After seeing yet another negative meme on Facebook, I think we teachers need to start a movement. We work the most closely with this new generation, and as such, we need to set the record straight on Millennials. I’m so tired of the Millennial-bashing memes, news stories, and just snide remarks.
When I tell people that I am a teacher, they often look at me conspiratorially and ask, “So is it just our imagination, or are kids today really different?” And when they say “different,” they mean “worse.”
I have so many responses to this. My first is that everything they say about these kids is exactly what the principal in the Breakfast Club said about those kids. In 1985, we WERE those kids, so perhaps what’s different is not this generation. Perhaps it is us, and we have forgotten what it was to be young.
But that’s kind of an easy answer, and I don’t think it’s entirely true. In reality, these kids ARE different because the world is different. Sociologists rightfully suggest that our culture is going through a paradigm shift that is as radical as the paradigm shift from oral to print culture. When the masses began to read, it led to an increase in linear thought, which led indirectly to the scientific revolution and the age of reasoning.
We have no idea what this shift to digital learning and living will do, but I see no reason to assume it will be devastation.
We have given this generation a bum deal in terms of the economy, healthcare, the environment, and other institutions. Their response has been a little bit whiny. But honestly, we were whiny at that age, too. That is part of being a teenager. Becoming an adult is no fun.
My observation, however, is that after a day or two of whining, these kids tend to actually try to DO something. I give them props for that.
The other comment I hear from older adults is that this generation is so “entitled.” That is ludicrous. They have no more of a sense of entitlement than any other middle-class teenager has ever had.
The working-class kids have always understood that life is work. Middle class kids, however, have lived a pretty easy life usually, and it’s hard to accept that someone else was making it easy. I remember when I started doing my own laundry at college, and I realized how many towels we four teenagers had left for my mom to launder every week back when I was home. I felt like a jerk.
These kids have the same realizations. The difference is they have social media, so they complain about “adulting.” Then the Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers roll their ideas, saying, “Welcome to the REAL world.” Do you really think our parents didn’t roll their eyes at us? The only difference was in privacy. We were able to make mistakes in private. These kids do not have that luxury.
And speaking of media, I would like to address phone usage. People love to bash millennials because they’re always on their phones. Here is what I have noticed. Every time a student’s phone accidentally rings or beeps in my class, it is because a parent is calling his or her child during school. The parents are the ones who make their children check their phones between each class. I’m not saying kids are not on their phones, but they certainly aren’t alone! Our whole culture is glued to a screen.
I began this rant– and I apologize because it has become a rant– saying that we as teachers need to set the record straight. Let’s post what amazing things we see this generation do. Instead of complaining when they act like the children they are, let’s praise them and laud their efforts publicly when they act like the adults they are becoming.
I like these kids. They have the potential to change the world, and they might just do it.