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Generation at the Crossroads: Apathy and Action on the American Campus.

Whether they're called "Generation X," the "Ostrich Generation," or "people shaped by tewelve years of Ronald Reagan and George Bush," twenty-somethings are said to have no political consciousness. But Paul Rogat Loeb, after seven years of conversations with and observation of campus activists, takes a different view. Loeb has written a thorough, nuanced description of the political attitudes and actions of this generation. He profiles individual students who decided to work for social change, and he discusses obstacles that prevent others from participating--including a difficult job market, a conservative political climate, and annoying comparisons to the 1960s. Particularly troubling, he finds, is a prevailing attitude that only those with expertise can or should get involved. One activist, a founding member of Greeks for Peace, a group of progressive members of fraternities and sororities at the University of Michigan, is fighting against this culture of experts. "You don't need a lot of information to know that killing people is wrong and should be stopped," she says.

The Persian Gulf war was a lesson in the power of information. Not only did it teach the importance of alternatives to mainstream news media, but it also, Loeb writes, "accelerated a media climate of hostility toward dissenters. ... As students have begun to question, they've also challenged deeply rooted institutions of power.... Their opponents have denied their right to speak out about the world they will inherit and sought to drive them back to passive silence."

Still, Loeb is optimistic. "I believe these attacks will ultimately fail," he writes. "The crises in American life are too grave, the shifts in the student population too profound, the growing commitments of a significant minority too strong."
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Author:Cramer, Katherine
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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