Give 'Em Four Years

Just how motivated and idealistic were we 20, 30, or 40 years ago? The latest survey of attitudes among today's college freshmen brings that question to mind.

The current class of 18-year-olds on campus have eyes brightened more by the hope of big salaries than by hopes of improving the world, according to UCLA's Higher Education Research Center, which conducted the survey of 348,465 students.

They also care less about keeping up with the news. And learning for learning's sake? You gotta be kidding.

On the other hand, more freshmen than ever want to get a graduate degree, and record numbers include on their resumes volunteer work they've done in their communities (not just to impress admissions officers, we trust).

In weighing all this, let's not forget these are freshmen. Those broadening, transforming four years are just beginning. Survey responses aside, are our generational differences really that deep? University of Michigan president Lee Bollinger may have had it right when he called the new arrivals on campus "... a quieter and softer" generation of students. He added that they are no less dedicated to their education and public affairs.

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