One gets the sense they are trying to armor up


Excerpt from David Brooks in the NY Times: The Streamlined Life

In 1985, only 18 percent of freshmen said that they felt overwhelmed by all they had to do. By 2013, 33 percent said they felt overwhelmed. In 1985, 64 percent of students said they ranked in the top 10 percent or at least above average in terms of mental health. But today, students admit to being much more emotionally vulnerable. They also declare low levels of spiritual self-confidence.

At the same time, one gets the sense they are trying to armor up, in preparation for the rigors to come. They assert their talents. They rate themselves much more highly than past generations on leadership skills, writing abilities, social self-confidence and so on. For example, in 2009, roughly 75 percent of freshmen said they had a stronger drive to achieve than their average peers.

Human nature hasn’t changed much. The surveys still reveal generations driven by curiosity, a desire to have a good family, a good community and good values. But people clearly feel besieged. There is the perception that life is harder. Certainly their parents think it is harder. The result is that you get a group hardened for battle, more focused on the hard utilitarian things and less focused on spiritual or philosophic things; feeling emotionally vulnerable, but also filled with résumé assertiveness. The inner world wanes; professional intensity waxes.

Read full article:  The Streamlined Life

Photograph by Mutaz Albar


  1. Interesting and disturbing. I was particularly struck by this passage: “They rate themselves much more highly than past generations on leadership skills, writing abilities, social self-confidence and so on.” I can’t speak to the issue of leadership skills (though I have serious doubts), but I’m not buying the assertion that their writing and social skills are superior. No way…


  2. I believe that competition is a contant right now. Learning is less enjoyable as it was in 1986, and certainly a lot more expensive. It now takes a lifetime to pay off student loans and the chances of landing that job in a paticular field can take years after graduation. I can see how their focus has changed.


    • Yes, the disadvantage of perhaps growing up with more than the kids in the 50/60’s, but the economic pressures of debt and maintaining that lifestyle that is difficult to keep up with. Challenging.


  3. and something irreplaceable and huge is lost in that process.


  4. We have an ongoing “greedy robot” epidemic in the United States….


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