Although this piece about the sorry state of "Generation I" was written by an Australian about that country's young people, it could just as well have been written by an American teacher. In fact, I've read (and heard) similar opinions from numerous American "oldsters" - a number of them teachers. I'm not especially enamored of much that Millennials represent, embrace, or hold sacred (seemingly nothing). However, these youngsters didn't spring from the earth fully formed.

Indeed, much of what they are is the result of molds we've designed, promoted, supported, and enforced.They are not the same molds I was asked to conform to by my parents and grand-parents. We may have believed we were special but only after we had accomplished something that merited "special" recognition. Making the "no-cut-everyone-plays-everyone-gets-a-trophy" soccer league is now considered "special." Worse, several years of T-ball (a pale imitation of athletic prowess), followed by several more of "coach-pitch" has led a multitude of pre-teens to mistakenly believe they have a real shot at future stardom. This "specialness" carries over into the classroom where it is becoming unusual to find fewer than 80-90% of the class on either the "all-A" or "all A & B" honor rolls.

Yet, when they finally reach those golden years of secondary education, they're exposed to mentors like Van Der Wagen who are shocked to discover his students are, in fact, barely literate. Worse, the meme that "math is hard" has become such a broadly accepted truism, that students beyond the fifth grade are required to use a hand calculator. Any young person with the ability to perceive these distortions, and also hearing the calumny being heaped upon them for their "backwardness, would rightly rebel. However, in spite of the fact that rebellion brought about this nation, it is currently considered (and taught) that rebellion is a bad thing.

I don't have to look back too far to recall a generation that took to the streets rebelling against many of the things their parents and their government thought righteous. Many felt Viet Nam was terrible and young men and women demonstrated in the streets, on campuses, and in the capitol (after Ford did away with the draft the young women continued to protest while many of their male counterparts ran into scheduling conflicts).

Going back a little further, we discover another rebellion - this for the civil rights of black people. Today, it's difficult to find any of my fellow high school compatriots who will not boast of his or her contributions to the movement. Yet, still possessing a modicum of memory, I know quite well that most never strayed far from our rural hometown - most, in fact, had never met a black person - some still haven't.

So, as abhorrent as rebellion is considered, those of recent generations have not been reluctant to participate - admittedly, it has been fobbed off as "civil disobedience" but demonstrations against governments resistant to change is frequently required - Jefferson said so. Yet our current crop of youngsters, despite the scorn regularly directed their way, have remained remarkably docile. What, might you ask, do they have to complain about?

Let's see…well, first off, there's my generation. We've been promised the moon by both parties and in programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Despite their imminent bankruptcy, we're demanding that they deliver on those promises - no matter that though they'll ease us to a semi-comfortable ending, their design and funding guarantees that Millennials not only will not particpate, but may well be bankrupted by them. Then there's my children's generation. Overall, they were born in comfortable settings and enjoyed the good things that happened to us (economically) in their youth and middle age.

Unfortunately, we neglected to teach them the virtue of thrift and the danger of debt. We taught them that they could achieve anything they wished - it was the American promise. They neglected to note that things wished for frequently also had to be paid for - as a result they've spent (or borrowed) themselves into a monstrous hole and there is little chance they'll get out.

We've been great role models. One generation, though old enough to know better, still believes in the Entitlement Tooth Fairy; a second generation, born with unprecedented opportunity, has not only frittered away its own birthright but that of their children, too. And yet both generations read articles like Van Der Wagen's and pronounce "amen."

A final observation on Van Der Wagen. He (or she) doesn't help his argument when he points out that Chinese students "expect that they will be given a tonne of information and will be assigned extensive homework…" Asian students in American schools feel the same - but unlike their American counterparts, they go out and find the information and do homework. And they go on to become successful in their further studies and are extremely careful in pursuing a course of study that the commercial world rewards well.

Their success, though, underscores a more important point. Students learn; teachers rarely "teach" rather they guide and, hopefully inspire. But he's right in one aspect - it is a "gargantuan task" and one he clearly is not up to. Australia is better off with his retirement.





Speak your mind


Resources & Links