Johns Hopkins University

Spring 2008
Vol. 5, No.2

NEWS

William R. Brody to Retire from Presidency

Lattman to Lead Hauptman-Woodward Institute

A Learning Lab for Conservation

A Super Bowl He Won't Soon Forget

Student Standouts

Mellon Foundation Boosts Support for Humanities

The Financial Side of Economics

>Writin' About a Revolution

Conversation in Bloom

Admissions by the Numbers

Moving a Mummy, Going Green

Faculty News

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Writin’ About a Revolution

Last fall, The New York Times Magazine published online some 450 essays by college students, the product of an essay contest it held in the summer that posed the question "What's the Matter With College?" A launch pad for the discourse, an essay of that title by historian Rick Perlstein, asserted that "college as America used to understand it is coming to an end"—that college and college students, whose anti-war demonstrations and activism in the 1960s propelled them into the national spotlight with regularity, are losing their centrality in society. Six hundred college students responded to Perlstein's essay, some in agreement, some dismissive.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine was among those who took the time to craft a response, and she was rewarded by seeing her essay on the magazine's essay contest blog (http://essay.blogs.nytimes.com). A sophomore writing seminars major, Berlinsky-Schine acknowledges and examines the differences between the campus of the '60s and that of today, and she calls for a collective commitment from her peers to make a remarkable difference. Below is an excerpt of her essay (reprinted with permission from The New York Times Magazine).

Replicating the College Revolution

graphicThe image of the college campus as, in Rick Perlstein's words, "a mystic world apart, where 18-year-olds discover themselves for the first time in a heady atmosphere of cultural and intellectual tumult," does not seem to exist in the 21st century, at least not to the extent it did in the 1960s and '70s. College is less of a national and cultural landmark as it is a necessity and emblem of prestige. More and more students are applying to and attending college today, not because they lust after the new life and independence it will offer, but because it is an obligatory prerequisite for careers.

It is true that college students seem less passionate about global issues and more invested in personal career goals. Perlstein argues that not only are college students failing to make an imprint on the nation, but also failing to explore their own creativity and have fun.

College students certainly care to an extent. A large factor in my choosing Johns Hopkins was witnessing a member of the Hopkins Pro-Choice group vehemently, brilliantly countering a horrific Pro-Life demonstration on the day I visited the campus. The Youth Energy Summit at William and Mary drew a number of passionate college students abundantly concerned about global warming. College students traveled across the country to protest the war in Iraq in the March on Washington. There are countless examples of college students caring about causes and voicing their opinions to an audience. The main difference between these students and the college students of the '60s and '70s is that we aren't taking the risks that the earlier generation took. We put our signs, not our bodies, into the protests. We don't get hosed down by the police. We occasionally sacrifice a Saturday to discuss our problems, shout a little, and then go do our homework.

College campuses are part of the United States now. They don't pose a threat to conservatism. They are peaceful and quiet. But if I could trade the cutthroat atmosphere and prestige of attending college in the 21st century for the revolution of the Berkeleys and Columbias of the 1960s, I'm sure I would do it in a heartbeat.

We are capable of creating a memorable college experience. The emphasis needs to shift from the future to the present. Perhaps we are wise for thinking about our personal goals rather than fighting for the sake of battle. The pressure to succeed in life is weighty. But there should also be an obligation to the country to attempt to repair damages and make changes. Once that personal pressure dissipates, we could accomplish more, not just for ourselves, but for the country, just like our parents did.