In response to the editor’s column, “Kids These Days”: Do you understand what the verb “haunted” means? That is a serious verb with negative implications. I have 11 nieces, nine nephews and five granddaughters, and they are not haunted by the current state of the world.
Daniel Weninger ’78
New Braunfels, Texas
When I entered Notre Dame in 1966, the biggest anxiety I encountered was pressure from my parents about my grades. The oldest of four children, I had no scholarship but thought Notre Dame offered an opportunity to get a B.S. in business. My anxiety was the amount of money spent on classes that had nothing to do with business — 12 units of theology, six of calculus, six of science.
I attended summer school after my freshman year due to a poor, 1.8 GPA. My roommate that summer had to attend summer school because he had 4 A’s and 2 F’s. Why, I asked? “Because I am going to be an astronaut, so what am I going to do, read the Bible and Shakespeare on the way to the moon?” He had flunked theology and English. Notre Dame owes it to students to build classes that enhance their interest. I never touched a calculus problem or worried about where a frog’s organs were located after passing those classes.
Dave Mulvehill ’70
Rancho Murieta, California
I wish James Lang had wandered into Nieuwland Science Hall and found a different professor’s answer to the question, “What’s so great about college?” In 1921, Thomas Edison compiled a list of 146 facts to be used when interviewing new hires. While visiting Boston, a reporter asked Albert Einstein the question, “What is the speed of sound?” The New York Times reports that Einstein did not know, but he said, “the value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but in training the mind to think.” I see Notre Dame’s physics department embraces this philosophy; its web page says the program “offers a training ground for the mind, a first-class education in the art and science of problem-solving.”
As the student writers note, the world they inherit will need all the problem solvers it can produce. Notre Dame’s pairing of problem-solving and social activism with the goal of creating positive change in the world is to me the purpose of a college education. Illuminating problems with the penetrating light of intrepid imagination informed by true knowledge is the best way to see solutions that seem beyond us.
Steve Potashnik ’00M.S.
“iAge of Anxiety” mentions that the total cost of attending Notre Dame for 2023-24 will be $83,271. A partial explanation for the skyrocketing cost is inadvertently revealed on the last page: The University employs 17 full-time and 15 part-time counselors for “student support and care,” yet the director of the counseling center hopes to hire more counselors! A better idea would be to require all incoming freshmen to obtain their own anxiety counseling during the summer prior to entering the University.
Thomas M. Hogan ’65
Notre Dame students are beset by crippling anxiety as they consider the troubling world and their future after graduation? Really?
In the 19th century, students were confronted with the fact that the University might not survive into another term. Then came World War I, the Great Depression, World War II and the threat of nuclear annihilation. And then came the ’60s: Vietnam (flunk out and get drafted!), more Cold War, inflation, civil unrest because of Jim Crow and terrible race relations, assassinations, a criminal in the White House, et cetera.
The future has always been fraught with unknowns and uncertainties. It has ever been thus.
William T. Little ’73
During my senior year, Professor John Treacy ’45 was killed in an accidental experiment explosion. A classmate and I were concussed. Our “therapy” consisted of several aspirin. Where would this incident rank in the hierarchy of today’s student anxieties?
Norman J. Donnelly ’55
Los Altos, California
Renee Roden’s piece was instructive. I was unaware of “Fear and Loathing on the Lakes.” May I suggest we scuttle the dorm building and start erecting those two-story barracks I once shared with my 47 “Band of Brothers” who represented a diverse group of colors and creeds, united by the fervent desire to just plain survive? May I also suggest that using capitalism as a bête noire doesn’t work? Parents are not going to pay for a progressive education in Cuba or Venezuela. And our kids won’t be happy campers there, either.
I sent my son to West Point, where the first two months is called “Beast Barracks.” He called me up and cried, but he made it. What doesn’t kill you can make you stronger. He endured jumping out of planes and civil war in Yugoslavia. Jay is now resting comfortably as the CEO of a thriving outdoor recreation concern.
Stephen C. Hook ’65
It would be a tragedy if Maria Murphy, in embracing climate alarmism, forfeited the joys of family and children out of a misguided fear, borne of innocent ignorance, that our planet is doomed. I hope she doesn’t attain my age before she discovers that her biology professor, like all his peers, must preach the unproven and unprovable gospel of global warming or lose his status within the academy. I hope she doesn’t regret learning, too late, that very few scientists, and absolutely zero politicians and statesmen, understand even a scintilla of the chemistry or physics or mathematics underpinning what we do know of the climate — which is precious little. I hope it’s not too late to warn her that scientists seeking funding and journalists seeking an audience agree: panic sells, and “climate change” is only the latest of dozens of iterations over the past 120 years of hysterical fearmongering on the subject.
George Daleiden ’69
Reading the recent issue, I found myself getting more and more upset. Shame on every parent, teacher, mentor, journalist or counselor who has led young people to think the way as described there. The conclusion sums it up: “AI tsunami.” “Impending decline.” “Climate catastrophe.” If this is what kids are being fed, no wonder they have anxiety! This generation has been told from birth that they have it bad; that America has let them down; that the world is ending and there are not enough resources for everyone; that having children is unethical and that their privileged existence is one of danger and victimhood and tragedy. In recent years we’ve even told our children the air is dangerous to breathe and getting close to other people might kill them. And then we wonder why there is a mental health crisis!
Let me make it clear that I do not blame this generation. I blame my generation. We are reaping exactly what we sowed.
How do we stem this crisis? Tell your kids they are safe, loved and blessed. Teach gratitude. (The first thing to be grateful for is the love of Christ, the second thing to be grateful for is the freedom and liberty of this country.) Refuse to demean people by categorizing them based on attributes that have nothing to do with their character. And please, stop telling children and young adults how terrible the world is, and how scary the future. It’s actually pretty lovely and safe out here.
Kathy Booher ’98
Good in the world
I was so thrilled to read “Start Small.” One of the greatest blessings in my 60 years as a priest was to meet Father Emmanuel Katongole 20 years ago when I was pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Joliet, Illinois. In those 20 years of close friendship, our parish built 18 water wells and three dormitories for the St. Maria Goretti High School that houses young women and an orphanage in Uganda. Eight years ago, I visited Father Emmanuel in Uganda and saw the raw beginnings of his dream for Bethany Land Institute.
One important detail not mentioned in the excellent article is the scholarship program to support the young caretakers at the school.
Rev. Ray Lescher ’57
Pembroke Township, Illinois