From being immersed in this supposedly amoral melting pot, here is what I’ve found: Brooks is right that many college-aged individuals do not have a traditional framework for tackling morality. Many are not immersed in religious traditions; few have taken ethics or philosophy courses.
That said, they are far from impotent when it comes to discussing right and wrong. First, they are deeply curious. They want to know what it means to live a good life. They want to know how to better our world. So while they may not be immersed in traditional moral frameworks, young people still invest themselves in moral questions.
Moreover, when they engage ethical questions, they have a tendency to think in incredibly creative ways because their perspectives have not been tainted by outside sources like philosophy or religion. That grants them a certain kind of innovation, though it also means they need to engage more traditional sources if they want to communicate with other generations for whom they are authoritative.
Second, as Brooks points out, young people have a tendency to be less judgmental and more empathic towards perspectives that differ from their own. This is not a bad thing. A comment like, “Who am I to judge?” shows an awareness that people do not make choices in a vacuum. They realize that violent upbringings or peaceful ones, sound school systems or dysfunctional ones, friends, money and opportunity all influence individuals. That awareness makes young adults less judgmental, but it does not make them morally illiterate. Instead, they base their beliefs in different sources, in compassion, psychology and lived experience instead of abstract thought.
Of course, it’s no surprise that young adults are crafting moral models differently than their elders when vitriol taints our moral climate.