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CBC Radio Canada International – The Link – Monday, November 3, 2008

Listen to the second part of the program 

Hour 2… 
 
VOTERS FROM U.S. MINORITY GROUPS SEEN AS PIVOTAL IN 2008: Throughout the U.S. Election campaign, we’ve heard much about American voters and what influences how they vote. But how do various ethnic groups, immigrant populations and other minorities figure in the 2008 presidential race? Gil Troy, a McGill University history professor specializing in modern U.S. political history and American presidential elections, joins Marc Montgomery to talk about the pivotal role ethnic and religious minorities could play in the outcome of the election, especially in the key states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

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“This is not a generation of enduring loyalty,” said Gil Troy, a presidential historian at McGill University. “They have quicksilver loyalties compared to their parents. At some point, there’ll be a confrontation between hope and government.”

POLITICS: YOUTH MOVEMENT

How Generation Y became Obama’s political animal

For a brief moment on election night, a 21-year-old University of British Columbia student and 15,000 friends managed to temporarily eclipse Barack Obama’s victorious glow.

Networks cut away from Chicago’s Grant Park to show a horde of fist-pumping youths chanting outside the White House.

Was it an angry mob? Or a rapturous celebration?

No one seemed to know, including CBC’s Henry Champ, who reported that the Secret Service was in a tizzy and that the crowd had co-ordinated the gathering using “text message machines.”

It was a symbolic capstone to Mr. Obama’s campaign, which lit a fire under Generation Y, those voters under 30 whose purported characteristics are anathema to the democratic process: apathetic, over-coddled, narcissistic, illiterate, hopeless.

The results could mark the biggest generational power shift in North American politics since baby boomers took the reins nearly two decades ago.

And thanks to a few Canadian political missionaries who volunteered for Mr. Obama, it’s a stumping style that is already creeping northward.

“That was no riot,” says Braeden Caley, a UBC political science major who campaigned for Mr. Obama in five states before marching to the White House gates on election night. “That was a celebration. And it was completely spontaneous, which gives you an indication of how this campaign worked.”

Mr. Obama’s campaign was a full-fledged youth movement. His field offices and online campaigns were run almost exclusively by bushy-tailed voters under 30 years of age.

They harnessed the young brains of Silicon Valley to co-ordinate everything from Mr. Obama’s rallies to his personalized text messages. And in the end, Mr. Obama drew an eye-popping chunk of the youth vote, outpacing John McCain in the under-30 segment by an unprecedented 2-to-1 margin.

As Mr. Obama said in his victory speech, the campaign “grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy, who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.”

One of those sleep-deprived campaign workers was Ajay Puri, who along with Mr. Caley founded Canadians for Obama, a web-based group that sent 20 volunteers to Washington State, where they made up three-quarters of Mr. Obama’s Snohomish County team during the winter primaries.

“We didn’t care about sleep,” says Mr. Puri, 28, who spent most nights in a sleeping bag on the campaign office floor. “We cared about Obama.”

So what is it in Generation Y’s DNA that predisposes them to Obama devotion?

Born in 1961, Mr. Obama is the first Generation X president, though his personal tastes can skew much younger: from basketball and the Fugees to The Godfather and ESPN SportsCenter, according to his Facebook page.

His hopeful message resonated with a generation raised amid political cynicism, brought on largely by George W. Bush’s unpopular presidency in the United States and guarded minority governments here.

“He didn’t talk down to us,” says Rahaf Harfoush, a 24-year-old Torontonian who moved to Chicago for two months to volunteer with Mr. Obama’s new-media team. “He’s one of the very first politicians I’ve taken note of who spoke directly to us with policies like putting the lobbying database online and making himself and government more accessible online.”

In Chicago, Ms. Harfoush worked across from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who directed the new-media campaign.

The social-networking guru helped launch My.BarackObama.com, a digital staging ground for ad-hoc rallies, volunteer opportunities, phone bank requests and other campaign events.

