I recently blogged about NY Times columnists David Brooks and Thomas Friedman locking horns, or was it crossing swords, over the role of a college education, with Brooks in favor of a broad liberal education and Friedman in favor of job training. Brooks has now drafted a related column that suggests Friedman is winning the war.
Brooks’s new column is based on an annual UCLA survey of college freshman. According to the survey, 42% of the college freshmen in 1966 felt that being financially well-off was an essential or very important life goal, and this number had increased to 75% by 2005. By contrast, 86% of the freshmen in 1966 felt that developing a meaningful philosophy of life was essential or very important, while less than 50% feel that way today.
Not surprisingly, this increasingly materialistic attitude is taking a toll on our youth. Whereas in 1985 only 18% of the freshmen felt overwhelmed, today that number has increased to 33%.
I am hopeful, however, that eventually our youth will see the light, adjust their attitude, and rearrange their priorities.
Incidentally, the survey reveals an astonishing amount of grade inflation since I was in high school. Today more than half of the high-school kids have GPAs of A or A-. By contrast, in 1966 only 19% did. Based on my experience, that grade inflation applies to colleges, too, because my college required only a 3.2 GPA to graduate cum laude, whereas one of my son needed a 3.5 GPA to graduate cum laude from UTSA.