CODA

I want to continue to direct your attention to Monday's post and discussion because, for obvious reasons, the radical makeover of higher education is of great importance to me. However, the new issue of the New Yorker has what we might consider a companion piece. Of course higher education's problems run deeper than political appointments and administrative dick-measuring contests; as I've written so many times before (hit the "teaching" tag) the attitudes and expectations of the students are a problem as well. Particularly vexing is this new generation of students who are for all intents and purposes helpless, or led to believe that they are. In "Why Are American Kids So Spoiled?", Elizabeth Kolbert takes a shot at uncovering the roots of the problem.

The discussion, while extremely interesting and more than worth your time, focuses largely on early childhood and parenting. Yet one passage speaks directly to the role of universities and the commodification of education in shaping the way children are raised:

Hara Estroff Marano argues that college rankings are ultimately to blame for what ails the American family. Her argument runs more or less as follows: High-powered parents worry that the economic opportunities for their children are shrinking. They see a degree from a top-tier school as one of the few ways to give their kids a jump on the competition. In order to secure this advantage, they will do pretty much anything, which means not just taking care of all the cooking and cleaning but also helping their children with math homework, hiring them S.A.T. tutors, and, if necessary, suing their high school.

When test scores become the panacea for admitting students to college and sorting them out afterward, parents who have every reason to fear for their children's economic future attempt to eliminate all challenges, distractions, and responsibilities except academics from their lives. I'll take care of everything for you; you just be sure to study a lot. Oh, you don't know how to study? Here's a tutor and three Kaplan courses. In this way, the author argues, parents unintentionally send kids to college who are immature, lazy, and unprepared to do any work (or take care of themselves on the most basic level) even if the urge to do so strikes.

It's not a definitive argument, and I'd like to see more from Marano's book before passing judgment. But it passes the smell test, based on my experiences with undergraduates.

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68 Responses to “CODA”

  1. Bosh Says:

    Hmmmm, if that is true than everything that article talks about would be more true in South Korea than in the states since:
    -Which uni you go to make even more of a difference than in the states wrt job prospects due to really really powerful alumni networks.
    -Test scores matter even more for getting into a top-ranked school than in the states.
    -Parents do even more to off-load non-studying responsibilities from kids, for example it's pretty much unheard of for a high school kid to have a part time job.
    -Parents do a LOT more to make kids get additional studying outside of the regular schools (which are pretty mediocre).
    -Less moms having jobs = more time for moms to push all of this.

    So if this is true then Korean college kid would be worse than American ones. Hearing from my friends who teach at unis this might be true or maybe the draft changes things, dunno.

  2. Bosh Says:

    Oh and also skilled trades (plumber, mechanic) don't get paid very well at all, so there's less of an alternative means of not being poor than in the states.

  3. J. Dryden Says:

    The skills to *get* the job and the skills to *do* the job do not often overlap (outside of sales and loan sharking.) My students know how to take a standardized test well. And that's about it. They cannot make an argument from objectivity. They cannot read a text critically. And by encouraging them to devote all their mental training to questions that can be answered in less than three minutes apiece, the entrance exams have guaranteed that questions that take much, much longer to answer (if indeed they can be answered at all) are boringly pointless to them. But hey, it's not like I'll be keeping my job for too much longer, if Monday's post is anything to go by…

  4. GG Says:

    You know what? This kids-these-days shit is starting to piss me off, and it's not just you. If I read one more article wanking about how Africans/the French/Neanderthals had better child-rearing practices, and goddam the little entitled brats of this generation lack seriousness and intellectual rigidity that the true scholars in 1950s white America had, I'm going to blind myself with a wooden spoon.

    A different measure of intelligence is overtaking the world, and it's one that relies on processes and flexible application of concepts rather than facts and the ability to parrot bullshit. My kid doesn't need to be able to roast lake trout over an open pit — he needs to know how to execute a Google search and plow through a mountain of data in an expeditious manner. Unfortunately, his teacher is likely to be a fucking dinosaur that tests his ability to memorize the names of the inventors of the internet and the date the first PC hit the market.

    Sure, this generation of kids is an enormous whiz-stream of inept assholes. Look who they were raised by! Shit may not have been "easy" back in their parents' day, but it was damn sure "easier." Hell, in the '60s-80s, a 19-year old with a high school degree could find an actual, real-life job. Perhaps it wasn't cushy and white collar, but things like "a career" were attached to it.

    Guess what a 22-year old with decent grades at a top-25 school is qualified to do these days? I'll use myself as an example, 2003-2006 (pre-recession!): fuckall. As far as I can tell, the only job I could have wrangled sans tons of parental intervention was at Starbucks. Overqualified for ditch-digging (which I would have been willing to do), underqualified for anything else. With parents determined to let me "make my own way," I floundered — and even slept until noon some days! Full disclosure: I spent the days I didn't sleep until noon doing crosswords and learning to cook (which is now a semi-career for me).

    I took the only "escape route" available to me — grad school. What a horrid fucking idea that was, despite the universal back-patting re: growing up and maturing that it afforded me. $150K later, I had a worthless law degree and a rescinded offer in 2009! Maturity! Adulthood! The right path!

    Or, hey, maybe it was the only sensible route, since it was the only way for me to socialize/date in my peer group, and I met my wife there. She, incidentally, makes a metric fuckton of money working at a certain uber-white presidential candidate's former firm, and I've been enormously fortunate to find some pretty fulfilling and somewhat lucrative work that still allows us to see each other on an occasional basis.

    Nether of us are under any illusion that we are special. We worked hard and we're blessed with wonderful genes and blah blah blah. Fuck that, we were lucky. And are lucky. We pay $3000/mo in student loans, and can actually afford that, an apartment, and the occasional dinner out. Meanwhile, Facebook is a minefield of friends and former classmates who (still!) don't have jobs or aren't making rent. Nothing's sadder or more pathetic than a 32-year old living at home, and I thank my fucking lucky stars every day that it ain't me — by all rights and without an incredible string of good fortune, it would be.

    But you know what? They all know how pathetic and sad they are, and they don't need assholes like you claiming they're not hard-working enough. They know they're ill-equipped for a changing world, that after three or four years of bullshit underemployment or crosswords that they're already obsolete and useless. And they have no fucking hope. Life is totally fucked, plus they have $100K of non-dischargable loans that'll skullfuck them into the nursing home. They don't need you or some prick from the New Yorker who thinks attachment parenting is the world's greatest ill (I'm inclined to agree, but let's bitch about that when the next generation comes of age) pissing all over them.

    You know what these kids are? Not lazy. Not weak-willed, and certainly not inferior.

    THEY ARE FUCKING TERRIFIED. And they should be. What happens if I or my wife weren't as lucky or were ever-so-slightly dumber? I'll tell you: we're her brother or my sister, both of whom are moving home at the ages of 26/27. They're in gobs of debt due to school, and are slowly coming to terms with the fact that they may never have any sort of a career, and damn well might be living with their doddering parents into the next decade. No relationships. No future. And what? You want their 19-year sibling to pay more attention in fucking poli-sci class? Why fucking bother?

    At 27, my parents were on their second home, and were expecting their second child. They led a comfortable, white collar life with some sort of attainable future in sight. Through pure dumb luck, my wife and I are in a similar situation (although almost a decade later). Carnage is all around us. Oh, and we're fucking affluent white people with dual-parent, non-smoking households that got to attend fancy schools, eat salads and shit, and go to the doctor! It's hard to see how our problems arise from mommy patting us on the head once too often.

    Be a little more sensitive and aware, you fucking prick.

  5. GG Says:

    Also, because I'm an entitled self-centered asshole, I want a response.

  6. Anonymouse Says:

    GG, your generation isn't the first one to struggle. GenX graduated high school to the chorus of "You're on your own now kid!" Living with mom & dad wasn't even an option for us, because the wonderful Boomers had parents who paid them to backpack Europe for a summer and then they returned to dirt-cheap schools. Gen X was told, "College was cheap for us, so you find a way to pay for yours". I did it working 40 – 60 hours/week in various part-time jobs while simultaneously putting myself through school…and I was the norm, not the outlier.

    I graduated college with a degree in computer science while Reagan was still president…and there were no jobs because the Boomers had them all. I lived with five other people in a one-bedroom apartment (remember, no mom & dad's basement!) until I found a job in another country (no Starbucks in the 1980s to work in). When I got back to the USA and found an entry-level job, like the rest of Gen X, I was told I was a worthless slacker because nothing could ever compare to the wonderful Boomers. I could fix their computers and teach them how to use their computers, but there would never be any promotions on the horizon because the Boomers were firmly fixed in their place of privilege.

  7. Michael Says:

    I think GG has the right of it. But the most important addition to his rant is this: that all this has been intentional. It's not an accident that this is the worst economy in 80 years; it's intentional at this point. Governments of the world are willing to spend any amount of money as long as none of it goes to the poor or middle class and as long as none of it actually goes to relieving the causes of this depression.

    The U.S. is entering the point where the rich simply own all the opportunities and are squatting on them. Not going to hire anyone without 5 years experience at doing this exact job. Want to start your own business? Sure, as soon as you find enough money to rent this tiny retail space. Oh, can't afford it? I'll just let it sit vacant then instead of lowering the rent. Warehousing properties doesn't make much difference in my income – if it makes your life a little more miserable, too bad for you.

    And the reaction to that fuckedness, as GG points out so well, is despair. Can't prosper in the system; if you fight it you go to jail for life without possibility of parole, at least if Scalia gets to decide; what, pray tell, is the rational response?

    I don't believe there's any significant spoiling factor, or if there is, it's minor. People who grew up, put in ONE job application and got hired at a job paying well above minimum wage now think that people who have applied for hundreds of jobs at or below minimum wage and been refused each time are "lazy" and "entitled". Nice grasp of the problem there, dumbasses.

  8. c u n d gulag Says:

    Up until a few years ago, I dealt with these young people as they left college and came into the work force.

    I was a Trainer at a large Telecommunications company. And on the first day of training, it was interesting, to say the least, to see the faces of these recent college graduates as they came into the company as Customer Service Rep's (CSR's). One of the requirements for the CSR job was at least a 2-year degree. And most of the new-hires had 4 – or more.

    The pay is low, the job is hard, the hours long, the expectations are high, Management is tough, and the customers are tougher – often brutal. And the company benefits were getting worse and worse every year.

    At the "Orientation," I'd describe the company and their jobs. And many of them started to get what I called that "Peggy Lee" look – as they sat there and thought about their parents, teachers, and professors, and all of their schooling, looked at where it had brought them, the only job they could get, and lucky to get it, and asked themselves, "Is That All There Is?"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qe9kKf7SHco

    Yes, young people: Except for a lucky few – 'that IS all there is.'

    And I'm at a loss as to what to do about it.

    I'm too worried about my own unemployed 54 year-old college-educated asses future to think of a solution for their problems.

    My future's so dim and bleak, not even a searchlight will help me find my way.

  9. Middle Seaman Says:

    GG, did you consider mild drugs (where I grew up hashish was plentiful)?

    The good old days and good old students. I have been teaching at the university for about 30 years. If anything, today's students are better and can withstand their ground with students of 10 and 20 years ago. Our K-12 education system is good to decent except for poor areas where resources are scarce and parents struggle with everything.

    The university system in the USA is behind our needs and advances in science, technology and thought by at least 50 years. We are slow creating new majors reflecting our new life, our use of technology is pitiful, our organization is departmental while we should be aligned dynamically along themes and directions (e.g. people dealing with security of data exist in 3-5 different department and different schools), collaborative study is a pipe dream that everyone practices at work, courses are related by prerequisites but not by topic (e.g. teach security and business together instead of separately), etc.

    My list is long and no one at school is listening. Actually they do (they better – big stick), but do nothing.

  10. anotherbozo Says:

    @ Bosh: one huge difference between Korea and the U.S. is the respect with which learning, and teaching, and professors, are held there. The whole culture reflects it, from farmers in the field to business elites to the kids. Here, education is a means to a job, with extraneous self-cultivation seen as suspect and frivolous. In Confucian societies education was more highly respected than mere wealth, and that value persists into the present day, from what I've found.

    @GG: Who is this "you" you're attacking? Ed? I've read his descriptions of students who can't be bothered to read directions for assignments, or who ask him for information he's announced mere minutes before, and found it quite hard to believe that their behavior is the behavior of young people who are simply TERRIFIED of what awaits them in the job market. I'm no psychologist but that doesn't fly.

    What is so annoying about your rant is that you run rough-shod over his detailed, first-person accounts, effectively calling him a liar (if indeed you've read his earlier posts), and try to persuade with the sheer weight of your invective. I'm so tired of sloppy argumentation, rhetorical trickery and attempts to bury another's reality in contrarian logorrhea rather than try to come to terms with it. Move up to the adults' table and try to reconcile your perceptions with Ed's (and, for that matter, Elizabeth Kolbert's). Both are doubtless valid.

  11. Amused Says:

    I am sorry, Ed, but I strongly disagree. American high school students, even children of

  12. Amused Says:

    Somehow, my comment got cut off. Another try:

    I am sorry, Ed, but I strongly disagree. American high school students, even children of “high-powered” parents, spend LAUGHABLY little time on academics. I am saying this as someone who grew up in another country until the age of 12, a country where kids started chemistry in sixth grade, physics in seventh and calculus in ninth. It is positively shocking how lightly American students are expected to work for an A. Between subjective expectations (“just do your best”; everyone who participates gets a prize; a passing grade just for attendance), idiot parents constantly pressuring schools to dumb down their programs out of fear that too much learning will traumatize their precious little snowflakes, same parents padding their children’s schedules with activities that come at the expense of academics, and deeply ingrained cultural attitudes dictating that being too focused on school makes kids neurotic, unattractive and socially stupid – to suggest that American college kids are helpless because they spend too much time on school and preparing for exams is, quite frankly, absurd.

    American high school graduates come to college expecting that they will spend no more than three hours per day on homework. They have only the vaguest concept of failure and meeting objective standards. THAT’s what makes them ill-prepared both for college and for life in the real world in general. Look around your school, Ed. The most academically successful students come from cultures that treat academics like an Olympic sport, where you push yourself to your absolute limit, and then push yourelf over it.

    Also, please understand that standardized exams and the use of tutors is very, very common throughout the world. It is also standard operating procedure in countries like Russia, China and Japan to eliminate other distractions and to scale back on chores and other activities while kids are preparing for school graduation exams and college entrance exams – which in those countries are far, far more challenging than American standardized tests. Somehow those kids don’t grow up helpless. So I guess too much study isn’t the problem here.

  13. Misterben Says:

    GG and Amused:
    You both ought to go and read some of this site's other articles about teaching, and what the current generation of students is like. Ed has acknowledged many, many times that the employment outlook for today's college students is not good, and obviously affects their attitudes. And he's never claimed that they study too much; what he's saying in today's post is that, regardless of how much they study, they're getting too much help with it.

  14. Number Three Says:

    I think Amused is right. It's not that kids are excused from chores etc. b/c they are so focused on academics. Although the amount of homework given may be high today, my guess is that most of the free time that the kids have goes into video games and social networking, the latter including talking/texting on their cell phones. Also in highly structured extracurricular activities. Not study.

    Is it in "The Road to Wigen Pier" that Orwell described the inevitable consequences for the human race of automation and labor-saving devices? That as a result of modern technology, human beings would become unable to do anything but use that technology?

    I think that what we're seeing is largely technological and not parenting. It's hard for anything else to compete when an adolescent's brain can be so stimulated by shiny screens.

  15. Elle Says:

    I am saying this as someone who grew up in another country until the age of 12, a country where kids started chemistry in sixth grade, physics in seventh and calculus in ninth.

    When do you start studying those subjects in the US? And, if it's any later than that, how do you have enough material under your belt to decide whether or not you want to read chem, physics or maths at university?

    American high school graduates come to college expecting that they will spend no more than three hours per day on homework.

    Anecdata, but at my university, those who spend an undergraduate year abroad at a US institution couldn't count that year towards their degree because of the irreconcilable difference in the marking (grading?) levels. I had a couple of US exchange students in one of my honours tutorials, and they were operating at a level you would expect to see in a 16 year old school student.

    I don't know how to reconcile this with the incredibly smart, well-read and hardworking Americans that I run into on a regular basis in the course of my job.

  16. DB Says:

    @GG: That was fucking beautiful, man. I've had it up to here with the "kids these days" bullshit too, and reading your post felt cathartic. Bravo.

    @anotherbozo: Right… CG needs to "reconcile" himself to the anecdotal impressions of a cranky guy with misanthropic tendencies (especially toward today's youth, thus making the former a sterling source of objective data upon which to base one's assessment of this matter). Doing so would constitute moving "up to the adult's table," and failure to do represents sophistry of the first rank (since it is rationally incumbent upon one to bow to "another's [self-reported perception of] reality"). Yup, that's just Logic™.

  17. Nan Says:

    @Bosh. Please, please don't dis the skilled trades. One of the reasons this country has some of the problems it does (and why so many young people are buried under student debt) is we've oversold the notion that a white collar job is the one and only path to happiness and financial security. Have you checked the labor rates for a good mechanic or electrician lately? We actively discourage kids from pursuing careers that involve getting their hands dirty and then bemoan the fact there aren't enough good plumbers to go around (and bitch about how much they charge when you finally track one down).

    As for the topic of entitled, lazy American students. . . you've got to lay some of the blame on grade inflation. A few years ago, there was a local scandal over National Honor Society — a high school chapter said a student was ineligible based on his character (he had a couple minor in possession of alcohol convictions and a DUI on his record). His parents were furious because he had such great grades. It came out that 85% of the students in the school qualified for NHS based on grades alone, which is why they looked at character, too. Eighty-five percent! My reaction was, holy shit, we've become Lake Woebegone. Every student is now above average. Back when I was in high school (and I am a dinosaur), out of a graduating class of 131, barely a dozen students had the requisite gpa for membership in NHS. From less than 10% to over 85% with A averages in a mere 40 years.

  18. Amused Says:

    Elle:

    When do you start studying those subjects in the US? And, if it's any later than that, how do you have enough material under your belt to decide whether or not you want to read chem, physics or maths at university?

    It varies somewhat by state, but generally, chemistry is taught in 10th grade, and only for a year. The curriculum is very basic, and never branches out into organic and inorganic chems. Physics is an elective that's offered to 11th-graders. Calculus isn't taught at all, except in advanced placement math classes (that are not available at all schools). Mandatory math curriculum progresses only as far as basic trigonometry.

    There is, in general, a very big problem with American "sequential math": a flurry of topics are covered superficially, then students go over them next year, in a slightly less superficial fashion and so on. In short, you get a smattering of everything, but master nothing. Countries with strong math curricula cover every aspect of math in-depth, gradually progressing to harder topics that build on prior material. When I started school in the US in 8th grade, I was shocked to discover my class was still on fractions — that's 4th-grade curriculum back in the USSR, man — and that most students thought it was the most difficult thing to grasp, ever.

