Tuesday, November 8, 2016
About All This Bashing of Millennials ...
It's a new public sport, it seems--bashing millennials. Frequently, I see Facebook memes that ridicule this rising generation. And I recently streamed a new Netflix special by Dana Carvey (Church Lady from SNL years ago), and he has a bit of a rant against young people, as well. And other comedians and TV commentators regularly take millennials to the woodshed.
I don't really care for it--for a number of reasons. For one ... I remember. I was part of the "hippie" generation of the 1960s and 70s. And although I wasn't really much of a hippie (I got my first teaching job at age 21), I did, for a time, wear my hair long, grow a moustache, have a "McCarthy for President" bumper sticker on my car. And, I'll confess, I thereby earned some scorn--and some middle fingers from other drivers--for a number of years.
But I always hated being shoved in that category, condemned by my elders when I hadn't really done anything--except commit the crime of being younger than they.
Another reason I dislike such criticism today: I taught many of them. I didn't retire (at last) from teaching until the spring of 2011, which means that I must be (somewhat) responsible for whatever it is you don't like about them. Teachers are easy (and fun) to blame for things over which they have virtually no control. But, of course, it makes a kind of dim sense to the dim. That guy taught my kid; my kid is turning out to be a jerk; therefore ...
Another: It seems wildly hypocritical (and wildly illogical) to condemn the young for a cultural world they did not create. We did. They did not invent iPad, iPods, iPhones, Facebook, etc. We did. I remember feeling that way when I was a boy and first started hearing stuff about how television was ruining the youth of America. (Uh, Mr. Critic, who invented television and saw to it that every house in the country had a set or two or more?)
Finally, I find it troubling, this habit of ours of looking at a few egregious examples of our fellow humans and concluding that they are somehow representative of whatever group we assign them to. This sort of thinking is rampant nowadays--and probably always has been. It's more than troubling; it's dangerous (as our recent presidential election has been proving).
I taught many wonderful young people throughout my 45-year career. And during all that time, there were critics who attacked them for their toys--comic books, transistor radios, boom-boxes, Pac-Man and Space Invader players, and on and on.
But kids are not their toys. The young are not their toys. We older folks are not our toys. The students I taught my final year (2010-11, high school juniors) were just as bright and curious as their predecessors. Just as eager to learn. Sure, they had distractions that were not at all like my teenage distractions. But they would lay them aside when something compelling caught their attention. Just as I--long long ago--had done.
I know (and accordingly grieve) that kids don't read as much as they used to (neither do most of their elders). A cultural shift. Again--not their fault. If we want to place blame, let's consider, say, those folks who have insisted on myriads of standardized tests in our public schools, tests which measure, generally, only those things that are easy to measure, tests that consume most of the curriculum and leave behind only the boring bones.
Some of my recent students are in med school, in law school, in grad school, in helping professions, in remote places working with those who need it, and on and on. I am proud of so many of them for so many reasons. So if they want to relax with an electronic device now and then ... I say let 'em.
And as for me? Yeah, I hate jokes about millennials. And the elderly. (Hmmm, in which group am I? I forget. Probably because, you know, I'm old!)