Guest post by Ravi Jha and Kush Desai
The 21st century is so far playing out to be a rather eventful time in human history, especially in the progression of our Modern Era. While society enjoys the fruits of past generations’ labors – from the stability of the former Marshall Plan-aid receiving Europe to the entrepreneurial zeal of the baby-boomers – society is also lamenting the former pitfalls of their parents’ generations, like the baleful re-emergence of the formerly American-outfitted Taliban and the crash of a regulation-free Wall Street. But amidst terrorist attacks, Middle-Eastern conflicts, diplomatic showdowns, crippling economic meltdowns, and ‘interesting’ political candidacies, any meaningful discussion about contemporary youth appears to have been marginalized. Policy-makers are especially apathetic to Indian-American students and youngsters; after all, why worry about a demographic often epitomized as the impeccable paragon of overachieving students?
But in modern America, issues exist which will not only affect today but also continue to drag down tomorrow, the foremost among them being education, political discontentment, and social discord. Thus the writers of this blog, a college undergrad and a high school junior, hope to reinvigorate serious debate revolving on issues related to youth affairs with a particular focus in on Indian-American youngsters.
Consider South Korea. In the aftermath of the devastating Korean War, South Korea was devastated; there was no economy to speak of, and social and governmental institutions outside of an American-fitted army were non-existent. It was a Stakhanovite work ethic and an almost absurdly stressed education system that transformed the nation into the modern high-tech hub that politicians, businessmen, and economists gawk at. In essence, continual public awareness and attention to the state of Korean youth, particularly on anything concerning education, quintessentially transformed South Korea within a span of a few decades.
The quintessential importance of the youth flows out of the classroom and workplace and into political, social, and economic realms as well. Frustrated youngsters in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco were able to induce entire national uprisings to create what we now call the Arab Spring. Household Cold War autocrats like Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qaddafi were swept out of office, despite hiding behind violent police and military forces. The main point: while Korea’s paragon of education allowed its children to develop their nation, politically frustrated youth in the Middle East were forced to coerce their governments radically, demonstrative of the need for a politically contented youth. Public policy for social change, on the other hand, is no worse.
Public education and awareness programs that target racism at elementary schools across the United States have been omnipresent ever since the successes of the Civil Rights Movement. In this case, public attention and action over children has translated into a more socially cohesive society. Institutions like the Ku Klux Klan no longer scare African-American children to sleep; an African-American has been able to capture the support of an entire nation in a landmark presidential election. Indeed, many negative aspects of American culture and society were bettered not just by de jure legislation, but by teaching about the past in order to pass on the lessons of yesterday.
In all of these cases, renewed focuses on youth were able to transform entire societies economically, politically, and socially, positively, might we add. Indian-American youth, a demographic quickly filling the shoes of American (and global) business, government, and scientific leaders, will undoubtedly play an important role in the coming decades of global integration. What we feel, know, do not know, and face is imperative to the very future; it is time that youth affairs from education to social cohesion get a center role in the arena of public policy debate. We hope to jump-start this message of a renewed youth focus by routinely informing about and taking sides on issues and events relevant to us.