    In my experience, college in the US is a whole different bowl of wax. Sciences courses (and indeed, most core academic courses) are very rigorous and demands placed on students are huge. (Just like I found American high school laughable compared to Russian secondary school, I was later surprised at how much less demanding college in France was compared to my American college.) There is a very sizeable gap between high school and college in the US, both in terms of academic rigor and expectations placed on students. Students whose parents are very educated and those who have had tutoring outside of school are, of course, better equipped to leap over the chasm. Students who are particularly brilliant manage as well. But for most, that first semester in college is like a blast of cold water. No, forget that, it's more like a freaking tsunami.

  19. Edward Says:

    I am a bit puzzled by this post. It seems to me that if parents are agitated about their children receiving a good college education that should translate into the children taking college more seriously. It is not clear to me why employing tutors would make one less studious.

    What I wonder about is the effect on children of the non-stop barrage of propaganda from the advertising industry. Between television, the internet, video games, and movies children today live in a fantasy world which must make it hard to settle down and actually do anything.

    Another issue it what effect anti-depressants and other drugs are having on youth. These drugs may actually be quite harmful.

  20. anotherbozo Says:

    @ DB: I see you're another sloppy reader. I said GG should try to reconcile his experience with Ed's, not that he should "reconcile himself" to Ed's "impressions," a phrase with another meaning altogether. But then, if you can't see that Ed's "misanthropic tendencies" aren't contradicted, or at least mitigated, by his obvious dedication to teaching those flaky bastards… maybe I'm wasting my time following this up…

  21. Elle Says:

    Amused:

    Thank you, that was very interesting. I am even more amazed by people who come through that school system and become chemists or physicists or mathematicians. I dropped maths at 16, and I'd had a year of calculus by then.

    But for most, that first semester in college is like a blast of
    cold water. No, forget that, it's more like a freaking tsunami.

    I went to high school in England, although college elsewhere, and the blast of icy water comes at the start of A-levels, which are public exams you sit at age 18. They're the exams that get you into university, or not, and it's the first substantial bit of specialisation that happens at high school. (There's a lot of discussion about whether England should move to a baccalaureate system, similar to France, in which a wider range of subjects are taken.) Your A-level selection effectively constrains your degree choice, and your future career.

    I took GCSEs (the public exams you sit at age 16) in 13 subjects, but at the time I sat them, it was common to sit three A-levels, and my school only let you take four.

    I went to a school that selected on academic ability, and was full of relentless overachievers. We still all dropped from A students to D students at the start of those two years. I took three arts subject and a science, and had a perpetual essay crisis for the entire duration. I don't think I worked so hard again until university finals. In honours, I only had to write five essays and two presentations every ten weeks, which was like a holiday in comparison.

  22. Castello Says:

    @Amused, speaking along those lines, the issue here is that we're talking about a country with the most patchwork public education system to ever be devised. Every high school can have completely different standards and expectations. With my high school in a town that is basically a suburb, they pushed the AP classes pretty hard. Most students had one or two; almost everyone I know from HS took at least a year of calculus because the system was set up so that it was nearly inevitable to do so.

    I'm not sure how the way 'we' teach math is right, but it does build on previous learning – I fell behind in my Junior year math class, barely passing by the end – which meant I failed the 'easy' math class senior year because I was just too far behind and hated math by then anyway. Actually, the first time I remember hating math was when I was introduced to square roots inside fractions raised by at least one unknown variable. Some of the concepts that were the foundations for the foundations of the 'Senior Math' course I had no clue about – it's totally my fault of course, but at least some schools are certainly teaching math in a less master-of-nothing manner.

    Point is, it's freakin' impossible to talk about high school education standards in the US because there just isn't any education standard here. Standardized tests sort of help, but not really since literally every instructor in my school near a test year basically had a section of the course dedicating to understanding concepts in tests – ie, whether this has been covered or not, remember this crap if you want to pass the ACT/SAT. What HS graduates actually know varies so wildly by region that I'm surprised anyone gets to college without knowledge gaps somewhere.

  23. Kulkuri Says:

    At one time the "get a college degree and get a good job" meme may have had merit, but now thanks to the internet even "white collar, college educated" jobs can be outsourced to anywhere there is an internet connection. And some of the third world countries have faster internet speeds than we do.

  24. DB Says:

    @ anotherbozo: You're right again. "Reconcile himself" has a vastly different meaning than "reconcile his experience," and my writing the former instead of the latter within the context of mocking your comments (and therefore trying to take them vry srsly and ergo accurately) is indicative of my being a sloppy reader.

    As for Ed, yeah, he's like the teachers from Mr. Holland's Opus, Dead Poets Society, Freedom Writers, To Be and To Have, Stand and Deliver, etc. combined, and he deserves a fucking medal for putting up with them darn kids.

