This morning my taxi driver, Chicago born and bred, who works construction in the summer, asked me “what’s going on with these college kids?” It’s a good question, and probably one many people are asking right now. News reports from Columbia, Brown, UCLA, and other campuses show not only campus unrest, and sometimes violence, but also remarkable levels of entitlement and cluelessness. If it weren’t so unseemly, we’d probably all have a hearty laugh about students illegally occupying buildings and then whining that their university should provide them snacks and refreshments, and also that all suspensions and legal charges should be reversed and expunged from their records. What kind of revolutionaries are these? Che Guevara would be embarrassed to know them.

What is going on with the kids these days?

As it turns out, many of our essays this past month, even those written without the protests in mind, explored the well-being of children and family. Public Discourse does not chase the news, and we tend toward reflective essays rather than immediate reactions because we’re committed to the long view. Many outlets respond to the current moment and then move on when the news changes, but we’re exploring moral, cultural, and political foundations, including the trends of decades and centuries. We didn’t arrive at our current situation in the last few weeks, and we won’t be able to reform and rebuild our institutions in weeks or months, either. Strap in, everyone, for we need to acknowledge that what is called for now is a generational effort, likely to be multi-generational, to recover reality.

And it all requires the family. As the family goes, so goes our society. The flashpoint at the university, in the end, is far downstream from what is happening in the family.

Start your day with Public Discourse

Sign up and get our daily essays sent straight to your inbox.

In that light, please be sure to study Patrick Brown’s interview with Brad Wilcox about Wilcox’s new book, Get Married. If one in three Americans never marries, and one in four won’t have children, the future of the country and its commitments will look substantially different from its past. And if you’re looking for some counsel on how to marry your best friend, Nathaniel Peters has good advice.

Clare Morell reviewed Jonathan Haidt’s The Anxious Generation; Clara Piano interviewed Catherine Ruth Pakaluk about women who choose to have larger families; and Alexandra DeSanctis commented on Abigail Shrier’s new book, Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up. Abigail Anthony discussed why young men are in such bad shape.

When it comes to considering the confusions of the moment, it’s worth rereading Devorah Goldman on why so many people fall for conspiracy theories and the role of social media in this deformation of the intellect; and Andrew T. Walker reconsiders and self-corrects his earlier argument about how we are to love our neighbor in an intelligent and deliberative way.

These are all entirely relevant to the campus protests of the day, but each essay allows us to step back, catch our breath, and attempt to understand the cultural forces rather than fixate on the symptoms.    

Support Our Work

Public Discourse is completely free of charge to readers, which means we rely on the generosity of our donors. Please consider supporting our work.

From the Archives

Given the campus protests and debates about free speech at the universities, I point to three quite recent essays from the archives, a debate between Yoram Hazony and Robert P. George, and a later intervention by Hadley Arkes. Should universities limit the range of acceptable speech? Is more speech the solution to bad speech? Should universities have speech codes? And who would decide such things? Would you trust the current college presidents with these powers? Much to learn and reflect on in these exchanges, each of which models a principled view of civility and reasoned discourse.


Our editors suggest the following as worth a click.


Thanks for reading PD.

R. J. Snell


Image by Konstantin Yuganov and licensed via Adobe Stock.