BLOGGERA transplanted New Yorker living in California, Spencer Nelson is a sophomore double majoring in History and Philosophy at Stanford University. Though he attended a high school with no newspaper,...
Where do young people come down on questions of faith, values, and public life? How do they relate their values to public policy issues including education, economic inequality, and the environment? These questions, critically important for the 2012 election, are at the center of a campus conversation being organized by the Berkley Center and Georgetown University. This blog features an ongoing conversation about these issues between students selected as Millennial Values Fellows through a national competition. You can read and comment on their blogs here.
To learn more about the project, visit the Campus Conversation on Values page.
November 15, 2012
November 12, 2012
November 7, 2012
November 7, 2012
November 6, 2012
November 5, 2012
November 3, 2012
November 2, 2012
October 31, 2012
October 29, 2012
October 25, 2012
October 23, 2012
October 4, 2012
October 4, 2012
October 3, 2012
October 2, 2012
October 1, 2012
AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES: MILLENNIAL
Spencer Nelson (Stanford) on Millennials, Values, and America's Future
April 12, 2012
The relentless chorus of tech-positivists reminds us that Facebook spreads information, facilitates revolutions and that Twitter brings us in contact with other’s opinions. The truth is, however, that these outlets have only played host to outpourings of a frustration whose chief characteristic was its brevity and lack of substance. For example, the Millennials stormed on social networks to shout their Kony-related moral upset but within a week the phenomenon died. Even then, the outrage was itself an outrageous choice: Kony has been doing the same things for decades, and is now largely inactive – while Syria’s government has massacred nigh on ten thousand people in the last few months. Misdirection comes with a lack of substance. Protest against Bush manifested itself only in rude caricatures of his accent and accident-prone vice-president. Activism about the Sudan was brief and ineffectual. All of it reeks of lazy groupthink and the most minimal commitment to addressing real world problems.
Changing the world’s trajectory requires real, prolonged effort. The Millennial Generation has advertised itself as one of global citizens, but it can scarcely be said to truly serve the human cause. When bad things happen, its heart is generally in the right place but its hands, too flighty for the work, haven’t the diligence to address their moral unease. The absence of substantive debate in choosing where moral feeling is necessary and important is further cause for discomfort. Our inchoate moral and political understandings need to develop, if the Millennial Generation is to be remembered for more than its lip service to good causes.
Daniel Chen (UC Berkeley) comments on Spencer Nelson April 12, 2012
As a Cal Bear, it hurts me to agree with you, but I think your thoughts are incredibly valid. Concerning many of our generation’s past achievements, I believe the list is quite limited compared to our true potential. Substantive debate requires a commitment to gathering information, checking sources, and truly caring about the issue. Has knowledge become too cheap? Whereas before, for example, our parents, if they truly cared about something, they had to put in the time and effort to learn and mold their positions. Now that we have so much information a literal click away, does this mean that we are much more sloppy and careless? Is it possible to not only go for informational breadth but depth as well?
Jelani Harvey (Columbia) comments on Spencer Nelson April 13, 2012
What I like about your post Spencer, is that it brings fresh perspective to an overlooked aspect of our generation. We do, in fact, need a mission, but don’t we have ideas of what they are already? You mention the film Kony in your post and about the hypocrisy of outrage when “Kony has been doing the same thing for decades.” The sad truth, though, is that many people our generation voice their concerns to, do not belong to our generation but to ones before ours who got their values from circumstances taking shape when they were growing up. I do support your point though, when you say that “our inchoate moral and political understandings need to develop.” We need to decide for ourselves which issues we intend to engage fully with, instead of outraging for a week and moving on with our lives. If we show sustained resilience to the most serious issues of today, such as the Syrian massacres, then people would take us more seriously and would act on terms that do not just preserve an “American” or “European,” interest, but rather, an interest for the betterment of humanity. This does sound lofty and harbors many Enlightenment ideals as Daniel and Abigail commented on prior, but striving for a mission never hurts. The worst that can happen is that we don’t succeed. But we will never know unless we try.
Emily Atkinson (Smith) comments on Spencer Nelson April 14, 2012
A few weeks ago, I'd have agreed, but then something happened here. A student received two anonymous, racist, homophobic notes. The college e-mailed the student body twice. But students got mad, students demanded an institutional response, students had a march, students wrote letters, and students got EVERY dorm to have a meeting. Students made the institution respond. We absolutely need to work on this with global issues, which can feel so remote, by expanding our capacity for real action outside of our physical community and into the global one.
Our adolescence in the US is very long. We’re adults, but we've a resistance to being grown-ups. Like the Internet, I think this can help us or hurt us in terms of activism. How shocked is a child by injustice, how sure that she can make a better world? Combine that confidence with the education and power of an adult, the ease of our access to information with a commitment to using it, and we're capable of finding and standing our moral ground.