Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Millennials: Downtrodden or Just Dumb?

Bob Herbert in the NYT today:

"The landscape is changing before our eyes. Younger voters struggling with the enormous costs of a college education, or trying to raise families in a bleak employment environment, or using their credit cards to cover everyday expenses like food or energy costs are not much interested in hearing that the government to which they pay taxes can do little or nothing to help them."

Studies show that this is the most progressive generation in decades. We want a new New Deal.

On the other hand, maybe a wholesale transformation of government seems too difficult or out of reach. Instead, we can all indulge in a nice round of Blame the Victim.

Some scoldy English prof in the Boston Globe:

"The ignorance is hard to believe ... It isn't enough to say that these young people are uninterested in world realities. They are actively cut off from them."

Would that it were true! Many of the young people I talk to would love to be cut off from realities like the war in Iraq (who do you think is fighting over there, John McCain?), student loan and credit card debt, low-wage jobs, lack of access to health care, & high housing costs.

Unfortunately, it's a pretty common pattern to label an economically disadvantaged, politically disenfranchised group as being dumb. You can see it in racism, sexism, and now ageism.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

That professor is right on the money. I am not that old, generation X, and teach high school (not English). This new generation is...dumb, cannot spell even simple words in English, all about attitude, and proud and defiant in their ignorance. They sure can work those I-Pods though. That should give them a good job. What more can I say? This new generation deserves and will receive a slap in the face. No, most of them will not live in homes like their parents, and most of them don't belong in any university. They should go compete with Paco and Pablo for the few remaining service jobs. Except Pablo and Paco have something they don't have: a work ethic! With no value of education and no work ethic most of this new generation will get just what they deserve. It's a good thing! Do you think any of this new generation can compete globally with the Chinese and Indians? Of course not. America has always been dumb compared to Europe, and now with the rise of the East, forget it. You are wasting your breath. Where are all of the comments of outrage from your generation? They are too busy playing video games, talking to their 2000 friends on MySpace and being not smart. Good luck with your uprising. You will need it.


Anon

Anya said...

Wow, you are just dripping with contempt for your students. You should get out of teaching--you're certainly not doing this generation any favors.

Anonymous said...

Every teacher has their "gems". I help those who want to be helped. You can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink. I make a big difference with those who can be saved. Unfortunately, most cannot be saved, and they will join the expanding lower classes. Being realistic about today's situation does not make me a bad teacher. Just as an alcoholic has to recognize that they are sick, we have realize that the situation is not good. You are idealistic, which is cute, but you don't have the age/experience/wisdom to really know any "truth" about any of this. In a global competition for wealth ignorant people will not succeed in any way. During our parents generation the work force was Europe and North America. Now we have to compete with China, India, and Europe, and we will be sorry losers in this game. Do some research. You sound so naive standing up for those morons. Standardized tests have been dumbed down, etc. You must realize some of this "truth" even if you don't have the wisdom to truly grasp it.

Anon

Jamie Beth said...

wow -- calling anya cute. sorry, i have to jump in here.

i actually see both sides of this argument (not the racist stuff, though), but clearly anonymous feels the need to be snarky, which is a sure sign that he/she has lost the ability to think critically and consider a point other than his/her own. that is sad.

as a former college administrator who has studied, managed and worked with my share of millennials, i admit frustration, but i also know it my job to inspire, teach and inform that generation. they do often come across as lazy and ignorant, but how can we blame them for that? they were raised by helicopter parents who wanted to protect them from the big bad world and had the time and disposable income to do so. what are you left with? wonderful, sweet, welcoming individuals who don't know how to take care of themselves. again, not their fault and i see it as my responsibility to help them see what their parents shielded them from and how to engage with the world as is, rather than how they would like it to be

Anonymous said...

Actually I don't think American universities are that good, especially on the undergraduate level. You probably have to keep your "customers" happy so that you can get tenure. Do they write evaluations of your class? Try not to make it too hard for the little sweeties. Their self esteem isn't that high. The only reason that people think that our colleges are so top notch is because many foreign students fill the graduate programs, and our schools, because they are set up around making money, have the most high tech equiptment for these foreigners to play on. I am not a "rascist" because I acknowledge that we have a slave labor force from the South. It will just be a matter of time until China and India catch up, and then all of those undergraduate students who drink, do drugs, and spark note all of those books will find themselves out of luck. I thought universities were about telling the "truth" no matter how unpleasant it may be. Instead our colleges are all about multiculturalism and how all cultures are equal. They are not! The difference between peoples both within and outside of our country has to do with culture. Family culture, values, etc. Some of our immigrants come from healthy cultures with productive values: China and India, Northern Europe, etc. These kids become successful, but their kids adapt to our lazy, b.s. culture and soon start talking back to teachers, etc. Most of this new generation of Americans is from a faulty culture. They have a faulty concept of learning, no work ethic, etc. Combine that will technological toys and you have a "lethal brew." There is no "solution". This is the end of our dominance, and for the middle classes get ready to join the poor. So, for liberals such as Anya, I said that it is "cute" that she is idealistic. Young people should be "idealistic". Yet we should also be "realistic" about what is going on, and realize that this is bad, this is not just generation gap. This is something much larger. Hope this helps clarify the problem for you.

Anon

Mae's mommy said...

ANON SAID: I am not a "rascist" because I acknowledge that we have a slave labor force from the South.

I SAY: No, you're a racist because you're a racist. And apparently you can't spell either. What is it that you teach again? Please, don't answer that.

Mae's mommy said...

BTW: Mae's mommy is also Jamie Beth...sorry, changed my profile at some point today....

Nielsd said...