“You really felt like you were connected to a movement of people driven by the same goals,” says Ms. Harfoush, who cried 40 feet away from Mr. Obama when he delivered his victory speech. “He gave us the tools and said, ‘You be the change you want to see.’ He came to where we were – on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter – and said, ‘Here, you call the shots.’ ”

Mr. Caley has already brought the skills he learned on the Obama campaign to Canada. During the federal election he worked for Stéphane Dion’s UBC ground campaign, sending out numerous text messages and Facebook updates. Liberal support in the area increased from 30 to 50 per cent, according to Mr. Caley, who is supporting Bob Rae in the upcoming Liberal leadership race.

Others Canadian youths are waiting for a more inspiring candidate to come calling.

“Canadian politics are so dull, so boring,” Ms. Harfoush says. “If a candidate comes along who’s willing to invite our generation into the process, I’ll get behind them.”

But is there a best-before date on this youthful fervour?

“This is really a permanent generational sea change,” said David Madland, director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress. Mr. Madland predicts that Generation Y, which is nearly as large as the baby-boom generation, will form a huge block of voters who favour liberal policies, such as universal health care and high education spending, for decades to come.

But that view could overlook the fickle nature of under-30 voters, some say.

“This is not a generation of enduring loyalty,” said Gil Troy, a presidential historian at McGill University. “They have quicksilver loyalties compared to their parents. At some point, there’ll be a confrontation between hope and government.”

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Shannon Proudfoot, Canwest News Service, Monday, November 10, 2008

Most university students believe that if they’re “trying hard,” a professor should reconsider their grade.

One-third say that if they attend most of the classes for a course, they deserve at least a B, while almost one-quarter “think poorly” of professors who don’t reply to e-mails the same day they’re sent.

Those are among the revelations in a newly published study examining students’ sense of academic entitlement, or the mentality that enrolling in post-secondary education is akin to shopping in a store where the customer is always right.

Students who are academically entitled are more likely to engage in academic cheating, exploit others and shirk hard work, the study found.

Jana Chytilova/Ottawa Citizen

The paper describes academic entitlement as “expectations of high marks for modest effort and demanding attitudes toward teachers.”

It’s a hot topic – and source of much frustration – among instructors, says author Ellen Greenberger, a research professor of psychology and social behaviour at the University of California-Irvine.

“I would have trembled with fear before I suggested to some of my revered teachers that I wanted them to give me a higher grade,” she says, chuckling about how attitudes have changed.

Greenberger’s study reveals that students who are academically entitled are more likely to engage in academic cheating, exploit others, shirk hard work and display “narcissistic orientation.”

She found virtually no connection between self-entitled attitudes and grades, meaning it’s not just weak students trying to wheedle better marks out of their profs, and those who do so aren’t reaping the benefits on their transcripts.

“It certainly suggests that these attitudes and behaviours aren’t producing the desired effect,” she says. “It’s just making teachers crazy.”

Greenberg was surprised that parenting appears to have little influence in shaping self-entitled students, with one key exception: students who say their parents often compare their achievements to siblings, cousins or friends are more likely to engage in these behaviours.

It may be that young people who are pushed to keep up with the Joneses develop a shaky sense of self-esteem and use academic entitlement as a “coping strategy” to get good grades by any means necessary, she says.

The study, which surveyed two groups of approximately 400 undergraduates aged 18 to 25, is published in the November issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Technology may encourage some of this demanding student behaviour because e-mail is quick, provides easy access to professors and opens the door to a less formal and respectful tone, Greenberger says.

“In-person communication obliges you to look the person in the eye as you’re about to say, ‘You really ought to give me a B because I came to most of the classes.'” she says. “Try saying that face-to-face.”

However, professors may well be guilty of the same impertinence in e-mails to their students, she says.

Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University who has witnessed this behaviour in his own students, blames it largely on the self-esteem movement that ties evaluation of work with personal judgment.

“If I give a student a B or a B-minus or a C – God forbid – I have to explain to them because they haven’t learned it in elementary school that I’m not evaluating their personality and I’m not even evaluating work they intended to do; I’m evaluating the work they submitted and it’s not personal,” he says.

He sees the roots of this in own children’s elementary school, where spelling is sometimes not corrected for fear of squelching students’ creativity and walls are adorned with grammatically incorrect work.

