This will come as a shock to parents who can’t get Biff and Buffy to make beds or begin sentences with “she and I” instead of “me and her.” David Brooks has studied the new “ruling class” in colleges such as Princeton University (Atlantic Monthly, April 2001). His conclusion: We are turning out Stepford Children to run our country and companies.

In The Organization Kid, he chronicles how “the young men and women of America’s future elite work their laptops to the bone, rarely question authority, and happily accept their positions at the top of the heap as part of the natural order of life.” They are driven to succeed by succeeding the drivers of the old order.

Pace Brooks, this generation knows a little about a lot and can converse fluently on most subjects, except moral. They are sharp tools for data processing, but rather dull instruments for reflection.

How did they get this way if they are this way?

Theories abound. Life has quickened, the flow of information has gone warp speed. Speed kills, or at least wounds, the soul. “Be still, and know that I am God,” the Bible prescribes (Ps. 46:10). Stillness requires slowing to a stop. Slowness scares us; stopping scares us to death. Reflection takes time for musing and wondering, which are not high values for new economists.

The economy is part of it. With so much money to be made, career rules all. Thus, fewer young people are going into careers fueled by passion for relationships, public service and spiritual formation. No run on teaching degrees. How’s the Peace Corps doing these days? Rabbis, priests and ministers testify to paucity of clergy under 35.

Part of the problem is a fear-based culture, unthwarted by faith-based counter-cultures. Parents are (justifiably) afraid of strangers whisking kids away at the playground. Sandlot players have gone the way of eight-track players, and we have instead organized activities with strict rules and stricter supervision than ever in the history of play.

Kids learn early that success is found within the system, playing by the rules, cooperating with teammates, doing your part. Obey authority, get ahead.

So, while many of us grew up thinking we had to break away from something to become something, these kids aren’t. Are what they are becoming what we really want for them? Or better, is it good for any of us?

Religion has often been accused and convicted of abetting the status quo, whatever it is. But biblical religion has always had a vision of the world as an incomplete, unfinished work. People of faith are faithful when they resist and protest forces contrary to the high calling of creation.

If we nurture spiritually creative contrarians, some will find career callings in just those directions. And the direction of things may change for the better.