Over the past four or five years, I’ve noticed that the college-aged students I teach are, in fact, becoming much more progressive overall. This is in keeping with nationwide trends that young Americans are moving to the left on many political and social issues. From my experience, the average college student today is extremely concerned about environmental issues, opposes any kind of discrimination on the basis of factors beyond a person’s control (race, gender, sexual orientation), thinks that people should have the right to live any way they want provided they don’t interfere with the rights of other people to do the same, generally supports the idea of universal health care, has a tolerant attitude towards immigration, believes that the rich control too much power in this country, and thinks government has an important role to play in promoting the welfare of its citizens.
This trend seems to suggest that conservatives will have a difficult time appealing to this generation, because their values are so at odds with those of most young Americans. Indeed, Barak Obama won the under 30 year old voting block by ridiculously high margins in 2008 and will probably do the same this time around as well. In short, the future bodes extremely well for the liberal-progressive agenda.
In the end, the conservative-leaning students in my Rhetoric class represent an anomaly among educated young people in the United Sates. Their views have probably been skewed living in a reactionary place like Nassau County, coming from conservative-leaning families, and having majors that promote a conservative world-view like Business, Law, and Criminal Justice. I have no doubt, however, that many of these students will probably see their views becoming more like the mainstream of their age-group once they leave home and get a first-hand perspective on just how unjust the world actually is.
So, I’m fairly optimistic about the ultimate triumph of the kind of progressive agenda that I’ve always supported. In another decade, the Eisenhower generation will be gone, and what will be left will be the Baby Boomers who grew up in the 60s and younger generations whose minds have been shaped by the best that the 1960s had to offer: a world-view that is tolerant, open to diverse ideas, committed to social justice, and dedicated to correcting the harm that has been done to our global ecosystems.
And what an amazing world that will be!