Reading for the candidates: Koslow's 'Slouching'

The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that about 1.7 million students graduated from U.S. colleges in June. While many have gone on to grad school or to start promising careers, a big percentage are back home with Mom and Dad—so much for the empty nest—and Sally Koslow wants to know more about them.

“Who are these people sandwiching a chunky stage between adolescence and adulthood, these individuals who resemble adults but aren’t, exactly?” she asks in “Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-so-Empty Nest” (Viking).

What happened? Why aren’t they out there in the world, fighting the good fight?

What’s changed—is it frustration, a different work ethic, a shrinking economy, or all of the above?

Koslow’s answer tends to embrace this entire spectrum. And she doles out plenty of humor—”twenty-eight is the new nineteen,” she says—in the course of this fascinating look at a group labeled as “adultescents.”

Take her own college grad son, for instance, a stubbly dude who’s living large and still sleeping in his childhood bedroom: “A weekly unemployment check was financing more late-night eating and drinking than my husband and I had done in the last two decades.”

But there is a far more serious point to her examination. The career path model that worked for so many people not long ago—even within the last decade—has fragmented for a variety of reasons. Some are technology-driven factors; others are market-driven as other parts of the world open up their work forces to employers eager to keep costs down

Koslow doesn’t hesitate to point blame in the mirror, at herself and older generations: “Perhaps the drifting we see is also a sensible response to contingencies our children can’t control. The big, bad real world we’ve helped to create for them in which to live as adults is a mess.”

In other words, if older generations created the problem, they can help create the solution, too.

That’s why I’d recommend this book to the two main candidates for U.S. president: There are plenty of new books that talk about the macro-condition of the economy, but Koslow focuses on a specific segment of young people who are suffering now.  If the youth are the future, as the saying goes, they deserve more attention than they've been getting.