I’m headed to Aspen again. Two years ago, I spoke at the Ideas Festival on the 21st Century Child. You can see me on the panel with Amy Chua, Ellen Galinsky, and Larry Cohen here, talking about the Goal of Parenting here.
This year’s theme will be the future of the university, and I’ll be talking about the social and emotional health of college students. It’s a very important issue and much in the news these days with headlines ranging from the shaky economic future of Millennials to debates about hookup culture and campus sexual assault. My views on student mental health, the importance of campus free speech, and other topics related to young people can be found here.
I love Aspen – both the natural beauty and the whole idea behind an “ideas festival.” It’s heaven for policy nerds and people committed to the hokey but nonetheless transcendent notion that ideas really do matter, even in a world increasingly diluted by our baser instincts.
Actually, I don’t know why I reflexively said that. In most ways, our world is not “increasingly” diluted by base instincts. On the contrary, we’re becoming more civilized: rates of all forms of violence in the United States, including rape, are the lowest in decades. Support for gay people has grown at the same time that bullying levels have decreased. More kids are graduating from high school; fewer are getting pregnant. Notwithstanding stagnant wages, the standard of living has risen to incredible heights in recent years with people being able to afford all kinds of things that would been unimaginable a generation ago. And yet.. somehow life feels difficult and scary too. The job market for new graduates is grim. Parenting has become a slog for lots of people (All Joy and No Fun, as Jennifer Senior describes it.) People are convinced America’s schools are terrible. (Except when they’re not. Apparently almost three quarters of Americans think their own local schools are fine but everyone else’s are terrible.) These contradictions are what make the Ideas Festival so fun. I can’t wait to have my world view shaken!
I’ll report back next week. Until then, enjoy these long summer days. Up here in Vermont, it’s pure bliss after a hard winter. So green I keep expecting a leprechaun to leap out from behind a tree.