David Brooks, a clumsy amateur sociologist who has improbably turned a talent for adjusting his glasses in a wise-looking manner into a gig as a nationally respected opinion columnist, is a busy man. He's teaching a class at Yale, okay? He can't be expected to come up with his own ideas every single week. Today, he hit on a novel solution to his quandary: just have one of his students write his column! You can hardly tell the difference.
A college student's fuzzy sociopolitical theories on what defines her generation are virtually indistinguishable from David Brooks' standard column fare of fuzzy sociopolitical theories on what defines his generation. So why not just squeeze a whole column out of one of his students' papers on "how it feels to be in at least a segment of her age cohort?" There's absolutely no chance of a decline in David Brooks column quality! So, what do kids these days think about what kids these days think?
Well, according to Yale student Victoria Buhler, who wrote a paper that David Brooks decided to turn into a New York Times column after forgetting to set his alarm clock the night before his deadline, kids these days had 9/11, which made them "wary," and then the financial crisis, which made them fear that capitalism is "brutal and unpredictable." And now, Yale graduates are unsure of their futures:
In sum, today's graduates enter a harsher landscape. Immediate postgrad life, Buhler writes, will probably bear a depressing resemblance to Hannah Horvath's world on "Girls." The hit song "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis "is less a fashion statement, more a looming financial reality."
Just imagine: a world in which a Yale graduate would be forced to live in Greenpoint and shop at a thrift store. Is this the America for which our forefathers fought? A fearsome prospect Victoria—but if you really want to live up to Professor Brooks' high standards, you'll need to coin a buzzword to describe the sweeping generalizations you've drawn about an entire demographic group.
In what I think is an especially trenchant observation, Buhler suggests that these disillusioning events have led to a different epistemological framework. "We are deeply resistant to idealism. Rather, the Cynic Kids have embraced the policy revolution; they require hypothesis to be tested, substantiated, and then results replicated before they commit to any course of action."
The Cynic Kids! The tagline of a very specific subsection of a particular portion of a generation! At this rate she could even pass Thomas Friedman's class. You've provided a sufficient number of quotes for David Brooks to almost make his word count, Victoria. You get an "A."
David Brooks gazes at what he's written. Five minutes to deadline. He adjust his glasses, massages his temples, and clicks absentmindedly between the "Thought Catalog" and "National Geographic for Kids" tabs on his screen. Yale kids... public policy nerds... Girls... it just needs that one last... Aha!
After the hippie, the yuppie and the hipster, the cool people are now wonksters.
Liberally quoting from vague source material and wrapping it all up with a laughable, out-of-touch declaration of who "the cool people are?" David Brooks would make a good blogger.
(No he wouldn't.)
[NYT. Photo: Getty]