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Why don't we protest? We like our parents

This is the first in a new Inquirer series titled "The College Board," featuring opinion pieces by writers from local colleges and universities.

This is the first in a new Inquirer series titled "The College Board," featuring opinion pieces by writers from local colleges and universities.

Whenever I come home on a break from college, I know I'll get three questions from my parents and their baby boomer friends:

"How's the food?"

"What classes are you taking?"

"Why do you think your generation isn't protesting the war?"

I see pleading in their eyes as they ask - and then they recall (with a fondness I find strange) the protests they saw when they were in college. It's a tradition they want to see continued, handed down and validated through today's college students.

So why aren't students today keeping up that tradition?

The answer may strike some as ironic: We don't protest because we are so close to our parents.

I used to think our lack of protest was a sign of apathy, as in "we don't protest because we don't care about anything."

But that isn't it. We're participating in civil service in record numbers: My friends volunteer to teach dance classes to elementary school students; prepare taxes for those who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit; tutor students; clean up dirty streets. The Corporation for National and Community Service's most recent report on college student volunteering states that there was a 20 percent increase in the number of us volunteering between 2002 and 2005, resulting in 3.3 million volunteers in 2005.

One day this past winter break, my dad and I were hanging out, discussing politics and books as usual, when the real cause came to me. We were shopping for my mom's Christmas present: a new guitar for her to play her favorite Bob Dylan songs. And that's when it hit me: I really like my parents.

And you know what? So do most college kids. We fight with our parents, sure, but we listen to them. We identify with their idea of success - why else subject ourselves to the hypercompetitive college track? And we put them on our cell phone speed dial to chat when a test goes wrong, or just to talk.

We even like the same music, trading Bob Dylan, Beatles, and Rolling Stones albums.

Our parents shell out money for SAT prep and iPods - and we're set free to live a happy college existence. We're aware of the work and sacrifice. And we've got classes, sports, clubs, plays and volunteering to do, so who has time to protest the war?

This busy, highly structured existence leaves us largely isolated from the reality of the Iraq war and the volunteer soldiers who fight it. There is a class gap between college students and volunteer troops, who are, as of 2007, only 71 percent high school graduates, and less than 10 percent college graduates. I wish it weren't so. That gap, combined with our deep indebtedness to our parents, offers small motive for protest. Would boomers have protested if there had been no draft? Even as idealistic as they were, I don't think so.

Throwing ourselves passionately into the protest of the Iraq war would interrupt our own lives, yes, but it would also interrupt our relationship with our parents. Our respect for them keeps us from protesting. It's not that we like them too much; it's that we like them at all. Our relationships with them have set no precedent for contention with authority. We see them standing by us when we make mistakes; we often hear them listening to our opinions; and we even hang out with them. The model of authority they present shows us that everything will work out.

So until there's any widespread rejection of the world our parents have created for college students, don't expect us to turn into the Weathermen any time soon. True, it's disappointing that we aren't protesting the war. But then, weren't boomers praised for


doing what their parents wanted? You can try to put us down, boomers, but I'm just talkin' 'bout my generation.