Web Letters | The Nation

Rethinking Politics in the Classroom

The effects of materialism on today’s generation

My AP US History class has just read this article, and I agree with it 100 percent. The concern of our generation and those that follow us is in materialistic things. Just by taking the train, I can witness that children who are 5 years old are playing with iPads. Children now pay more attention to technology or any other materialistic elements and forget about key points. Like the author said, “Making money and living life well have become virtually inseparable in the public eye.” Our generation is consumed in acquiring wealth and using that same wealth and spending it frivolously on clothes, shoes, electronics etc. The real and important factors of life have been abandoned, and so have the “ethical and moral questions.” A course such as Judt suggests specifically focusing on the true political questions will help our society and our future generations as well as our present generation.

I am a junior like Judt, and my AP US History class is the first AP course offered in my school. Alongside my teacher, Dr. Melián, my class has learned a lot of things and this article helped us view our school a little differently because everything Judt mentioned can be witnessed in my school. The obsession over materialistic things and the lack of knowledge in the important aspects of life is noticeable here, but at least my class has the opportunity of discussing those true political questions thanks to our teacher. It would be an immense honor to have Judt visit our class and talk to us about his experiences and views, and to discuss his article.

Licette Galicia

Queens, NY

Mar 4 2012 - 11:31pm

Rethinking Politics in the Classroom

From a grateful fellow student

My AP United States history class read Daniel Judt’s article and juxtaposed its content to not only the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century but to fragments of the Gilded Age noticeable today. I strongly agree with Judt when he writes “we all too often think of money as the key to a better life.” Modern-day American society is engulfed by consumerism and materialism. Many Americans, especially mine and Judt’s generation, often associate money with perpetual happiness and struggle to view society by their ethical and moral standards. Students in my school fail to have substantive conversations regarding the social, economic and political structure of society. Instead, many of them focus on the materialistic nature of society. Though I understand that teenagers want to focus on things they find most entertaining, teenagers must also be aware that they need to find a balance. I also attend school in New York City and I am already noticing that the focus on materialism and consumerism will not end with our generation. Children are continuously being raised in a society that lacks morals and are taught that the accumulation of wealth must be their ultimate goal. I agree with both Judt and Dworkin, who suggested a class that focused on examining modern-day political debates from an ethical standpoint especially because ethics and politics are like oil and water— they simply don’t mix. This article has enlightened me and I just might suggest this class to my principal.

Zaudita Fender

Staten Island, NY

Feb 29 2012 - 10:09pm

Rethinking Politics in the Classroom

Objective analysis

The author’s father was a distinguished scholar, but he might want to begin his study in “morality” by looking at the choices Tony Judt made in his life. Look around, and note the social injustice\. Ask yourself, who, did what, where, when, and why to create this unjust system. If those around you don't have enough to eat, have no medical care or a job to support themselves and their families, you know it is wrong! If one person is physically or mentally hurt by the system, it is wrong.

My early childhood was spent in the segregated South. I started school in New Orleans and attended two segregated schools there. Separate-but-equal schools was part of the mantra of segregation. I remember riding on a bus past a black school that was literally falling apart and thinking that I wouldn't want to go there! I remember going with my parents to a theater on Canal Street. We had to park somewhere behind the theater, and go up the side street to the front entrance. The “colored” entrance was on the side street. Since I had always gone in the front entrance, I didn't know about this part of segregation. I saw no violence, but I did see separate bathrooms and water fountains. At the time, we were fighting for freedom in World War II, and it didn't add up!

Fortunately, my family moved to Los Angeles, and, by sixth grade, I was exposed to a different point of view. I was an easy convert to civil rights. My political morality is based on the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and subsequent civil rights amendments to the Constitution.

As a student of history, the author will run across many people who may not have his high moral political standards, but they did make major contributions to the country. Acknowledging their positive achievements does not mean one always agrees with them. Dismissing people or their ideas because they are not perfect is not objective analysis.

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

Aug 13 2011 - 2:19pm