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David Brooks wrote a provocative piece for the April 001 edition of the Atlantic Monthly. His article entitled, “The Organization Kid,” reveals some useful insights about the attitudes and goals of the future leaders of this country. He provides characteristics and values of those born in 18 or thereafter. Brooks finds these young people “to be group-oriented, deferential to authority and achievement obsessed.”(Brooks, 67) In distinguishing today’s generation, Brooks focuses on the essences of obedience and uses examples of economic prosperity and social reform. I question the overall validity and evidence Brooks uses to support his main points. I disagree with the author due to lack of evidence he presents.

The world can seem like a pretty neat place to middle-class, American teenagers. They are not seeing friends sent off to war, the economy is sustaining its record of unprecedented growth and teenagers are pretty much free to indulge the impulses of their hormones. These are the children of parents of the Vietnam War era, the folks who brought a war to end by rioting on campuses and in the streets. These parents have changed our society in innumerable ways--good and bad--and their offspring are being identified by Brooks as “deferential to authority.”

Brooks first points to education at the elementary level as he reveals how the “Organization Kid” came to be. Starting in the mid-80s, he says children have begun to evolve more and more around their school work as workloads have increased. The “big-backpack” era, as Brooks describes, is a result of the report “A Nation at Risk” released in 18 by Terrel Bell, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Education. Bell compared what he said was a loose style of schooling to sub-par achievement among students. His report claimed students weren’t given enough homework nor were they being tested enough. “A Nation at Risk” would have immediate effect. It was time to veer away from learning through creativity and nonconformity and into an era calling for discipline and abidance to authority. Brooks maintains that students began to receive more and more homework, endured longer school days and faced more demanding graduation requirements.

As Brooks described, education changed to stress testing, accountability, and order. He credits these three arenas to the development of Ritalin, and its generic equivalents that stimulate the brain and have a “focusing” effect. While many believe, and still believe, that children should learn and excel at their own pace, Brooks’ study suggest that parents feel they have the responsibility to mold the minds of their children. The evolution of teaching and pharmacology through Ritalin has led to more effective schooling and in return, children are more likely to reach their goals and become successful, Brooks would have readers believe.


There is significant evidence, Brooks writes, to suggest that kids do not want the freedom and space that they have been granted, especially in the arena of educational reforms that peaked during the 60’s and 70’s. The task for parents is to fill in the blanks. The author says that parental supervision is the biggest factor in determining a child’s well being and that in the 160s and 70s, children were more likely to explore and develop on their own. In modern times, parents feel they should be highly involved in their children’s lives, while asserting authority and giving


Today’s parental authority revolves around three principles science, safety, and achievement, Brooks says. Science, the ultimate authority on what is true, teaches us that the child is a rather unmysterious organism that will require stimulation in order to thrive and be productive. Attention to safety results in AIDS education, burglar alarms in homes and armed police officers walking the halls of the schools. Achievement obsession leads to strict standards, Brooks says, like the growth charts in the doctors’ offices, telling you where your child should be and when.

Brooks traveled to Princeton University to study the behaviors of elite students and to prove that college students no longer live in the age of rebellion and alienation. Many colleges are more strict then in the past, they make effort to cut down or eliminate drinking and hazing. The colleges offer alternate ways for students to amuse themselves by providing game rooms and intramural activities. At Princeton, Brooks found that for the most part students were clean cut and non-segregated. It seems students were willing to go the extra mile to make their parents proud and to lead the lives that their elders had desired. Contrary to previous generations, this generation � often referred to as Generation X� carries the cultural message that conformity, belonging to groups, and traditions are key factors in submission to authority.

Brooks says that, by the time students are admitted to Princeton, they have survived all of the threats of modern life and excelled by doing exactly what their parents and teachers planned for them. He says that students trust authority, have accepted the goals parents and teachers have set for them and worked to achieve those ends. In return, their lives are likely to be great.

Since Brooks’ article was written before that acts of September 11, 001, his description of today’s generation as being ignorant to global conflict is no longer is accurate. Todays generation is highly affected by conflict, especially involving the Middle East. Americans live in fear of further terrorist attacks and the possibility of war. The economy is no longer as stable as Brooks states; in fact, it has been fluctuating.

Brooks has unfairly stereotyped and drawn conclusion about this generation. He uses details to support his thesis by reporting his version of the upper-middle class. While it may be true that today’s youth are highly driven to excel, he fails to provide adequate evidence that all levels of society are achieving excellence. What about the poorest of American children? Brooks omits any class distinctions, which is a big hole in his reasoning. Brooks also omits something very important the economic status of youth today. Could it be that because there are more affluent Americans than ever before, more are doing well with their studies and finding life pretty good?

Brooks focuses too much attention on Princeton, a university of the highest achievers. He does not indicate that these students were really all that different from their predecessors. Just because they arent marching in the streets against war is not significant enough to label them as so very different . He did not offer any insight into students at other schools, such as community colleges or technical schools or even those who aren’t in college. If hed surveyed a broader cross-section of American youth, would his ideas be validated? We dont know, which is why we must take his writing with some grain of salt.

Just as Brooks chose to focus on Princeton, he makes evaluations about the Ritalin use among children that might not have any scientific bearing. Its one thing to say there is too much use of Ritalin, quite another to say the parents are using the drug to try to get their children to conform to societys norms rather than to improve their mental health. Perhaps if Brooks had interviewed some physicians who are experts in Ritalin use and had quoted them, he would have had a stronger argument.

The author hypothesizes that young people today have a fantastic life or rather, the opportunity for a fantastic life. He says that more rigidity, more following of orders (from parents, teachers, bosses) is something young people have accepted. Young people today have their own issues It is tougher than ever to get into the college of your choice; there is more competition than ever. Internal pressure, perhaps from parents, family and friends, no doubt is at its highest level ever. There are more choices to be made, good or bad. Young people have more possibilities to explore, more opportunity than ever before, and in many cases more resources than ever before. Despite Brook’s optimistic views, these pressures have led many children too break “the rules.” For example, the shootings at Columbine High School. Today, children are not only abusing many of the same drugs that were associated with the 160s, they have new respect for drugs associated with the 10s “Rave Movement,” such as Ecstasy, Ephedrine, and Ketamine.

Generally, much of what Brooks says is irrefutable. But I do take special issue with his assumption that politics is the primary reason why life is better today for youth. He cites the report by Secretary of Education Bell in 18. He calls it ``perhaps the most important event in ushering in the big-backpack era.(Brooks, 68) Crediting President Ronald Reagan and his secretary of education for life of young people being ``fantastic today offers too much credit

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