Millions of students will leave college in the next few weeks, whether they want to or not.
Job prospects are low and student loans are high. Many college grads will enter graduate school with the hope of riding out the weak economy. But that decision means even higher student loans.
Some graduates are questioning whether they should've gone to college. "Everyone is always telling you, "Go to college,' " one college senior told the Associated Press. "But when you graduate, it's kind of an empty cliff."
Empty cliffs make poor foundations to build a future.
To make matters worse, the parents and grandparents of today's college graduates spent hundreds of billions of dollars on foolish wars and Ponzi schemes that leveraged the economy. Today's college graduates will not only have their own debts, they'll also have higher taxes to pay off the debts that resulted from unconscionable financial practices.
Many of the college students I've spoken with and listened to blame the older generation for causing the mess they've inherited. If things are going to get better, college students tell me, they're going to have to fix the mess themselves. Maybe they can save themselves and rest of us. But only if they can quit texting and tweeting long enough to do it.
When you're young, the adults sit at the dining-room table with the good china and discuss the problems of the world. If you're young and you happen to get a seat at the table, you're ignored, and if you persist, you're dismissed with a patronizing pat on the head.
When you're young, you think that you don't need to be involved -- in part because you're ignored and in part because you believe that the older generation will take care of things. Young adults used to believe they would act when their time came.
This generation can't wait. Because of the state of the country, this generation, or at least those who are socially aware, believes that their time to get involved is now.
As this generation has come of age, it has witnessed history at its rawest. There was the unfathomable grief of Sept. 11, 2001. The presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were among the closest of all time. The election of black president in 2008 was one of the most important elections.
We used to grow up with great reverence for our leaders. But this generation came of age during the pants-free presidency of Bill Clinton and the principle-free presidency of George W. Bush. Government has all of the legitimacy and burlesque of professional wrestling.
This generation watched the Bush administration's agonizingly slow response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It watched the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which has become our longest war. Then, in 2003, came the debacle in Iraq, which became one of our most foolish wars. Then came the financial meltdown, the mortgage crisis, and the worst economic mess in seventy years.
Neither the country nor the world has ever experienced anything like the explosion of technology in the last 15 years. Graduating seniors and technology have come of age together. America's future depends on how well this generation uses technology to right society's wrongs. This generation has the potential to make America as good as it's ever been.
But, for too many college students, technology has become a narcotic that leads to indifference, laziness, stupidity, and even addiction. How can they see what's ahead of them if their heads are down as they text away? This generation can fix what ails this country--but not if it Twitters away its opportunities.
Chris Lamb is a professor of communication at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of two recent books, Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball (University of Nebraska Press) and The Sound and Fury of Sarah Palin (FrontLine Press.)