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Young students on campus

By Mary Frances Myler, Public Discourse, April 25, 2023

Mary Frances Myler is a postgraduate fellow with the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government at the University of Notre Dame. Her writing has been published in the American Conservative, the National Catholic Register, Law and Liberty, the Federalist, and the American Spectator, among other publications…


Mary Frances MylerToo many universities treat students as atomized wills, encouraging them to follow their passions in and out of the classroom. Our colleges must change course and remind students that their familial relationships and their accompanying responsibilities can and should play a more decisive role in their lives than their careers will.

The sexual revolution sold a false bill of goods, and young people today live in the midst of the revolution’s fallout: hookup culture, cheap sex, declining marriage rates, and a stagnating birthrate. As the locus of formation for millions of young Americans, colleges  and universities are complicit in the cultural devaluation of marriage and family.

Universities tacitly discourage family formation, passing on to students the flawed philosophy that enabled the sexual revolution in the first place. This vision of the self, named “expressive individualism” by sociologist Robert Bellah, is that people are defined by their inner self, which they must express and make real to others. As historian Carl Trueman writes, “Anything that challenges [the inner self] is deemed oppressive.” Expressive individualism insists that reality be conformed to the individual will, and it leads students to think that they are fully autonomous and unbound by the so-called oppression of responsibilities, parental guidance, and social structures. …

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