  25. Elle Says:

    Mmm, Dead Poets Society. That gave me my life-long penchant for hot, emo (age appropriate) boys.

  26. Elle Says:

    That seemed less sleazy before I hit 'submit comment'. I do apologise.

  27. DB Says:

    The "age appropriate" parenthetical saved face… except for the fact that it didn't.

    Also, I'm being a dick, anotherbozo. I apologize.

  28. Elle Says:

    You're quite right, DB. I'm actually blushing at my desk.

  29. anotherbozo Says:

    @ DB: your being a dick isn't the problem; you just don't get it. One last shot:

    "X and Y are both presented as factual experiences. They seem to be in contradiction. Can you RECONCILE them with one another? (perhaps by theorizing another, larger reality?) "

    I am reconciled to your never seeing the light, however.

  30. eponymous Says:

    As one who teaches college, my impression is that students aren't any better (or worse) than in the past. Expectation levels may have changed somewhat – but I think this is more a reflection of societal expectations coupled with the ever co-modification/commercialization of higher education and rampant credentialization for entry level employment that didn't necessarily exist even 20 years ago.

    Add to this the bleak employment opportunities for the 18-30 cohort coupled with rising wealth/income inequality and the breakdown of the ethical/moral norms of our leaders (and institutions) that once sustained middle-class America, its not surprising – as GG points out so well – that despair and terror are so common.

    Oh, and GG – righteous rant. I am very sympathetic towards millennial as there are undeservedly getting the shaft. I hope a day comes when that despair and terror turns into anger. Because I don't think things will get better until it does.

  31. DB Says:

    @anotherbozo: I understand that, and if you'd read between the lines of my first post, you'd know that I know. You're the one missing the point. The question is not whether GG can reconcile X and Y; it's whether it's incumbent upon him to do so in the first place. Why should he or anyone give a fuck about Ed's anecdotal, selectively reported, jaundiced impressions of today's youth?

    To put this in terms of an analogy, it's as if someone made an argument that people on welfare aren't lazy, leaching bums—and then you come along and say, "but Crankypants McGrumpy has claimed that he's encountered such bums on his rant-filled blog; how do you reconcile what you said with THAT?" Umm, yeah, he should get right on that. Shame on him for not doing so.

  32. ChrisBear Says:

    Ahh, the New Yorker. In between the name-dropping and newspeak ('adultesence'?), there was some interesting information.

    But…

    Why did the author not tell her kids to pick up the mess they made? If my 3-year old does not set the table, she does not have a fork to eat with. She skipped setting the table about 3 times before the lesson became clear. Now she chides me for not getting the food out as fast as she gets the places set.
    Do I get a Master's or maybe a grant now? You do not need a book, study, or website to tell you this stuff. You do not need to live in the Amazon. You need to pay some attention to the fact that you are making a person- and that takes more than 15 minutes in the sack. Think in terms of decades. And people are more than little money-making devices. Maybe that is the point lost these days.

    And why is 'I'm 22/28/32 and living at home' such a terrible thing? I am so tired of hearing this as some metric of failure. Unless your parents are complete losers and a bad influence on you (yes, some are), why *not* live with them? Fix the house, cook for them- just like you will when you have your own place. You all save money, the 'kids' learn some more about this 'complex, changing world' (BS, it is as complex and changing as it always was). Trying to live this myth that we are all self-made is a fool's game and- here's a free lesson from my upcoming book*- if you buy into it, you are a sucker. Accept that you got tricked and learn from it.

    I sincerely hope that I do a good enough job as a father that my kids *want* to live with me at any point in their lives that it makes sense. If they get a good job, they pay part of the operational expenses for the house and save up for their own house. Have you looked at what childcare costs these days? Or Grandpa and Grandma could spend time _with_their_own_grandkids_. Terrible! If they start their own business, move in until it is going well, then they hire me. I could use the job security :)

    *No, there is no book coming.

  33. mel in oregon Says:

    funny though that china ranks no. 1 in the world in reading comprehension, math & science. south korea & finland are second & third. we are 24, 25, & 32. life has always been unfair. think your european ancestors that were peasants for milleniums got a fair shake, compared to the aristocracy & kings? or my ancestors (native americans got a fair shake from your ancestors that committed genocide on them? or black americans got a fair shake with centuries of slavery & jim crow? or the 3 or 4 billion people on this planet that go to bed hungry every night? the biggest reason sites like this have white people (95% of you are white) whining is you don't have any historical perspective. because the united states had a period (kind of unique in world history) of tremendous prosperity for decades after ww2 mostly for white folks, it really galls you that it all came to an end recently with the incredible & totally unfair student loans, the bubble bursting in the housing market, & the enormous amount of under employment & unemployment. plus, the corruption you see on wallstreet, outsourcing corporations & the government makes i think everyone that is even reasonably well informed want to puke with disgust.

  34. sbj Says:

    This trend worked in my favour.

