Friday, February 04, 2005

Our Generation

DOUG IRELAND, DIRELAND - Hard on the heels of the survey of U.S. teens showing their disdain for the niceties of the First Amendment, comes now a survey of the attitudes of first-year college students with some more bad news. Sponsored by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California/Los Angeles, the survey shows, among other things, that:

- a solid majority (58.6%) of freshmen think colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus, which shows little understanding of what the First Amendment really means--as does the finding that 43.7% believe that colleges have the right to ban extreme speakers

- making marriage equality for same-sex couples legal is supported by only a minority (48.3%) of first-year college males--which strongly suggests this could still be a hot-button electoral issue for years to come--while 38% of male freshmen believe it is important to have laws prohibiting homosexual relationships, a disturbingly large number.

- a slim majority (50.4%) believe that affirmative action in college admissions should be abolished (the number is higher among males at 56.1%)

- only a slim majority (53.9%) believe that abortion should be legal

- A significant majority believes there is too much concern in the courts for the rights of criminals (58.1% --but among males the number jumps to 61.0%), which indicates that demagogic law-and-order themes will still bring electoral profit with the coming generation.

Moreover, as the Chronicle of Higher Education noted in its report on the survey, "A growing number of students appeared unlikely to have a diverse set of friends in college. Only 63.1 percent reported that they expected to socialize with people outside their own racial or ethnic group, the lowest level since the question was first added to the survey in 2000. . .

"Students said they cared less than ever before about those issues. Only 29.7 % cited 'helping to promote racial understanding' as an 'essential' or 'very important' goal for them, compared with 46.4 percent in 1992."

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