Re: SIXTIES-L digest 692
Wed, 24 Jul 1996 21:00:19 -0400

I'm not sure I read carefully all the recent posts about "today's youth"
and their supposed "cynicism" and "immorality", but I have certainly given
a lot of thought--and some study--to this cohort and their political
consciousness/cosmology. Maybe I'm a cockeyed optimist, but I prefer
to see incidents like those described in earlier posts as cases of
"pragmatism" rather than cynicism. Whereas cynicism arises--as Ted
pointed out, often with good reason--from a loss of hope or from
a negative view of human nature, pragmatism arises from the
realization that one's point of view is always bounded by experience
and therefore only a partial apprehension of "truth" and/or "reality".
Today's youth may have good reason to have given up hope and have
negative views of human nature, but they also have very good reasons
to understand that there are many ways to see and approach the
world. In the end, I think it is pragmatism, rather than cynicism,
which accounts for such things as today's youth's "bad taste in
movies" (i.e. "bad taste" is obviously a subjective judgement rooted
in some kind of high/low approach to culture, which is at odds with
pragmatism's relativism), or their reluctance to be motivated
by professors/teachers who insist on lecturing at them all term (i.e.
as pragmatists, they know that the instructor's is only a partial
view of the subject matter, however well-read s/he might be, and
so they are anxious to hear the perspectives of other speakers, like
their fellow students, guest speakers, themselves, etc.).

Pragmatically speaking, I think it is more "useful" to see contemporary
young people as pragmatists rather than cynics. It makes being
a teacher easier--if somewhat more challenging--and more interesting,
and makes being a parent, I would think, more bearable and exciting.
Anyway, I've lots more to say about this, but I just wanted to
throw that thought into this discussion.

Marc Flacks