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Finding A “Lost Generation”: Why America’s Youth is Still Active

by Reem Abdou | Swarthmore College

F Posted in: News and Politics, Voices P Posted on: September 27, 2011
headshot reem abdou Reem Abdou

Yes  — unemployment among young adults is up. And so is college debt. And so is the amount of people on welfare. Yet so is morale.

The Atlantic Wire’s article on “Generation Limbo” asserts that in facing the economic recession, young Americans have found themselves  “stuck in neutral” — a lack of  “good jobs” and career plans gone awry has rendered us “twentysomethings with nothing to do.”

But to claim that a fever of apathy and listlessness has gripped the youth of this nation is also to deny the existence of every socially active university student. It is to reject the notion that there are scores of persistent doers and thinkers. That there are young people all over this country who, despite the very harrowing circumstances of their economy, continue to engage their environment in creative and intellectual ways.

Student-run media outlets (like NextGen) are quintessential models for this type of youth agency — organizations that take advantage of online social forums, where cost is not as much an issue as it is for print publications, and incite tangible change. Even political groups like the Young Democrats of America and the Sierra Student Coalition are ubiquitous paradigms of youth activism.

While new census data may reveal the number of young Americans who do and do not have sanctioned jobs and who live with their parents, it does not bring to light what those Americans are doing with their time otherwise. Those statistics don’t take into account the freelance work most graduates do; or the experiential knowledge that’s acquired in settings not resembling an office; or the otherwise efficacious political, economic, and social involvement that the bulk of young educated Americans undertake. That sort of progress and productivity is largely nonrepresentational and thus not reported.

To be sure, the amount of unemployed young people does indeed correspond to a rather anxious economic future. Without the execution of labor in America’s many crucial industries, larger fiscal complications may paralyze the aggregate well-being of our nation down the line.

Regardless, “Generation Limbo” is a naïve moniker that christens a population of unemployed intellectuals for all the wrong reasons. We may not find many graduates in corporate offices today, but we might be able to spot them with posters on pickets or in groups at non-profit organizations.

Today’s significant political and social issues do not permit us to sit on the sidelines — they ask us to stand up and do something at the frontline, a place where we couldn’t get “lost” even if we tried.

Reem Abdou Reem Abdou Reem is a sophomore at Swarthmore College where she is also the Opinions Editor for The Phoenix. She is from Fort Lee, New Jersey.

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