dan Nally of Westwood, MA. Back in 1996, then 9-year-old Dan heard a news report that the Greater Boston Food Bank was 5,000 turkeys short of its Thanksgiving dinner giveaway goal. Dan went door-to-door in his neighborhood collecting turkeys and that year ended up getting 36. Since then, Dan and his family have turned their efforts into a full-blown nonprofit organization called Turkeys 4 America. They have served over 3.5 million servings of turkey to needy individuals!

I don't know where Dan will attend college next year, but it would not surprise me if he wound up at Harvard or similar school. I met a significant number of individuals at my alma mater who, like Dan Nally, had impressive "do-gooder" credentials. They weren't out there in a mob burning flags or effigies of the president in an ostentatious display but rather they were quietly making this world a better place.

I wonder about these kvetching Harvard alums- would they be happy if Harvard recruited more members of Generation Joshua? Somehow I doubt it...

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