The “consumer revolution” has also convinced some students that universities and professors are service providers, Troy says. Both he and Greenberger believe anonymous student course evaluations have fuelled this and left some professors capitulating to student pressure because evaluations can be tied to tenure and advancement.

“It’s kind of like, ‘OK, you’ve done your grading of my work, now I’m going to grade you,'” Gil says. “And it’s often grading you as a performer.”

FACTBOX:

The study asked approximately 400 undergraduates aged 18 to 25 whether they agreed with these statements:

If I have explained to my professor that I am trying hard, I think he/she should give me some consideration with respect to my course grade – 66.2 per cent agree

If I have completed most of the reading for a class, I deserve a B in that course – 40.7 per cent

If I have attended most of the classes for a course, I deserve at least a grade of B – 34.1 per cent

Teachers often give me lower grades than I deserve on paper assignments – 31.5 per cent

Professors who won’t let me take my exams at another time because of my personal plans (e.g. a vacation) are too strict – 29.9 per cent

A professor should be willing to lend me his/her course notes if I ask for them – 24.8 per cent

I would think poorly of a professor who didn’t respond the same day to an e-mail I sent – 23.5 per cent

Professors have no right to be annoyed with me if I tend to come late to class or tend to leave early – 16.8 per cent

A professor should not be annoyed with me if I receive an important call during class – 16.5 per cent

A professor should be willing to meet with me at a time that works best for me, even if inconvenient for the professor – 11.2 per cent.

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Gil Troy on the Campaign for McGill TV

History Professor Gil Troy knows a thing or two about presidential politics. Find out what he has to say about this year’s US Elections.

Dan Lieberman, Mik Rubin, Tim Reyes, Arthur Cormon

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Tuesday November 25, 2008 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Canadian Consulate General in Boston

Three Copley Place, Suite 400
Boston, Massachusetts

Category: Education
McGill on the Move

The McGill Alumni Association of Boston
Extends a cordial invitation to graduates, family and friends
to attend a lecture and reception with

Gil Troy
Professor of History, McGill University

“Understanding How They Run By Seeing How They Ran:
A Historian’s Guide to the US Elections”

Once again, a hard-fought presidential campaign rages in the United States. With passions running high about Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, the 2008 election is certain to be remembered as a historic event. But to understand just how historic – and just how typical – we have to look backward as well as forward, appreciating the longstanding patterns at play as well as the unique and unprecedented situations the media likes to emphasize. Just a few weeks after the final votes are counted, McGill historian Gil Troy, author of the recently released book Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents, will explain what worked and what didn’t in the latest race to the White House.

Date: Tuesday, November 25

Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Location: Canadian Consulate General in Boston
Three Copley Place, Suite 400
Copley Mall
(across from the Back Bay T and commuter rail stations)

Parking: Street parking is limited.
Copley Place parking garage costs approximately $18.

Cost: $20 USD (includes light refreshments), cash bar

RSVP: Register online at http://www.alumni.mcgill.ca/events/Troy-Boston08
For more information, call at 1-800-567-5175 x 7684 or email event.registration@mcgill.ca

Additional directions:
http://geo.international.gc.ca/can-am/boston/services/directions-en.asp

Please register by November 18.
You must pay in advance to reserve your place.

A native of Queens, New York, Gil Troy is a Professor of History at McGill and a Visiting Scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, including Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s and Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady. He comments frequently about the American presidency on television and radio, and has published articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe and USA Weeken

Ticket Info: $20.00 Buy Tickets

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Comment: On Sarah Palin’s use of language

Braden Goyett, McGill Daily

A major shift in U.S. political culture took place almost three decades ago, according to McGill Professor Gil Troy, author of Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s. Television had been around for long enough that major changes were taking place in the way politicians were using the medium.

“The average sound bite on television would go from two to three minutes to 17 seconds,” Troy explains – a phenomenon that drove up the importance of putting on a good show. “The more that happened visually, the more it affected the language.”

It’s no accident that this election seems to be a battle of key words and phrases – “hope” and “change” versus “mavericks” and “main-streeters” – even more so than in previous years.

