A Riot of Our Own


Why do college kids riot? Mike cites some bluenoses who blame beer ads, and then he shows that they're almost certainly wrong. In the comments section for Mike's post, Clayton Cramer wonders if the increase in daycare is to blame.

Whatever the answer is, I don't think you'll find it if you assume that this is a recent phenomenon. A certain proportion of college kids has always had riots, seizing whatever excuses they can find. Sports are the most convenient rationale, and therefore the most common; live music has also done the trick; sometimes, politics gets dragged in. People who went to school in the '50s have told me about festive violence that broke out after incredibly minor provocations that hardly anyone could remember after they'd calmed down. The only thing that remains constant, year after year, is the riots.

Maybe there's a psychological explanation, something to do with what happens when young people who live in close quarters acquire many of the freedoms but few of the responsibilities of adults. (I suspect you don't see such chaos at commuter colleges.) Or maybe a lot of us just have a deep psychic need to throw and smash things. Or maybe…

Idea for a book I'll never get around to writing: an apolitical history of rioting.