Why Millennials Are Not the Worst
It’s been a popular pastime for centuries for older people to bemoan the vagaries of the youthful generation. In fact, if you do a search for “Millennials are…,” the first results might be: 17 Reasons Millennials Are the Worst Generation, 7 Reasons Millennials Are the Worst Generation, or 8 Reasons Millennials are the Worst. Actually, each of these articles is trying to debunk the myth that millennials are worse than any other generation. I love this line from The real reason why everyone thinks millennials are the worst: "Millennials, those born roughly between 1980 and 2000 are infamously narcissistic, entitled, lazy, arrogant, wild, politically disengaged suckers who will fall for any weird fad. But except for that last one, which is totally true, these clichés are silly and easily debunked.”
In the popular mind, there are seemingly gazillions of ways people born between 1982 and 2004 suck. Among them are our current college students between the ages of 18 and 25.
Last week, I was treated to a workshop on “Understanding and Engaging Millennials in the Classroom,” where the prevalent stereotypes were described. What I appreciated about my hour there was that the instructor was trying to upend all of the negative images by talking about how their traits can be seen as truly positive.
For example, millennials seem to expect things to happen quickly and have no tolerance whatsoever for delays. That means they are focusing their energies on making things more efficient. They are motivated by self-interest and are risk-averse because they are growing up in decades of uncertainty about the climate, a prevalence of natural disasters, and constant mass shootings. But the awareness of all these horrors is leading them to work to make life better for themselves and future generations. They are also annoyingly close to their parents, need constant feedback, and think they can multi-task as a way of life. But these, too, have upsides.
I’m frankly tired of hearing about how current college students aren’t measuring up. So, I am going to focus today’s post on the ways they are pretty interesting. I got to spend time with one particularly lovely millennial last week. (AH, you know who you are.) Yes, she probably doesn’t tolerate delays, is risk-averse, stays close to her family, requires constant feedback, and is used to multi-tasking. But let’s take a look at how these millennial characteristics are meaningful, positive, and productive in their approaches to college and constructing a life.
So, I’m going to step off the “I hate millennials” bandwagon now and forever and focus on how they, as products of their socio-political and cultural landscape, may be able to bring positive change to this seemingly topsy-turvy world. Join me?
(Image from: http://www.ad-pure.com/blog/marketing/a-new-generation-of-consumers-millennials-are-you-one/)
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.