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One of the more peculiar developments over the past few decades is the rather sudden transformation of America’s youth from independent-minded, anti-establishment, culture warriors into like-minded, pro-establishment, collectivist cowards.
Although these seeds were originally planted many years ago, they have now reached full flower.
Consider, for example, how America’s youth have reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over two years, thousands have been closing down high schools and colleges for students to learn in person for long periods, literally ruining lives for untold numbers of young Americans.
This spectacle is unlikely to have provoked a backlash, as it did in the past. See, for instance, college students’ Vietnam draft protests in the 1960s.
But, we’re in 2022 and millions of American youth are being denied a decent education.
It seems like a lot of Americans, particularly young Americans, are actually in agreement with creeping autoritarianism, rather than protesting the oppressive edicts that have destroyed their lives.
The COVID-19 pandemic, or more rather, the authoritarian reaction to it, seems to sit all too well with today’s youth, which is something that should concern the rest of us.
The Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports recently conducted a poll to find out how young Americans view authoritarianism.
For instance, 34 percent of likely voters strongly or somewhat favor “a proposal for federal or state governments to fine Americans who choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
COVID-19 has been shown to be more fatally lethal for the elderly than it is for young people. Therefore, we would expect that Americans older than us favor this plan. It would not be true. 45 percent of Americans between 18 and 39 favor this measure, while only 27 per cent support it for people aged 40 to 64 and 30 percent for those over 65.
This pattern was also evident when voters were asked whether the federal and state governments should make citizens stay in their homes for all time, except during emergencies. Most of the supporters of this position are under 39 years old.
Perhaps most emblematic of the authoritarian mindset of today’s youth is their zealous acceptance of tracking the unvaccinated via a smartphone app or wearable device to ensure they are quarantined or socially distancing from others. This Orwellian strategy was supported by 43 percent of the likely voters aged between 18 and 39. Only 17 percent support it among the 65-plus population, while 23% of people 40-64 are supportive.
Suffice to say, despite the fact that COVID-19 poses little to no threat to America’s youth, this cohort is by far the most willing to accept authoritarian measures to supposedly combat the virus.
This shouldn’t be surprising, given the above. In recent years, America’s education system has rejected freedom of speech while embracing “safe spaces,” “speech codes,” and “trigger warnings.”
It has led to a generation who is prone to groupthink, and who are hesitant or unable engage in critical thinking.
Moreover, today’s youth have grown up in a mass surveillance, social media-centric state, in which privacy and individualism are no longer virtues, but shunned by society.
For these and other reasons, I worry about liberty’s future in America. They are to be credited with infiltrating Hollywood, academia and other societal institutions to teach a generation more open to authoritarianism.
But this doesn’t mean individual liberty is going the way of dinosaurs. We have learnt one thing in two years: the education system needs to be changed.
There could finally be a turning point, thanks to increased interest and proliferation of trade schools.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” If this is the case, we have much work to do.
Chris Talgo ([email protected]) Senior editor, The Heartland Institute