I find myself torn in this fight. In general, I find the obsession with politicians' student writings excessive. Most of these papers spring from the brains of people in their early- to mid-20s who have spent the past several years in the self-indulgent cocoon of academia. I realize there's no demographic group more convinced of its inherent genius and infallibility than recent college graduates and grad students. But in reality, most people don't spring forth from Harvard or Berkeley or Florida State or Texas A&M fully formed. (Thank god.) Many even (gasp!) change their views as they trudge through the big, wide, complicated world.I find it sort of insulting to young people that things you do before you're an "adult" -- whenever that is -- somehow don't count. As if you're unable to think about the fact that what you're doing has consequences. Let me assure you, young people are perfectly aware of what they're doing. It's just that older people claim the ruse of being "unaware" of consequences at the time. It's a myth we hide behind so that we are all somehow unaccountable for our past mistakes. It's okay to say that you've changed your mind or evolved your thinking, but please, don't claim you didn't know what you were doing at the time.
But even if we were to give McDonnell the "youth pass" on this thesis, there's one part of her argument that doesn't quite work. McDonnell was nearly 35 when he wrote that thesis. Can we really give him the "youth pass" when he was in his mid-thirties? That seems overly generous to me.