    In the workplace, older folk don't want to deal with petulant whiners whom don't show up. Knowing that puts me ahead of my competition. In school, it meant I got better grades because I studied instead of wasting my time grubbing for the last point.

    There are plenty of of kids who see what is going on and are disgusted by the attitudes of their classmates. It was pure entertainment when some tenured faculty would teach a class who was strict and wouldn't mollycoddle them. In those classes, those brats would end up either failing or withdrawing; meanwhile, I had no problem.

  35. argh Says:

    First of all yeah, GG's rant was awesome. I also get really annoyed at kids-these-days rants, partly because I'm not sure if they're directed at me (mid 20s) or only at people currently than me, partly because I think Ed isn't old enough to do them with any credibility, and partly because, like GG said, the younger generation is getting a really raw deal right now and it's all because the older generations screwed up the world royally.

    But anyway, ARE younger people less mature than older Americans were at our age? Maybe in some ways. It depends how you count maturity. The impression I get from reading books about life in America, pre-1960s, is that it used to be just brutal. Kids were just told to sit down, shut up and obey orders, and anyone who misbehaved got beaten. Many of them worked in mines/farms/factories as teenagers, and were sent of the army at 18. So I guess that did make them more disciplined- however, it also left them emotionally stunted and often unable to think for themselves, which I guess is why older Americans really like voting for Republicans who promise to solve all their problems with brute force.

    Younger Americans definitely have less work experience now- who the hell is going to hire a teenager these days? And even if they could, we have to spend more of our teen years studying, so no time for work. College is often the first chance we get to make any decisions for ourselves, so if a freshman wants to blow off an intro gen-ed class in order to go to a party I can't really blame them.

  36. Ed Says:

    This is so far from a "the kids these days" "rant" that I am puzzled about what post some of you read.

  37. anotherbozo Says:

    @Ed: you and me both.

    @DB: "The question is not whether GG can reconcile X and Y; it's whether it's incumbent upon him to do so in the first place."

    It's incumbent because without it he hasn't said anything we haven't heard 100 times before. Without trying to fit it into the context of the discussion framed by our host, GG might as well be writing his own blog. Which is what he wants to do anyway, or maybe not even that, just say "HERE I AM! NOTICE ME! REACT, GODAMMIT." Thus advancing the dialog.

    Your analogy sucks, by the way. And reading between your lines? Perhaps I was just lost in the thicket of your rich, entertaining prose.

  38. Amused Says:

    ChrisBear:

    And why is 'I'm 22/28/32 and living at home' such a terrible thing? I am so tired of hearing this as some metric of failure.

    You are absolutely right, although I think it depends on one's age and particular circumstances. In any event, treating moving back in with parents AFTER COLLEGE as some sort of failure is ridiculous. It would be irresponsible to get one's own housing — or, godforbid, buy a house — unless you can afford to do it without living hand-to-mouth. And with the price of housing soaring nowadays, while young people's wages remain stagnant, fewer and fewer recent college grads can afford it. Living with one's parents is perfectly fine if that's what makes the most economic sense.

  39. DB Says:

    @Ed: Your post's point of departure is a "kids these days" article, and you cap it off by approvingly passing on the author's assessment of them as "immature, lazy, and unprepared to do any work (or take care of themselves on the most basic level)".

    @anotherbozo: Ed (implicitly, by way of approvingly summarizing another writer) made a claim in his post (the one quoted above), and GG made a counterargument to it.

    I'm so sorry that to your mind, he didn't sufficiently weave it into the rich tapestry of Ed's corpus of previous posts about this subject, filled as it is with incisive thought on and authoritative first-hand experience of the latter; it is manifestly undeniable that GG should have read through the entire Gin and Tacos archive before posting, so as to be in a position to reconcile his experience (which, we should note in passing, is utterly—nay, *metaphysically* distinct from his self) to Ed's "detailed, first-person accounts" of how much he hates his students, but still—and I know this is a bit of a stretch—claiming not-Y when a blog post claims Y *could* (very charitably, I know) be characterized as "fit[ting] it into the context of the discussion framed by our host".

  40. MaybeDontTeach Says:

    Your "smell test" is with a clogged nose, given your previous patronizing (and sexist) rant directed at a student who dared to complain about the quality of your class, which many people correctly questioned.

    I don't think Kids these days are spoiled, I think angry grumpy teachers are so spoiled and immature they have no tolerance for the inherent awkwardness of youth and refuse to admit they've gotten old enough to judge young people by a false idea of the past.

    So you are unable to recognize another lifestyle article making sweeping conclusions based on some cheery picked data from a social "science" survey with dubious methodology. Which you don't question because it panders to your need to heap scorn on your students. I'm sure if it was some right wing rant about how great things used to be based on some bell curve stat fudging, you'd be quick to poke holes in it.

