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Winners

1st Place Essay: $5,000

"Fevered Moral Crusaders Make Poor Interlocutors" by Deion Kathawa

In my experience as a University of Michigan undergraduate, politics editor for the Michigan Review, and now its editor-in-chief-elect, the picture that Lukianoff paints of campus climate and culture is, for the most part, accurate—and depressing. Nearly every liberal college student to whom I have spoken in-person or engaged online believes that the First Amendment proscribes so-called “hate speech” or, when they find out that it does not actually achieve this, to them, desirable end, that it ought to do so.

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2nd Place Essay: $3,000

"Nihilism: Selling Our Voice for Public Peace" by Grant Edvalson

In his paper “How Colleges Create the ‘Expectation of Confirmation,’” Greg Lukianoff describes a startling trend in academia and society at large that is destroying the arts of debate, diplomatic speaking, and free speech.  He describes the problem of “clustering,” and how people are increasingly segregating themselves into groups, communities, and organizations according to their beliefs and ways of thinking.  They do this because they prefer only to hear their views confirmed, and not questioned.  This has led to offense and violence instead of meaningful dialogue.  Lukianhoff holds that colleges create this “expectation of confirmation” by allowing censorship, and by teaching in a way so as to discourage public discourse.  However, the causes of the problems afflicting academia, and the public in terms of critical thinking and civil discourse, go far beyond the inadequacies of higher education.  Even those who have never stepped foot in a college carry with them this “expectation of confirmation.”  The cause for this change in thought lies in the philosophy of nihilism and in the problem of ever increasing national illiteracy.   

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3rd Place Essay: $2,000

"Generation Me Lives Up to the Name" by Isabella Ramirez

Teen idol Miley Cyrus says, “If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.” Cyrus echoes the screams of a culture filled with cliches about “uniqueness” that have become catchy themes in teen literature and TV shows. These boosts of encouragement are noticeably becoming the icing on young people's’ egos. Overconfidence is causing an inflated perception of the self floating further away from the demands of civic duty, intellectual pursuits, and moral advancement. Jean Twenge’s words appear with concerning accuracy when she writes that “American culture now promotes the idea that self-belief is more important than actual performance.” Is Generation Me spiraling into a horde of attention-hogging narcissists? Some factors shaping current cultural attitudes include, reward dynamic, the prevalence of grade inflation, a decline in community service, the advent social media, and the practice of self promotion.

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1st Place Video: $5,000

Jordyn Kerr

2nd Place Video: $3,000

Christopher Renois

3rd Place Video: $2,000

Jason Koch

 


Essay Runners-Up

"The Expectation of Equality: How Adhering to America's Founding Principle Has Exposed Millennials to Unfounded Criticism, and Why They Keep Carrying on Anyway" by Vendi Pavic

My family immigrated to the United States following the Croatian War for Independence when I was four years old. One of my earliest memories is that of my first day of kindergarten; a classmate of mine heard my accent and pushed me down on the playground, saying that I should go home and die if I was not going to “talk American.” My teacher punished him for pushing me, but she did not say a word about what he said, and all I could think about was how the radical Serbs had told my parents the same thing ten years before and nobody punished them for it, either. I cannot blame that boy for his hate. He was too young to have learned it by himself, so it must have been taught to him along with his belief that he can say anything he wants because to do so is to “talk American.” However, if he grew into a man who held fast to his childhood beliefs, I could blame him for perpetuating a system that actively discourages diversity and equality between all peoples.

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"The Rise of Self and the Decline of Intellectual and Civic Interest" by Christopher Little

In the late 1990’s, a certain American company ran a recruitment campaign using the sarcastic tagline, “when I grow up I want to be a middle-manager.”  The implicit message being that working with this company would help a person climb above that, to the higher levels of executive success.  On a subtler level, however, there was another subtext which stood out as a bellwether of the changing business climate at the time.  The deeper message was: if you aren’t getting ahead, you’re falling behind.  This was years before the disintegration of the middle-class became a common topic, but even then, fears about the issue were communicated indirectly, in ways that had an enormous impact on the developing worldview of the Millennial generation.  

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Video Runners-Up

Sasha Rangel

Conner McCloskey