The Times ran a story in the business section that is a gentler version of the same old rap: baby boomer educators/ managers think that Millennials have a crappy work ethic.
Reading it with my Gen-Debt eyes, I wondered if the increased financial pressures placed on college students today, and the conservative attitude toward education policy, are actually twisting young peoples' attitudes toward work and education.
"Even in college, students seem to value the external rewards of work over learning for its own sake. A 2006 survey of college freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that about 74 percent of men and 70 percent of women say that the primary reason they attend college is to make more money. "
Well, they're just being little Reaganites, or little economists. If they get little or no grant aid to attend college and must take out loans just as though they were buying a car or a house, while being told all the time that college is a private investment that is their only way to make it into the middle class, why shouldn't they believe that that is the primary value of college?
"Students tend to take an industrial view of work. They commonly contest a grade by saying they deserve a higher one because they put so much time into studying or writing a paper."
Well, about half of full time college students and 85 percent of part time college students are working, a pursuit where they do get paid by the hour. This represents a large increase over the 1970s. It's only natural to compare the immediate rewards of even a low-paying job to the often vague long term rewards of a class, particularly when that class is a cattle-call lecture taught by a phoning-it-in professor, or a part-time adjunct.
I don't think this attitude is great news, and I don't think it's completely prevalent among young workers. In fact, I think there's an incredible resistant strain of idealism that leads tons of young people to seek intrinsically fulfilling work despite economic pressures. But if you load college with high costs and instrumental expectations it's only natural that students would absorb the attitude that it's all about the money.
And another thing. Today's college students are digital natives who live in an era where nearly all the world's information is free. The ivory tower has no monopoly on the distribution of knowledge. The basic thing college has to offer, then, besides the intangibles that we all love to rhapsodize about, is a sorting function and a valuable credential. If the credential can't be redeemed for at least what you paid for it, what's the point?