From the President




  Books & Film



  My Response

  Letters to the Editor

  Online Bulletin Board

  Contact Response

  Submit Footnote

  Submit Letter to Editor

  Address Change

  Back Issues

  Response Home

  SPU Home

Spring 2004 | Volume 26, Number 6 | Features

Perky Conformists Afraid to Talk About Values?

SPU Student Achievers Respond to Brooks’ Characterizations

“Today’s students do not inherit a concrete and articulated moral system. … Not having a vocabulary to discuss what is good and true, [students think they will succeed if they] can at least behave well.”

This characterization of today’s college students paints a frightening picture of my generation. It makes us appear to be slightly lacking in conscience, like robots chained to an empirically quantifiable standard of success. If we can’t be righteous, at least we can be accomplished.

As the student body president of my university, a member of the University Scholars program and an officer in multiple clubs on campus, I am a poster child for what Brooks calls The Organization Kid. However, I humbly request that his fellow baby boomers do not jump on Brooks’ bandwagon and assume that I am nothing but a “perky conformist.” I assure you, I am thoroughly independent.

Brooks mislabels and prejudges my motivation to succeed. It is not to climb a ladder of achievements because my understanding of life offers me no other means of finding fulfillment. My motivation to succeed is based on my understanding of what is “good and true” and of how I can contribute toward infusing the world with those ideals. I have attempted to embody the expressions of a moral system — serving others, seeking and illuminating truth, and loving others through my actions — through my collegiate endeavors. Though what motivates me thus far in life may not be able to compete with the hyper-idealism and cynicism of my parents’ generation, I feel that it is far more noble and far less deterministic than Brooks claims it is.


“When I asked … if they ever felt like workaholics, their faces lit up ... One [student] said, ‘Sometimes we feel like we’re just tools for processing information. That’s what we call ourselves — power tools.’”

David Brooks! Where were you when I needed you? I could have used your advice before I signed up for 22 credits, double-booked myself for the next six Wednesday nights or signed my soul over to higher education in exchange for a snazzy diploma and an SPU pen.

Seriously, your article regarding the lives of the current generation of college students spoke volumes to me, opening my eyes to the stressful environment we create for ourselves. It would have made the perfect manual for incoming students to point out our strengths, weaknesses and mortal obsession with being busy. It seems as if you know us better than we know ourselves (or better than we care to admit).

Some may argue that you paint today’s college student with broad generalizations and unfair labels. These people obviously went to community colleges. For the life of a university student is hardly a life at all — unless one associates day planners with feeling alive.

My generation has a serious scheduling compulsion. We fill our days and our notebooks to the brim with everything from “meeting with professor” and “psychology study group” to “wake up” and “breathe evenly.” Fortunately, you opened my eyes just in time. With my senior year approaching, I see that I must take easier classes, flee leadership positions and shirk responsibility. It’s the only way.

I’ve already put it in my planner.


“Although today’s Princeton and today’s parents impose all sorts of rules to reduce safety risks and encourage achievement, they do not go to great lengths to build character ...”

Brooks believes that “something is missing” on campuses around our nation where The Organization Kid studies and lives. I agree. Most college students do not define themselves by something higher and greater than their accomplishments. These accomplishments are part of an empty search for self.

However, some of us are taking on the “ultimate challenge.” We have been raised with a strong sense of character; we take pride in fighting the good fight against evil. Brooks states that we “live in a country that has lost, in its frenetic seeking after happiness and success, the language of sin and character-building through combat with sin.”

Just because the country as a whole ignores the combat with sin does not mean that all of our elite students do as well. In fact, the issue of character-building is written right into the mission of SPU: “We seek to graduate people of competence and character; we seek to become people of wisdom; we seek to model a grace-filled community.”

The purpose of our education here is not just our academic achievements, but also the growth of our character and integrity. In fact, in his lecture on campus, Brooks acknowledged that Seattle Pacific apparently does not ignore the aspect of how to lead a good life. Contrary to Brooks’ experience with elite students who are “a little nervous about the subject [of character],” SPU strives to educate its students “to become thinking Christians who are able to speak clearly and intelligently about their convictions.”


Back to the top
Back to Home