Despite the excitement and anticipation for the Christmas season that pervades the nation every year, the religious element of the holiday continues to be a point of contention for some and a source of great controversy. In Paragould, Arkansas, for example, the Greene County School Board forced the removal of a Nativity scene that was displayed at one of its elementary schools, adhering to local atheists who articulated the tired maxim of “separation of church and state.” After some persistent protest and displays of heroism by the elementary counselor, Kay Williams, however, the school board gave in and permitted the Nativity scene to be put up once again.

Greg MankiwAfter being asked about the walkout of a few of his students from his Economics 10 class on November 2, Harvard professor Greg Mankiw (left) responded with an open letter in the New York Times. The walkout involved only about 30 or 40 of the 750 students who usually attend, he noted. In addition, some other students entered his class as a “counter protest,” and at least one of the original protesters returned to his class because he didn’t want to miss his lecture.

In the ongoing effort by concerned parents and disillusioned educators to find ways of improving education for today’s youngsters, there’s a new kid on the block. And, from all appearances, one that is already making a mark on the learning landscape.

I entered graduate school to study English literature in the late 1980s, eventually receiving a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature, and have been a professional academic ever since. I have reached that point in life where I am sufficiently wizened — and sufficiently jaded — to be allowed the luxury of griping about how much tougher it was growing up for my generation. As a life-long teacher, I might also be granted indulgence if I grumble about how little my college students actually know compared to what I learned. And although there is as much justice as exaggeration in these observations, the thing that never ceases to amaze me is how morally stunted and ethically underdeveloped our students are, how utterly unable to make even obvious moral distinctions, and how completely uninterested in differentiating between virtue and vice.

Occupy Wall Street’s latest grievance centers on student loan programs and higher education reform, and the group’s most recent campaign involves a movement-wide boycott on student loan debt repayment. Early Monday afternoon, a crowd of faculty and student organizers assembled at the southeast corner of New York City's Zuccotti Park to announce Occupy Student Debt, a national initiative directed at recruiting student loan borrowers and requesting that they willfully default on their loan payments. The campaign consists of three pledges: