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Alright, All Right

April 1, 2013

We headlined our Q&A with Berkeley historian Paula Fass, “The Kids Are Alright.” Not surprisingly, we received an email from an alert reader informing us of the mispelling, …err, misspelling. To our correspondent’s credit, she got the allusion to The Who, she just wasn’t having it. “Alright is never all right,” she wrote. Which is, in itself, pretty all right.

In defense of the title, though, (and our use of The Who’s version of it), it wasn’t gratuitous; not only did it nicely sum up what emerges as the main theme of the interview (the kids really are all right, we parents just worry too much), it also highlighted another topic we covered, namely, the generation gap. And who ever captured generational alienation/defiance better than the band who told the grownup world to go f-f-f-fade away?

We asked Professor Fass, what she made of the kids today, generationally speaking. She replied:

I’ll talk to you about the undergrads I’ve taught most recently, at Rutgers, where I taught the last two falls. Rutgers, like Berkeley, is a public university in a generally prosperous state. These were students who seemed definitely not to have a sense of themselves as a generation. They seemed to feel sorry for themselves, almost as if they had taken on their parents’ anxieties. I was very upset after teaching those two semesters, finding that my students didn’t have a sense of, “We’re going to go forth, we’re going to create new things, we’re going to be different and better than our parents.” It felt more like, “I’m going to keep my nose to the grindstone and get my grades up, because I need to go to graduate school.” They felt like old people in the classroom. My generation said, “Never trust anyone over 30.” Well, these people are still going to be students when they’re 30.

You can read the full interview here.

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