Thursday, October 15, 2009

Educating Millennials for Fun and Profit

Are they the generation of dumb narcissists or the rising, altruistic change-makers? Opinion seems divided, yet the split is hardly even.

Eric Hoover, in his article "The Millennial Muddle" in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Oct. 2009), ponders the wealth of information, circulating since the 90s, about the millennial generation, particularly about the millennials as students.

One of the most influential books on the subject is Millennials Rising: The Next Generation by Neil Howe and William Strauss. According to Hoover, in their view millennials are "rule followers, who were engaged, optimistic, and downright pleasant." They will build new institutions with smiles and team spirit.

This rosy picture is the engine that drives marketing, consulting services, and, unfortunately, pedagogy and policies in contemporary colleges and universities. The millennials are consumers.

Selling this rosy picture and explaining what millennials want is good business. The problem is that it just doesn't fit with what professors and social scientists find in their research and sitting in front of them in class. Howe and the late Strauss "were not social scientists," neither were they in those classrooms.

Hoover devotes much of his article to Mark Bauerlein, Jean M. Twenge, and Fred A. Bonner II, professors and researchers who see quite a different picture. Interesting, also, that their primary focus is education, not business.

Bauerlein finds that the millennials are dangerously ignorant and illiterate. His book The Dumbest Generation outlines his research and experience.

   Generation Me, by Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor who has studied generational differences, is about the rise in narcissim and entitlement she found in the millennials - the "everyone gets a trophy" generation.

Fred A. Bonner II approaches the issue of diversity in the millennial generation. The students he writes about in his forthcoming book Diverse Millennials in College don't match the upper middle-class white kids that Howe and Strauss based their work on.

 It is foolish nonsense to think that the youngest and least knowledgeable about what (and how) they need to learn should dictate. It is criminal for the adults who know better to allow it in order to turn a profit.

Approaching millennials as consumers of education denies them their right to a genuine education.


Owen Gray said...

You are a teacher after my own heart.

I worked for three school boards during my career. I worked for the first board for twelve years. After I left, they adopted the slogan, "Education is our business."

I knew I had made the right decision.

ChrisJ said...

I'm happy for you, but all the grown-ups are leaving - literally and figuratively!