There is no doubt that leftism has become a popular ideology across many of America’s education, cultural and governmental institutions, especially within the Generation Z demographic.
Popularized by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), the growing appeal of social democracy has caught the attention of Washington juggernauts, such as President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fracturing the Democratic Party in the process.
Progressives in Generation Z call for bold, legislative action: free college education, universal health care, higher taxes for the rich and social justice reform. Within the larger, reasonable Progressive bloc, there is a minor but aggressive radical faction that seeks to overturn the Constitution and instigate revolution within the United States … seriously.
This leftward shift in American demographics should be taken with both enthusiasm and hesitation. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are struggling in ways broadly comparable to the Great Depression, and society will benefit from bold initiatives taken by the government. Higher taxes on wealthy members of society and a larger social safety net could have real and material benefits for a squeezed middle class. That is not lost on anyone, though the uncompromising behavior of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may say otherwise.
However, it is imperative that Americans — especially those in positions of educational influence — call out some of the more extreme sentiments of our generation’s behavior. Yes, as ironic as it may seem, Westminster students have a strong mandate to engage in this generational dialogue. There is an older generation of American conservatives that understand the sad direction that many leftist regimes have taken in the past. The list spans pages: the destruction of Chinese heritage under the Cultural Revolution, East German poverty, and the displacement of Cambodians under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. These Cold War veterans will eventually be gone, but as the entrusted torchbearers of this republic, there is a clear role to be filled. If there is anyone in the position of understanding and shaping America’s future, it is those within the sphere of established New England schools.
Westminster and institutions like it have been remarkably stable during centuries of change and have served as bulwarks of free thought, opportunity and enterprise. Every generation, schools like ours are bestowed the honor of molding a new, creative and profound intelligentsia that will sow new threads into the tapestry of American civilization.
Generation Z’s most dangerous claim is its confident assertion of superiority and infallibility. This is the type of rash populism no different from the one successfully weaponized by political parties during contemporary presidential elections. As a reminder, there have been generations of Americans before us who have fought and won two world wars, who have created the strongest economy in the world, who have invented the atomic bomb and led the Pax Americana. It is frankly ironic that our generation claims the mantle of greatness before a single day’s worth of work. It may go to show just how gullible Gen Z might be.
That being said, there is no doubt work to do. Racial injustice, economic havoc caused by the pandemic and rising wealth inequality are all contentious topics that lie ahead. Respect is due in our generation’s sense of responsibility and our strong call to action; however, like oil and water, emotion and policy should never mix, and in that way, age does play a role. As teenagers, it is hard for us to think outside emotional bubbles, and our sense of egalitarianism is often burst by the Machiavellian nature of the real world; however, Gen Z-ers are also eager to go on the attack, resorting to online warfare and the proliferation of cancel culture. These are toxic behaviors to a healthy democracy, and play toward a game of division and hate rather than democracy’s intended goal of coalitions and addition.
The work of Western pioneers since the Renaissance has evolved over centuries to this large, prosperous, multiethnic, market democracy. No one knows how long this grand experiment will last, but as the fall of Rome can teach us, the results would be catastrophic. There are real reasons for the expansive education instilled into students on the Hill. Decades from now, the frail, golden tapestry of Western society will be passed onto us, and someone must be there to brush its flaxen tassels.