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Andy Taylor

is professor of Political Science in the School of Public and International Affairs at NC State University.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut and teaches courses in American politics, including Introduction to American Government, the Presidency and Congress, the Legislative Process, Public Choice and Political Institutions, and the Classical Liberal Tradition.  He also teaches for the Distance Education program at NC State.  He won the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Poole Outstanding Teacher Award in 1999 and its Outstanding Researcher Award in 2014.  Taylor received NC State's Extension Service Award in both 1999-2000 and 2003-4.  He is a native of the United Kingdom. 

 

His research focuses on American governmental institutions. He has published in many journals including the American Journal of Political ScienceJournal of PoliticsLegislative Studies QuarterlyPolitical Research Quarterly, and American Politics Research and is the author of the books, Elephant’s Edge: The Republicans as a Ruling Party (Praeger, 2005), The Floor in Congressional Life (University of Michigan Press, 2012), Congress: A Performance Appraisal (Westview Press, 2013), and, with Toby L. Parcel, The End of Consensus: Diversity, Neighborhoods, and the Politics of Public School Assignments (UNC Press, 2015).   He is a recipient of a U.S. State Department grant and Dirksen Congressional Center research awards and, with Steve Margolis of Economics, runs the Economic, Legal, and Political Foundations of Free Societies program that is supported by a grant from the John William Pope Foundation.  Taylor also provides political commentary for a number of local media outlets, such as WUNC and WRAL-5 television, and writes a monthly column for Carolina Journal.  In 1999-2000 he was the American Political Science Association's Steiger Congressional Fellow.  He was chair of NC State's Department of Political Science from 2006 to 2010 and in 2012-13 President of the North Carolina Political Science Association. 

Coddling parents, higher education raising passive, reactive generation

 Ben Sasse, the junior senator from Nebraska, is an emerging Republican star. At 45, he has been a college professor, occupied important positions in the Justice and Homeland Security departments, and led a university. Sasse is a serious policy wonk with strong conservative credentials, although he’s perhaps best known as a Republican “Never Trumper.” It’s not his legislative work or political philosophy that got me thinking about the senator. Sasse has just written an interesting book about young people today. The thesis of the book, The Vanishing American Adult, is that our children are coddled to the extent they avoid discomfort; often choose to be spectators rather than participants; and are unable to develop healthy relationships with human beings outside their peer group. The practical effect for parents is that their kids will be living in the basement at 35. For broader society it’s that we will soon be led by a generation that is passive and reactive, prefers consumption to production, and is unwilling to engage in strategic risk taking. This isn’t all the kids’ fault, of course. Parents are to blame as well, not least because they helicopter above, rigidly structuring their children’s days with lists of closely supervised activities or, at the other extreme, plonk them down alone in front of screens for hours at a time. Much of what Sasse describes is also a product of larger social forces. The Great Recession has delayed the careers and wealth-building of recent high school and college graduates. Longer lives and advancement in health mean they can postpone child-rearing. Social media allow everyone to live in a bubble. But I think there is another culprit, and that’s higher education. Much has been written about the scourge of safe spaces and trigger warnings, so I don’t need to plow that same furrow. It’s clear that college campuses are increasingly “coddling the American mind,” as Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt put it. A matter less discussed is that Millennials — the generation born between the early 1980s and early 2000s and the cohort I’ve hung around with for the past 20 years — are rejecting basic American values. A Harvard University poll last year, for example, revealed only 42 percent supported capitalism, according to a contemporaneous Gallup poll that is about 10 percentage points lower than the general population. The Harvard survey reported 33 percent of Millennials wanted socialism. A 2016 Knight Foundation/Gallup poll revealed college students to be considerably more tolerant of restrictions on free speech than the adult population. Support for these values among  young people is eroding largely because they are not taught. This isn’t a question of students avoiding certain courses of study. The proportions of all bachelor’s degrees conferred in the various established fields of study have remained virtually constant since the early 1970s. It’s about how the subjects are taught. The humanities used to be a portal to a world of knowledge and experience beyond the immediate. Now they are fashioned into a cudgel to beat conservatives. Social scientists used to look at large normative questions with important practical implications. Now they produce highly technical research of little use in the real world. Natural scientists were motivated by the desire to push the boundaries of our understanding and enhance the quality of our lives. Now many are evangelists and grubby rent-seekers, believing they have a monopoly on the truth and demanding government fund their work at the expense of other social needs. Even the study of business has changed. Solid data are hard to come by, but anecdotal evidence suggests subfields such as human resources, finance, corporate law, ethics, and social responsibility are growing rapidly. Programs are moving away from the promotion of the core activity of business, production and commerce or, in other words, the tenets of capitalism. The importance of traditional American values such as self-reliance, individualism, and freedom of thought, expression, and action is self-evident to you and me, but we wouldn’t always think of their cultivation in young minds as antidotes to the specific ills Sasse describes. They are. They bring social cohesion by providing a common set of values and appraising people as individual human beings rather than members of some distinct group. This breaks down barriers across demography and generations. They suggest people are free and sovereign and imbued with rights and responsibilities. This incentivizes production and encourages relationships — which can be adversarial and self-interested, conditions that are perfectly healthy when sewn into the society’s culture and regulated by the rule of law. Traditional American values are therefore certainly for “grownups.” BenSasse. Andy Taylor is professor of political science at the School of International and Public Affairs at N.C. State University. He does not speak for the university