On Campus
May 22, 2014, 06:55AM

The “Everyone’s a Champion Generation”

A 19-year-old Millennial blasts today’s nurturing society.

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Jennifer Medina recently wrote an article for The New York Times about the growing demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi. Classic books should be prefaced with labels, alerting students that what they’re about to read may be offensive, graphic, and/or potentially thought-provoking. Things Fall Apart: “could trigger readers who have experienced racism, colonialism, religious persecution, violence, suicide and more.” The Great Gatsby: contains “a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence.” Green Eggs and Ham: could trigger readers who have dealt with peer pressure or practice a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.

Would adding these warning labels be going too far? No! This hardly scratches the surface.

We can warn students about racism in Huck Finn, anti-Semitism in The Sun Also Rises, and excessive verbiage in Finnegans Wake, but how can we protect them in other facets of education? What if a student suffers from dendrophobia, and Environmental Science is a required course? Here’s a real toughie: what do you call the student afflicted with melanophobia? Are they (notice I didn’t specify a gender; you’re welcome) racist, or mentally ill? Is “mentally ill” the politely correct term?

One thing to keep in mind: this is the “everyone’s a champion” generation. These are the kids whose parents didn’t keep track of the score during soccer games, the kids who got trophies for participation. Some professors are arguing that placing “trigger warnings” on syllabi would “suggest a certain fragility of mind that higher learning is meant to challenge, not embrace.” Too late. These academics obviously haven’t watched Girls. My generation has lofty ambitions, yes, but we have no work ethic. If something is challenging, then it must be unfair, right? If I find something offensive, then I don’t have to deal with it. I can just get my dad to call the school and have the teacher fired.

This mindset may be convenient, but it doesn’t prepare students for real life (universities are also doing a poor job at preparing their students, as a college degree is becoming more and more useless). Yes, Things Fall Apart may be offensive to some young adults (especially those that have dealt with colonialism), but it also teaches people about racism in a far more effective way than any textbook could. And come on, any student who complains about violence in The Great Gatsby is just being lazy. By today’s standards, Gatsby is PG.

There’s an easy solution: get rid of required courses. College costs $60,000 a year: students should be allowed to choose what classes they take. They’re already required to dedicate a large chunk of their collegiate experience to one specific field, why go any further? Why does everyone in the university have to take “Intro to Communications” and “Principles of Microeconomics”? This stifles creativity and encourages a homogenized student body, instead of one that breeds individual, original thinkers.

And if you’re really offended by the notion of Gatsby, well, it’s simple: don’t read it.

  • This is quite a rant, another in a long line of "kids these days" and "our society is falling apart" rants. We hire young people to work in computer science/software engineering every year or so, both college interns and newly minted graduates. I've been mostly impressed by the youth we interview and very pleased with those we hire. They are intelligent, reasonably well educated for their age, understand that getting good work is not a given even with a degree from a good school. They work hard and want to learn. I have two 13 year old boys and a 17 year old girl. They have many friends. I see the same mix of personalities and achievement I did when I was in high school in the 1980s. My statements above are of course merely anecdotal evidence, but I've yet to see any peer reviewed studies supporting the idea that the current generation is deficient due to their parenting. Rants are fine, but they should have a basis in reality.

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  • “Compared to previous generations, recent high school graduates are more likely to want lots of money and nice things, but less likely to say they’re willing to work hard to earn them,” said Twenge, author of the book “Generation Me.” Also: "the researchers say it’s probably [Baby Boomer parents] fault for creating a culture that breeds narcissism and entitlement." Published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin." http://psp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/05/01/0146167213484586

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  • Spot on, Booker.

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  • Booker, I can't access the actual paper, but this hardly looks like compelling evidence for the conclusion you cited. I'd really like to see the statistics on this. Twenge appears to be more of a celebrity than a scientist, in a discipline already plagued by hand waving. I included the abstract for the paper you cited below and here's a link to an article on her, complete with criticism from prominent scientists on her conclusions - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/science/seeing-narcissists-everywhere.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 "We examined whether culture-level indices of threat, instability, and materialistic modeling were linked to the materialistic values of American 12th graders between 1976 and 2007 (N = 355,296). Youth materialism (such as the importance of money and of owning expensive material items) increased over the generations, peaking in the late 1980s to early 1990s with Generation X and then staying at historically high levels for Millennials (GenMe). Societal instability and disconnection (e.g., unemployment, divorce) and social modeling (e.g., advertising spending) had both contemporaneous and lagged associations with higher levels of materialism, with advertising most influential during adolescence and instability during childhood. Societal-level living standards during childhood predicted materialism 10 years later. When materialistic values increased, work centrality steadily declined, suggesting a growing discrepancy between the desire for material rewards and the willingness to do the work usually required to earn them."

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  • i think the point of this rant is more along the lines of "what are we constructing here?" trigger warnings are a whole can of worms, and i think he does well with his extrapolation. the usefulness of them is basically zero compared to the massive task that it would impose on society to implement. i agree that older generations generally see the next ones as deficient, but i think it's also fair to say that a new generation could get actually screwed up if we try hard enough. Booker is in the thick of it and seeing more than anyone older can probably comprehend.

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  • I'm standing up right now giving you a slow clap. Kudos Booker. Couldn't agree more

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  • Furthermore, PC thought is the enemy of critical thinking. It's one thing to watch ones language in public, it's an entirely different thing to shield ones thoughts

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