Just about an hour away from where I live, the National Guard fired on an unarmed student group protesting the Vietnam War. Kent State University still remembers the terror this cataclysmic event instilled in their small town and campus. Those students didn’t like the direction the country was taking and they were going to have a say in it. Our First Amendment confirms that right. Not so long ago, students were taking up the power of the mind and using their passion to change their country. For many of this generation, protesting became like a right of passage. Today, Instagram often takes the place of that desire to be that change and to protest.
Horribly, the younger generation has left their minds with Twitter and Grand Theft Auto. No longer are we driven to change what we see as wrong in our country. We are letting an older generation govern everything without our say. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average young American between the age of 8 and 18 spends over 7 and a half hours on entertainment media a day. At 53 hours a week that’s more than the 30 hours spent in school. No wonder our generation has nothing to say about a deadbeat Congress and a declining national confidence. Only 78.2 percent of high school students nationwide graduated on time, according to the Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Education. Out of 26 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the US ranked 21st in high school graduation rate.
To give some perspective, the Brookings Institute found that 85 percent of foreign exchange students said their US classes are easier than classes in their native language. Why this discrepancy? Why do we allow our culture to promote such distractions?
The effects of this academic negligence will be catastrophic when our generation enters a global job market. We won’t have the education, skills or work ethic to compete. Our experiences will be cowed. Our ideas will be archaic and our resources inadequate. In an era where many, if not most industries, are expanding into international markets, skills such as multilingualism will be preferred and math and science proficiency favored. Yet, we still aren’t 100 percent literate.
Distracted from reality, our generation favors bluish screens of the latest social media fad to the now-dusty pages of books. Unfortunately for us, that lack of interest in our own education and thus foundation for our future will create massive struggles for us. As other foreign students regard our class challenges with disdain, we don’t comprehend the implications of this. We lack the inclination to fight for our ideals.
Granted, a draft isn’t threatening to send us thousands of miles away to fight in a foreign land but the future that is bearing down on us is just as frightening. The nation is changing course, the pendulum is swinging once more. The littler voices are losing their strength and their opinions are drowned out.
The fervor in our voices just a few years ago was lost. But if we are to continue to progress as a nation and remain settled on the world’s stage as a superpower, we must confront problems head on. The ideas behind Occupy must continue to reside in our minds. It is our duty to ourselves and our country to inform ourselves and raise a little hell when things get out of hand. We are the only ones who can make our voices heard. Others won’t do it for us.
It starts with realizing the privileges we have in this country. But we can’t be satisfied—not everyone has the same, or even a little bit of it. Immigrants to this country are often the most successful because they have the will to succeed and they weren’t born with the privileges of this country. Even as idealistic a dream as that immigration is, the US is no longer has the best living conditions. Bickering over the smallest issue in Washington, the nation has neglected its original purpose.
We can be a more equal and prosperous nation. We can share our societal goods. We can demand that corporations and the wealthy maintain their social obligation. We can make this preference heard. We have to rise up.