It is easy for students to feel overwhelmed by the future burden of climate change, student loans, and the political direction of the country. But there is reason to hope for a better tomorrow.
According to some of Pacific University’s politics and government faculty, young people today are not the first generation to experience immense political, economic or societal unrest.
Two of Pacific’s politics professors, Dr. Jeff Seward and Dr. Jim Moore, reflected on their own experiences as young people, commented on trends in today’s generation, and speculated on those trends’ implications for the future.
Seward, who entered college in the late 60s, commented on the current generations’ awareness of social issues. When he was in college, Seward was shocked when he learned about social injustice, unfairness and poverty. Today’s students have a different reaction than he did though.
“If I tell a student, ‘Did you know that there’s all this racial discrimination and African Americans can’t get fair treatment in housing or employment?’ The reaction is ‘duh’,” Seward said.
The disillusionment felt in the ‘60s fueled an anger among young people that demanded revolution. “It just felt like that is where things were drifting and there was going to be a revolution in America,” Seward recalled. Conversely, many of the concerns Moore faced around the time of college were economic in nature.
Shortly after Moore left college, the nation was hit with a severe recession. Unemployment was up 12 to 14%, and it was difficult for many to find a job. “It was a stunning introduction to poverty and the disparities that an education can give you,” Moore said.
Both professors brought up climate change as the main issue of today’s young generation.
“When I was that age, people under 30 didn’t think they were going to live until their 40th birthday because of nuclear war,” Moore said. “That same kind of generational malaise is now there with your generation because of climate change.”
However, Seward believes when younger people move into positions of institutional responsibility, the world is going to see “a dramatic change in the approach to climate change.”