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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Professors talk 9/11 effects on student life

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has fought in two wars, elected its first African-American president and undergone an economic recession, but UW-Madison professors like Erik Wright say the event's impact on this generation of college students is small.

""If I were to ask the question, ‘How different was undergraduate life in Madison in 2003 than in 1998?' I would have to say not all that different,"" Wright, a sociology professor, said.

Wright said students quickly returned to studying and partying, and life today for a UW-Madison student is just the same as it was prior to Sept. 11.

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In contrast to the strong student resistance during the Vietnam War, many wonder why there wasn't as much reaction to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to John Hall, a UW-Madison history professor, the post-Sept. 11 environment current students were raised in doesn't invite that kind of resistance.

""This narrative of American superiority unquestioned…doesn't have as much currency or traction with a lot of college students today because it doesn't describe the world that they have known since they've grown up,"" Hall said.

Hall also pointed to the end of the draft as reason for less resistance, saying students themselves have to make fewer sacrifices than during Vietnam.

Although students may not have changed their lifestyles, UW-Madison Political Science Professor Jon Pevehouse said everyone, including students, developed new expectations for security in America.

""You didn't walk through the airport thinking about the possibility of terrorism prior to Sept. 11, and now everyone does,"" Pevehouse said. ""It sort of fundamentally changed several generations' mindset about safety, and what dangers are in our own country.""

According to UW-Madison Anthropology Professor Neil Whitehead, the U.S. response to the attacks also played a role in shaping the post-Sept. 11 generation.

""Everyone was so keen to get the guns out, get revenge, prove that ‘no-one can do this to America,'"" Whitehead said. ""All of which were quite understandable reactions, but may not have been the politically smartest way to go. And we've paid the price ever since.""

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