Are We Profiling?

Building SkillsA very dear younger friend of mine, who was born in 1984, telephoned on the verge of a snit fit. He’d attended yet another presentation detailing the difficulties of working with Millenials. This young executive holds a challenging job with major responsibilities in a large company. He recently put in 40 hours in two days, voluntarily and without extra compensation, to resolve a major problem not of his own making.  And yet he listened as the presenter and the attendees bemoaned the poor work ethic and generally unprofessional attitudes of Millenials.

“Hello??? I’m sitting right here!” was what he wanted to say. Later, some of his contributions to the discussion groups were dismissed with “Well, you’re young,” and “You’re still new here.”millenial

Beyond being miffed at being disrespected, he worried, “How are we going to attract the best new talent if this is the culture of our company?” And this set me to thinking….

How often do we, in our college setting, complain about the perceived attitudes of “Millenials,” or “Young People Today,” or “Today’s Students”? Could it be that we are not only painting with too broad a brush, but actually using a paint roller? When did it become OK to prejudge the behaviors and values of an entire group of people?

Surely we wouldn’t dream of saying things like, “Well, you know those women are just no good in math and science.” Or “____milgen_____________s (insert any racial or ethnic or socioeconomic group here) just don’t value education.” We’d be disciplined and perhaps dismissed, as our unenlightened, biased mindset would deserve.

So why is it OK to profile Millenials? If a time machine could transport us Boomers back to the 60s and 70s for a hard look at our younger selves, we might reconsider our harsher judgments. Besides, those “Young People” running the likes of Google and Facebook seem to be getting on just fine.


4 comments on “Are We Profiling?

  1. myevette2000 says:

    I was just having a discussion with a colleague about this very topic. I indicated I really do not feel the students we are working with now are very unique in their perceived lack of skills and knowledge. I do remember when I was 20, and although it was a real long time ago, I do know I was clueless in so many ways. I guess I think we are sometimes making excuses for ourselves when we play the blame game.

  2. kencasey99 says:

    Karen, Thanks for much–this is very timely.

    Over the course of my teaching years I often have been in conversations about “students today.” Typically these discussion involve playing a game called “ain’t it awful?” At times I have been a leading player in these discussions (at times things have been awful). On the whole though I tend to avoid these conversations, perhaps cough and excuse myself because they are so rarely productive. I understand the need to vent; I vent to others and will loan an ear–I just feel like I often need a timer to limit these conversations.

    • Thanks to both of you for your comments. Teaching here at Fort Campbell, I have the privilege of working with Millenials who are willing to put their lives on the line at any moment for all of us, including aging Boomers. It does seem to me that grouping all members of a certain chronological cohort together to make assumptions about their behaviors and motives rises almost to the level of bigotry.

      • kencasey99 says:

        Karen, You are diplomatic in having that “almost” in your final sentence. Being somewhat of a fire-eater–I am tempted to delete it and say that often it rises to the level of bigotry. There is a certain smugness in the criticism of Millenials that smells to me of self-righteousness.

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