“Obama and Palin are a different generation of leaders, post-baby-boomers. They’re children of the seventies – and very much children of Ronald Reagan.” Growing up watching Reagan on television, Troy says, both would have absorbed Reagan’s style, particularly his way of manipulating symbols and iconography.

It was during the Reagan Era that a rift between media image and political substance developed, a theme that Troy returns to throughout his book. Though it was fuelled in large part by developments in the media, Reagan’s way of generating feel-good talk while cutting social programs – sometimes linked to institutions he’d just been praising – aggravated the split.

“Not since Theodore Roosevelt had a president wrapped himself in the American flag so effectively; not since Franklin Roosevelt had a president identified his fate with the American people so convincingly,” Troy writes. “Administration officials and reporters agreed: there was a new language to American politics, one more visual than verbal, more image-oriented than issue-oriented, more stylish than substantive.”

More often than not, when I hear people talk about American political culture, it’s with a sense of fatalism. The elements that make U.S. politics such a media circus seem so deeply entrenched; it’s surprising to find they’re the product of developments barely older than I am.

This election year, it’s frustrating to hear people laugh dismissively about Sarah Palin’s turns of phrase, given how much power these kinds of sound bites can have. There’s a distinct narrative in the way she positioned her party in her convention speech: mavericks versus Big Government, the mom versus the suits, John McCain versus the forces of evil. Everything speaks to America’s distrust of Big Government – and considering that Alan Greenspan just admitted that the free market has foundered, what has de-regulation done for us lately?

Accents, word choice, and syntax also broadcast a lot of things implicitly, among them notions of identity. “Al Gore suffered when he ran against George Bush in 2000,” Troy says. “Americans, according to surveys, responded to Bush’s language, thinking ‘he must be honest, he must be like me.’”

With her folksy rhetoric and repeated mantras, Palin taps on emotional nerves: the current of anti-intellectualism that runs deep in American society, on class antagonisms, and antagonism to government as a whole.

More than that, she does it with feel-good charm, in a way that makes it seem innocuous: “She’s playing the divisive politics of red versus blue with such a charming smile, a giddy laugh that it becomes defused, detoxified,” Troy says. “In that way she’s like Reagan.”

While I’m hoping that she won’t make it to the White House this fall, according to The New York Times, many are pointing to Palin as the new face of the conservative movement. Her catch phrases aren’t a joke, but a sign of the state of the country – probably one we should take seriously, before our generation finds some of its own running for office.

Braden Goyette is a Daily culture editor. And she’s American.

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Events: A night with author Gil Troy  

Direct download: Gil_Troy_book_party_remarks.mp4

Where

The Source
575 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC  20001

When

Sep 16    6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Attendance limited to 50.

Downloads:

Direct download: Gil_Troy_book_party_remarks.mp4
Podcast

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University in Montreal and a Visiting Scholar affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

His book Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents was published this June by Basic Books. In the spring, the University Press of Kansas released the paperback edition of his book Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady, having been published in hard cover in 2006. Troy is the author of Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s, published in 2005 by Princeton University Press and released in paperback in 2007. It has been called a “masterly study of Ronald Reagan’s presidency – the best single book we have on his administration to date.” His two other works in American history were Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons (2000) – first
published by The Free Press as Affairs of State: The Rise and Rejection of the Presidential Couple Since World War II and See How They Ran: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate, originally published by the Free Press in 1991, then released in an updated paperback edition by Harvard University Press in 1997.

Troy is also the author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. The book has been hailed as a “must read,” and the most persuasive presentation of the Zionist case “in decades.” It has been released in a third expanded and updated edition, having sold over 15,000 copies.

Troy is a native of Queens, New York. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. After receiving his Ph. D in History in 1988, he taught History and Literature at Harvard for two years. In September 1990, Troy became an assistant professor of history at McGill University. In 1995, Troy was promoted to Associate Professor and granted tenure. From 1997 to 1998 he served as chairman of McGill’s history department. In March, 1999 he was promoted to Full Professor. Maclean’s magazine has repeatedly labeled him one of McGill’s “Popular Profs” and the History News Network designated him one of its first 12 “Top Young Historians”. He can be reached via email at gtroy@videotron.ca 

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