Hellraisers: the Next Generation

From the eco-MBA to the Christian hipster, college activism is alive and kicking—but what today’s students care about might surprise you.

this spring, we posted a survey at motherjones.com to find out what our readers think about the state of student activism. How do today’s campus movers and shakers stack up to their peace-marching, draft-card-burning, hunger-striking forebears? Among the respondents, the consensus was clear: 85 percent said students today are less politically active than they were in the ’60s. So where have all the hellraisers gone? Many are online. Nearly half of current college students told us that the future of activism is digital. But nearly two-thirds also said the future is on campus. Flesh-and-blood action is far from an anachronism, but it’s becoming unthinkable without social networking tools. To see how this mix of the old and the new works, look no further than Obama’s young campaigners. They’ve got online organizing down to a science, but unlike the Deaniacs, they’ve mastered old-school skills like canvassing, door knocking, and phone banking. In November, we’ll see if they pass their biggest test: luring their peers to the polls.