Posts Tagged college

The ridiculed generation

Time fake cover 1I’m sure you’ve seen the Time magazine cover “The Me Me Me Generation,” and that many responses are already circulating around the Internet (and that Time appreciates the publicity). Something like this deserves a vigorous response, because young people need to stick up for themselves.

Saying that recent college graduates have no jobs and live with their parents purely out of laziness and narcissism ignores the obvious fact that there are no jobs to be had. The most frustrating thing about Joel Stein’s article might be that it’s forcing me to talk about the “Great Recession.”

Remember that? The media talks about it incessantly, except in this case.

It’s still going on, sort of. At the very least, employers are still using it as an excuse not to hire people, or to tinker with the definition of “employment.”

Many entry-level positions are being replaced with internships, or being occupied by temps and people displaced from higher positions. The desperation of workers young and old also makes it easier for employers to cut full-time positions down to part-time, throwing benefits out the window in the process.

I guess wanting a job instead of occasional work makes a person narcissistic.

It also means recent college graduates are competing with people who will work for free (isn’t that slavery?) on the one hand, and people who out-qualify them on the other.

But hey, this isn’t the Great Depression, right? Many young people are employed, so why don’t they move the hell out of their parents’ basements?

Well, unlike the people who get to write Time cover stories, today’s youth are saddled with student loan debt. In fact, with so many people spending so much of their (theoretical) income on loan repayment, I honestly can’t see how society will function when the Baby Boomers finally retire.

Some might view this as excuse-making; past generations have been worse off than this one, after all. Or have they?

Growing up in New York City in the 1970s, my dad had a much harder life than me, but he did get to go to college for free. He was also allowed to feel frustrated about his job prospects without being called lazy and narcissistic.

This generation isn’t the first to come of age during lean economic times, but it is the first to be ridiculed by the same generation that raised it.

Our parents told us to go to college, because getting an education is important. They tell us to enjoy our youth, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. How does following their advice make us bad people?Time fake cover 2

“Millennials” aren’t perfect, but they have nothing to apologize for when compared to the Baby Boomers.

The Boomers drank, smoked, and partied as much as anyone and, it’s hard to describe the hippie movement and other introspective fads of the 1960s as anything but selfish.

“Millennials” certainly don’t protest like them, but it’s important to remember that ‘60s anti-war and civil rights protests only involved a small minority of college students, who had a big incentive in the form of a military draft. Also, their parents thought this civil disobedience was narcissistic.

Those adults were wrong, of course, and so are today’s. It;s easy to peg young people as lazy or narcissistic, because that would shift responsibility away from the people who have made their lives so challenging. Sometimes, I am genuinely embarrassed by my generation, but that doesn’t mean we deserve to be scapegoated.

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Defying categorization

“Categorizing people is not something we do here” was the slogan used during my college orientation to teach us impressionable freshmen not to discriminate, generalize, or judge based on a person’s skin color, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

Since embracing diversity is second nature for most New England liberal arts students, that slogan became the punchline of many fine jokes, but what’s really funny is how far some people are taking the act of categorization.

Reading Thought Catalog, one would think introverted people are an oppressed minority. The site recently ran a list article on things you should never say to an introvert, and a POV piece on how the deck of life is stacked against the less-talkative, because things like job interviews are dependent entirely on sociability and charisma.

I’m not going to argue that being outgoing doesn’t make certain parts of life easier, but the whole idea of categorizing people as either “introverted” or “extroverted’ is an oversimplification worthy of a “Physics for English Majors” class.

Obviously, when many individuals act a certain way, it’s easy to recognize patterns of behavior. But to extrapolate that and apply one’s observations to every introverted or extroverted person is crazy. We’re not robots, are we?

What’s the threshold for introversion anyway? Should the American Psychiatric Association add some diagnostic criteria to the DSM-V? What if someone doesn’t fit the template of “introvert” or “extrovert,” just as most people don’t fit classic social stereotypes like “jock” or “nerd?”

The answer to all of those questions is the same: human beings are individuals, and their behavior can’t be accounted for by gross generalizations. They are conscious of their actions and capable of changing. Labeling people just obfuscates that fact.

I’ve always thought my generation knew enough about the dangers of generalizations based on race, religion, or sexual orientation, but here we are creating new generalizations based on how much a person talks at parties. One of those Thought Catalog articles was followed by “The Current State of Public Discourse” on the site’s feed. A tad ironic, no?

Everyone wants to make sense of the chaos that is human interaction, but that chaos is the essential fact of it. Individuality makes our actions unpredictable, and it can’t be any other way.

Categorizing people may give the categorizer a sense of serenity, but it also dehumanizes the people being categorized by making it seem like they are not in control of their own actions. That’s why it is not something we do here.

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