There's a fairly substantial conversation happening on a professional listserv I'm on about Millennial Students. Technically, the Millennials are the generation after me--1982 on. According to my colleagues who have actually read about it, Millennials tend to be:
- Relatively sheltered
- They tend to feel positive about their economic future, because the economy has generally been positive during their high school and college years.
- There parents are extremely involved in most aspects of their lives--through college and beyond.
- They view themselves as tolerant, positive and upbeat.
- They grew up in an era of fairly intense kid safety rules and public school lock downs.
- They are technologically sophisticated.
- My students do not read directions. They become actively indignant when I tell them that the answer to their question is on the syllabus and that they need to read the syllabus.
- They are uncomfortable with flexibility. They have intense trouble deciding on a topic for a presentation, for example. They prefer it when I tell them exactly what to do.
- They either have no opinion, or they refuse to support and elaborate on their opinion, either verbally or in writing.
- In fact, they appear to have a deep lack of interest in most things. If they are interested and passionate about things, they do not express it.
- They expect me to go out of my way to accommodate their schedules. They expect me to be available constantly to answer their questions. They would rather write me long email explanations and questions than read my syllabus or talk to me during office hours or on break.
- They have had very little personal freedom. Most of the traveling they have done, if they've done any, has been with their parents. Many of them still live with their parents, even if they are 25 or 26.
- They have a very vexing sense of entitlement. They pay for the class, they expect to pass the class. Of course, most of them aren't paying for the class, their parents are.
Still, I can't help but feel that my students might be better off if they'd had more out of control experiences: a few more close calls, a night or two smashing mailboxes, part-time jobs they didn't want to have, drugs. They seem to understand that a lot of rules and norms are arbitrary, but they don't seem to care. Sometimes I feel like the passive-aggression I encounter in my classrooms is a way for the students to rebel against their parents. But G-d, what a lame way to rebel.
But now I'll be kinder: I have no idea what it's like to have that kind of overbearing pressure from my parents. I have no idea how I'd feel about school if it was something that I was forced to do, or if there were a specific field or business that I was expected to go into. I can only imagine how beholden I'd feel to my parents if they'd payed for everything for me my whole life. I'm sure I would be more positive about my future economic prospects if I had no debt. Etc, etc.
And, of course, there are exceptions. Right now I have several fabulous students: it's true that most of them still live with their parents and have had everything paid for their whole lives, but they seem to understand that they are lucky to not have intense economic pressure. They don't all feel that they are entitled to everything. They do have personal and intellectual interests beyond getting a job and making money and pleasing their parents. They're learning to be creative and take the initiative. Some of my students have just left their homes for the first time, and they're realizing that all the day to day decisions that their parents have been making for them are actually quite complicated...