The Big Ideas of 2012

Good Times on Campus

Fight for your mind in 2012.

Students at the University of North Carolina get down and boogie with the SuperTarget mascot at a midnight shopping spree officially endorsed by the school's top brass.

Teddy bears, booty shorts, sandals, cut off jeans, hand claps, crunking, shopping carts … welcome to the school where learning doesn’t have to be just about books.

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This year’s welcome week at the University of North Carolina was outsourced to a host of consumer companies, including the mass wholesaler SuperTarget. The box store giant organized a fleet of buses to take freshmen on a midnight shopping frenzy in their store as the week’s grand finale. The entire event was officially chaperoned by the vice chancellor of the university, who also acted as Target’s tour guide for the evening. The New York Times also reported that American Eagle Outfitters hired popular sophomores on the same campus, ideally those with significant online social network presences (500+ friends), to be brand ambassadors. Their job during the week was to recruit their friends into volunteer moving squads, all wearing gift AE swag, to help new students carry their belongings into their dorms and to give a warm welcome on behalf of American Eagle.

On a more optimistic day, I would tell you that the students involved in this fiasco are able to identify the not-so-subtle-manipulation at work, and that if a party isn’t in the school budget, then why not let SuperTarget or Walmart or Nike throw a bash; or that free duds from a company desperate for market share is a fair trade for a poor students’ time. On a more realistic day, I would tell you that this cohort is the same one that American sociologists are pointing to as the empty-headed Icarus generation now beginning to fly.

Christian Smith and his colleagues at Notre Dame University recently produced a study Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood which revealed that the majority of America’s young adults on campus navigate ethical propositions based only on time, feeling, benefit and desire. Principles such as honor, valor, virtue, morality, God, chivalry, familial piety, ideas that dominated the Western mindset well into the 20th century, were non-factors. Most surprising to them the Times writes is that participants in the study were not at all bothered by “rabid consumerism” and lacked even the basic language to formulate ethical queries about consumerism. To them the market was a benign and neutral reality.

The implications of this objective ethical free-fall are contested and the debate flounders between pragmatic optimism and cautious realism. It isn’t that bad to have finally chased superstition, pre-judgment, and patriarchal precepts to the ends of the earth. On the downside, the trend points to the emergence of ethical silo’s where moral considerations – like should I care about the environment or should I help a stranger or should I buy this product – are nudged to the periphery of the soul in the same way that religion and philosophy have been pushed over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries, out of sight, out of mind.

—Darren Fleet

52 comments on the article “Good Times on Campus”

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Anonymous

God is not a principle, merely a delusion. Honor, valor, virtue, morality, chivalry,and familial piety I can get behind, each to varying degrees. Chivalry is a quaint, archaic, romantic notion, but some of its tenets are commenable. Virtue is a slightly awkward one since good and evil are points of view, rather relativistic and arguably black and white in a world full of shades of grey. Honor is another tricky one since it can be twisted into something quite vile, such as killing to protect family honor. Still having principals is better than having none.

Anonymous

God is not a principle, merely a delusion. Honor, valor, virtue, morality, chivalry,and familial piety I can get behind, each to varying degrees. Chivalry is a quaint, archaic, romantic notion, but some of its tenets are commenable. Virtue is a slightly awkward one since good and evil are points of view, rather relativistic and arguably black and white in a world full of shades of grey. Honor is another tricky one since it can be twisted into something quite vile, such as killing to protect family honor. Still having principals is better than having none.

Anonymous

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE....Adusters, liberals, conservatives, quasi conservative independents, green party people, anarchists, stupid people, moderates....PLEASE FOR LOVE OF GOD realize this:

Why can't anyone discuss the issue with corporate greed (not just Wall St) with respect to W-A-G-E-S? Why are so many in the Occupy movements clueless? If interested, please check out my experience at Occupy Wall St and Micheal Moore..etc at youtube.com/debisisrobustus.

Tax cuts or no tax cuts, 40 percent tax or 90 percent tax on anyone is NOT GOING TO HELP INCREASE THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE. If corporations paid less in tax so long as the minimum wage went up to a liveable wage...what is so bad about that? And why should anyone pay more than 30 or 40 percent, it's not fair for anyone. And all this rhetoric about how people are being sold out and banks being bailed out, fine....but if you this the bulk of the issue with respect to income inequality, you are very in the dark and pretty naive. Seriously, it's the wages.

Anonymous

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE....Adusters, liberals, conservatives, quasi conservative independents, green party people, anarchists, stupid people, moderates....PLEASE FOR LOVE OF GOD realize this:

Why can't anyone discuss the issue with corporate greed (not just Wall St) with respect to W-A-G-E-S? Why are so many in the Occupy movements clueless? If interested, please check out my experience at Occupy Wall St and Micheal Moore..etc at youtube.com/debisisrobustus.

Tax cuts or no tax cuts, 40 percent tax or 90 percent tax on anyone is NOT GOING TO HELP INCREASE THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE. If corporations paid less in tax so long as the minimum wage went up to a liveable wage...what is so bad about that? And why should anyone pay more than 30 or 40 percent, it's not fair for anyone. And all this rhetoric about how people are being sold out and banks being bailed out, fine....but if you this the bulk of the issue with respect to income inequality, you are very in the dark and pretty naive. Seriously, it's the wages.

good point

True dat. Please do include that understanding in your battle comrades. A very good point about taxes possible being secondary to the wage/income issue. Plus it is sans the negative connotations of taxes as being "wealth redistribution"... It does run into the same problem(s) with so called libertarian/conservative thinking that minimum wages/taxes are "social engineering" though, but who cares! Society is to be designed/constructed anyways so it's not much of a counter point. There are many things to remember, living wages is one of them. CHEERS COMRADES!

good point

True dat. Please do include that understanding in your battle comrades. A very good point about taxes possible being secondary to the wage/income issue. Plus it is sans the negative connotations of taxes as being "wealth redistribution"... It does run into the same problem(s) with so called libertarian/conservative thinking that minimum wages/taxes are "social engineering" though, but who cares! Society is to be designed/constructed anyways so it's not much of a counter point. There are many things to remember, living wages is one of them. CHEERS COMRADES!

Anonymous

Who is suggesting a 90% tax rate? Who is suggesting 40%? Do facts matter in your analysis, or are you simply spouting absurdities? Obama would like to raise the rate paid by the top bracket from 35% to 38%. Is that the kind of increase that will leave millionaires penniless? Yes, an increase in the minimum wage is also vitally important, but this is not an either/or question.

Anonymous

The article says: "Principles such as honor, valor, virtue, morality, God, chivalry, familial piety, ideas that dominated the Western mindset well into the 20th century, were non-factors". I wonder, what kind of future, the writer has in mind for the future of humanity?

I hope it's not the French porn in everything!!

http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/french-go-porn-in-sports/

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