Thursday, June 6, 2002
Nation's Campuses Still Hotbeds of Idealism, Panetta Says When Newsweek coined the phrase Generation 9/11 last November, the character of today''s high school and college students became the subject of much idle speculation. Now the mavens have some numbers to work with.
A new national study commissioned by the Panetta Institute for Public Policy finds today''s college students more skeptical than the general public about the war on terrorism, but deeply concerned about community issues such as education and public service.
In one potent indicator, 74 percent of students said poorly performing schools were a greater threat to the future of the United States than terrorism. And though 57 percent support the Bush administration''s handling of the war, that''s far fewer than the 81 percent of Americans overall who support Bush''s approach.
Those figures may suprise some, but Sylvia Panetta, co-director of the Panetta Institute at CSUMB, is not among those scratching their heads.
"And I''ll tell you why," she says. "We have been working with young people for quite some time. Our institute has as one of its missions the job of inspiring young people to lives of public service. There is a lot of idealism; there''s also a strong sense of community.
"In past surveys that we''ve done there was always a reflection of a lack of confidence in the government at the national level but a strong feeling about the need for community work, and I think this reflects that."
The students'' doubtful attitude toward the lasting nature of post-9/11 altruism plays out on the other side of the coin: 52 percent believed that ethnic profiling and discrimination will be permanent legacies of the war on terrorism.
Questions regarding the war on terrorism yielded intriguing results. Overall, 42 percent of the students had mixed feelings or opposed the war, with higher rates of ambivalence or opposition among African Americans (65 percent) and Hispanics (51 percent).
Urged to speculate, Sylvia Panetta theorizes that perhaps minority groups'' discomfort with the war is linked to their concerns about education.
"A lot of our students in the Monterey Bay area are first-generation college-goers," she says, "and I think it''s scary for them to think about funds being diverted from that."
The numbers would bear her up. Asked to choose one or two budget priorities, students were more clear-74 percent named education, 35 percent named health care, and 27 percent named anti-terrorism/homeland security. Only 13 percent of these young people named social security as a top budget priority.
Generation 9-11, if such a thing really exists, exhibits admirable civic-mindedness. Forty-three percent of students in the Hart survey said they would be very or fairly interested in working for a public-service organization after graduation. Interest in teaching was likewise high.
The introduction to the report hints that such idealism is unique to this population. "[American college students] occupy a special demographic place," it says, "enjoying the institutional and intellectual benefits of higher education as well as a personal and academic freedom that allows them significant self-determination with regard to their future." In other words, they are the best-educated and most privileged innocents in the world, and their perspective perhaps points the way to the best of all possible worlds.
Says Panetta, "Young people in this age group, this is their last chance to form themselves into leaders. It''s in your twenties that you can really first of all recognize and form your desire to be a leader. If you haven''t done it by 30, I think it''s hard to do it after that."
The results ofVolunteerism, Education and the Shadow of September Eleventh are available at www.PanettaInstitute.org.
Bay Shores Smacked Down Again
Ed Ghandour''s planned Sand City resort looks to be slowly sinking.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Robert O''Farrell rejected a legal challenge on May 29 that Ghandour''s Security National Guaranty (SNG) had filed against the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District.
Ghandour asked the court to set aside the water district''s denial of SNG''s application for water to serve his proposed 495-unit Monterey Bay Shores Resort, a hotel-condo project on the beach in Sand City.
Ghandour had claimed that the water permit denial constituted an illegal "taking" of his property rights-a claim O''Farrell rejected.
Ghandour''s been pushing to develop the property for 13 years. Most recently, he proposed getting water by converting a nearby industrial well into a water company. That well would take water from the Seaside groundwater basin-one of the Peninsula''s two sources.
"The court ruling recognizes that our local water supply is a very limited resource," says water district attorney David Laredo.
-Traci Hukill, Jessica Lyons