Anon makes some good points, and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand for having a critical attitude. One thing though: "In a global competition for wealth ignorant people will not succeed in any way." Who says we are in a global competition for wealth? Who ever wanted to be? And who are the main beneficiaries of an attitude that accepts this 'competition' as granted? Why, we are, of course -- but not all of us.

Mae's mommy said...

nields, good points like: "Instead our colleges are all about multiculturalism and how all cultures are equal. They are not!"

Listen, I said I can see both sides of the argument, however as a good friend said to me last night, the millennials are living up to the standards society has set for them. I just don't see what good there is in blaming them for how they were parented. I see it as my job to help them do good in the world and the workplace, not berate them for what they don't know.

Anon is at the same time saying that America is going to have trouble competing globally while also saying not all cultures are created equal. This kind of reasoning: being dismissive of other cultures without taking the time to understand and appreciate them, let alone partner with them, and seeing other nations as "other" and enemies is exactly how America gets into wars.

Nielsd said...

A better statement would have been, "All economies are not equal." At least with economies we have raw numbers to look at, and I agree with Anon's apprehensions regarding America's future in those numbers. But this is not a recent thing: the numbers have looked bad since the 80s, at least.

As for comparing Plato to Lao Tzu, or a symphony to a drum circle, or judeo-christian myth to Caribbean voodoo -- it is outright ridiculous to say one is 'better' than another, and a broad understanding of cultures can only help us in the long run.

Mae's mommy said...

agreed.

milan said...

Anonymous makes many valid, insightful points that are unfortunately dismissed by some as being tinged with racism and dismissive of other cultures: they are not, and that is not the focus of this discussion. Trying to hijack an educated dialogue with accusatory language doesn't help anyone. If you read carefully, Anon is not criticizing other cultures; rather, he is drawing on their stronger distinctions in terms of upbrining, work ethic, discipline and so on as a way to illustrate, obviously with passion, what issues and challenges a growing number of younger, ignorant Americans are and will be facing if they continue on the path they are currently on. Our economy is gradually shifting to a "knowledge" economy, and social classes will unfortunately continue to widen as the rich get richer and the poor poorer (sorry for the cliche but it's true: for example, I was reading in The Economist a while back that over the last 20 years, middle-class American wages have, relatively speaking with regards to inflation, been completely stagnant, hence, that part of society is getting poorer due to increasing costs for housing, education, etc). Anyways, it is true - and I am only 28 years old myself so don't speak from any sort of stuffy age biased stance - that this younger generation has less patience, expects much, doesn't work as hard as their parents, are more disrespectful of elders/teachers/authority figures, spends loads of money (much of it not their own, on credit cards), and are media and image obsessed. As well for example, there are indications that fewer Americans are choosing to enter rigorous, technical education in college, such as engineering. When you add all that up and combine it with our globalized, world economy and the ever increasing cost of things - more competition means more demand for natural resource/energy, housing (take a stab at the ever-increasing rate at which many foreigners have bought property for investment in cities such as New York, Vancouver, San Francisco, etc) - and it's painfully obvious that the younger generation here is blissfully ignorant and too self-centered and focused on "living in the moment" to realize how difficult life will be for them. Jamie Beth, you are right to say that a lot of the problems have arisen from lack of proper parenting. I think our family values have eroded here, at least in comparison to other cultures. Divorce rates are skyrocekting, and the values that previous generations of parents have tried to instill in their kids is absent now. I hope that people such as yourself can help them engage with the world "as it is now".
Anyways, I'm not the only one to agree with Anonymous: this general theme is starting to appear in our reputable newspapers, such as the New York Times, from which Bob Hebert's column formed the basis of this discussion.

Anonymous said...

What I'm hearing is frustration by someone in the teaching game. I can understand that. I am not a teacher, but I am a parent. I see kids every day (that go to school with my son) that dont have any responsibility - for anything. They are given cars, money, clothes, more money, cell phones...even more money...they never have to earn anything. Most of them dont even have any chores around the house. So of course nothing has any value to them, including the 3R's, it just comes too easy. There are always the exceptions, but from I'm seeing in my tiny place in the universe, there are alot of kids out there that have no responsibility. They know how to 'play', and thats all they want to do. If only life were that simple....

Anonymous said...

It is nice to see that Milan agrees with me. I just don't think that our typical college bound kids can compete with the Chinese, the Japanese, or even the Germans. Do some research. They are working much, much harder than our precious little ones. Most of my students spend the majority of their time playing/practicing sports or playing hours of videogames in their basements. Go to any decent college and see who is getting a Masters or PhD in Engineering or any scientific field. There aren't many Americans, and if there are they are usually 1st generation. Yes, there are some families who maintain their older values, but the mainstream is gone. Should I feel sorry for my high school students because they were not raised correctly? Should I let them tell me to f--- off and not check their homework? I have been having many Republican moments in the last few years. As far as Anya is concerned, it is one thing to have a more Socialistic system (social net) in Denmark or Germany. Most Germans and Danes hate lazy people, do their best to finish a job completely, hate to be unemployed, etc. It is another thing to try it here with all of these lazy, ignorant, uninformed people. Do I want to split my paycheck with all of the students who do absolutely nothing in school and act disrespectfully to me? No! Not one penny! I also think that college should be for the hard working, intellectual, elite types. Let the rest of the kids go to trade school, military, etc. That is better than being hopelessly in debt from a college degree they will never use. Let's face it, college is not for everybody. Let's let the college system go back to being a more "elite" activity. Most of my kids would be better off selling video games in the mall or selling fast food. They love to talk about video games, and they should do what they love, shouldn't they? Anon