Sunday, June 5, 2011

Brooks: It's Not About You

David Brooks is a fascinating columnist and author. I would argue that often he will offer some insightful look at a given issue, but then, completely misses the mark when it comes to analyzing causes and/or solutions. 

 For example, in his May 30th column while talking about the world faced by current college graduates, he offers this great description of the problem -

"No one would design a system of extreme supervision to prepare people for a decade of extreme openness. But this is exactly what has emerged in modern America. College students are raised in an environment that demands one set of navigational skills, and they are then cast out into a different environment requiring a different set of skills, which they have to figure out on their own."

But, what does Brooks offer as the cause of this problem?

"Baby Boomer theology"... which encourages young people to find what they're passionate about... which Brook's argues, causes too much naval gazing.

Frank Donoghue offers a much more effective and logical argument on the issue in the Chronicle of Higher Education?

"Nussbaum constantly extols critical thinking and independence as the virtues essential to a vibrant and compassionate democracy. But our current K-12 education system endorses exactly the opposite habits of mind. In the appendix to their classic book Schooling in Capitalist America, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis present an extraordinary table correlating the grade point averages of high-school students with their various personality traits. Aside from “aggressiveness,” the two personality traits guaranteed to lower a student’s GPA are, you guessed it: creativity and independence. What are the traits that raise GPAs? The top 5 are “perseverant,” “dependable,” “consistent,” “identifies with school,” and “empathizes orders (that is, anticipates teachers’ instructions without needing to have them repeated).”

Thus, our nation’s schools are cultivating habits of mind that will turn students into docile, unimaginative young adults who are company men long before they ever become workers."
Brooks has a much bigger platform to affect the public opinion on these issues, blaming kids for their naval gazing and baby boomer theology is yet another example where he fails to use this influence for good.

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