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A study by the University of Michigan finds that today’s college students are not as empathetic as college students of the 1980s and 1990s. Yet their is also evidence that this younger generation is more civic-minded than Generation X. Ross Douthat considers why this may not be as paradoxical as it seems :

On the face of it, these seem like contradictory portraits — how can the same generation be more solipsistic and more interested in human betterment and ambitious social activism? But maybe they actually go hand in hand. There’s a kind of humanitarianism that’s more interested in an abstract “humanity” than in actual people, and a kind of idealism that’s hard to distinguish from moral vanity. Perhaps this is the spirit that’s at work among the empathy-deficient world-changers of Generation Y — visible, for instance, in the way that community service has become a self-interested resume-padding exercise for ambitious young climbers, or in the way that Barack Obama’s rhetoric (“we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” etc.) managed to appeal to younger voters’ idealism and flatter their egos all at once.

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