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People who follow the news know that things have been getting a little heated in Washington lately.

From walking around campus and overhearing students, though, I wouldn’t know it.

Middle age has its drawbacks, but it brings with it the superpower of invisibility. I can walk undetected among groups of students. Judging by some of the conversations, my presence simply doesn’t register. It happens in cars, too, when I drive groups of teenagers and they seem to think that the car is self-driving. It’s mostly a positive superpower, because if I keep quiet, I can hear things that keep me tethered to reality as they see it. I don’t consciously try to eavesdrop, but some overhearing occurs.

Despite everything going on in politics now, I haven’t heard any students discussing it outside of a classroom.

I’d guess that the same is not true on more exclusive campuses. Wise and worldly readers who work in such places are invited to confirm or disconfirm.

The relative silence on current events could reflect any or all of the following:

  • Fear of, or distaste for, conflict
  • Fatalism
  • Tuning it out altogether
  • Preoccupation with other things
  • Shift of venue of political conversation to social media

Whatever the reason, I’m absolutely not seeing any evidence of the “colleges are hotbeds of liberalism” thesis. I’m just not seeing much engagement at all, in any particular political direction.

In some political moments, that wouldn’t be especially notable. But these days, when Twitter goes to DEFCON 1 every hour on the hour, the disconnect is striking.

Students have the right to tune out politics, of course, but I wouldn’t expect all of them to exercise that right. Given all that’s happening, I would have expected at least some to get involved at some level.

My invisibility is a metaphor. Their political invisibility can have real consequences.

I’m not asking for apocalyptic showdowns on campus, but some student-to-student conversations would be nice.

Wise and worldly readers on campuses, what are you seeing?

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