    Think about it: Are parents spending more on test prep because they are coddling their kids, or is because there are more kids taking tests and prep classes cost more. If the underlying data is "Kaplan earned x dollars in 1980 and x dollars in 2010" that doesn't actually prove crap about parental attitudes.

    Your own complaints about students reveals a similar cognitive failure: How do you know kids are worse when you've been teaching for a few years? Do you not remember when you were a student? Do you not have the modicum of insight to recognize the most consistent measurable factor is your own increasingly bitter attitude? Were you and all your firends perfect, fully actualized beings at age 18 who never expressed a single annoying thought?

    I mean, you teach a required introductory class involving discussion groups so lacking in consistent grading and teaching structure that the final grades have to be weighted to compensate for this inconsistency. You don't see how students might find this disorganization a less than quality or fair academic experience. Massive required lecture classes can seem like a rip off to students going into debt for the promise that college will be more focused than high school, and here the class doesn't even bother to provide a consistent learning experience. Yet when a student expresses frustration with the structure and her grade, you – the grown adult getting paid to be professional – get in a snit because she's so uppity, rather than considering how her frustrations might be grounded, even if poorly worded.

    So no, I'm not about to buy your claim that "parents unintentionally send kids to college who are immature, lazy, and unprepared to do any work (or take care of themselves on the most basic level) even if the urge to do so strikes" when it seems to be coming from someone lacking in perspective who appears to think his own crap doesn't stink.

    Honestly, if you have such disrespect for kids (and such a distorted view of how kids used to be that it sounds like you are 100 years old) you probably shouldn't be teaching.

  41. BK Says:

    Hey DB (which I assume stands for Douche Bag, and no, I don't care what it really stands for), GG and Amused:

    It's fine to disagree, I can even tolerate being disagreeable when one is passionate.

    But you guys so fucking missed the point I think Ed was trying to make, at least as I read it, that it's borderline embarassing to listen to you go on your self-abosrbed, "look how smart and different I am" rants.

    As I read it, the point is that helicopter-style, over-indulgent parents who enable their children to go reach adulthood without necessary life skills are doing a disservice to their children. Further, they are making the secondary and post-secondary education of their children almost impossible.

  42. MaybeDontTeach Says:

    Also another Bozo: "I've read his descriptions of students who can't be bothered to read directions for assignments, or who ask him for information he's announced mere minutes before, and found it quite hard to believe that their behavior is the behavior of young people who are simply TERRIFIED of what awaits them in the job market. I'm no psychologist but that doesn't fly. "

    Actually it does. First, stressed out people do have trouble concentrating.

    More importantly, freshmen taking a required introductory course are experiencing the learning curve of the entire college experience. They are going to do things wrong and ask dumb questions.

    A good teacher understands this, and realizes he will encounter this behavior every year because because he is teaching a new set of freshmen each year. And if his patience for these inherent flaws runs out over time, this doesn't mean kids are getting worse, it means perhaps he should stop teaching the intro course.

    This is not to say kids are flawless, but at some point the sweeping generalizations are so broad they are akin to welfare queen rhetoric.

    When some right wing pundit tries to blame the financial crisis on stupid homeowners who didn't pay attention to their mortgages, the flaws in this are apparent, right? I'll bet I can find a post by Ed criticizing sweeping generalizations about the lazy unemployed. So why is it okay here?

  43. Ballyho! Says:

    Someone: I am saying this as someone who grew up in another country until the age of 12, a country where kids started chemistry in sixth grade, physics in seventh and calculus in ninth.

    Elle: When do you start studying those subjects in the US? And, if it's any later than that, how do you have enough material under your belt to decide whether or not you want to read chem, physics or maths at university?

    I live in a state that gets high marks for the quality of its schools, and the big hullaballoo right now is the latest request that graduating high school seniors have taken first-year algebra. Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth–those poor, poor children, when will they have time to play football or text their friends or win World of Warcraft if they're being unfairly required to take algebra before they're 18 years old?!? Oh, the humanity!

    My child, a rising senior, just finished AP calculus this past spring. Algebra was a sixth-grade class–but that's not a fact we share openly, because only losers take education seriously, apparently. In our school system, a child can graduate school with only 2 years each of math and science.

  44. MaybeDontTeach Says:

    BK: "As I read it, the point is that helicopter-style, over-indulgent parents who enable their children to go reach adulthood without necessary life skills are doing a disservice to their children."

    I think you miss the point of the criticism, which is that Ed is claiming kids are more spoiled, based on nothing but his own frustrations with the inherent flaws of college freshman. He's seeing a trend where there isn't one, just human nature. And as such, it's reactionary.

  45. Ballyho! Says:

    @MaybeDon'tTeach: you poor, poor precious snowflake! Nobody else in the history of the world has ever faced the insurmountable problem of going to college and paying attention in class. You're right, the Millenials are special little dewdrops, aren't they?

  46. DB Says:

    @BK : "[T]he point is that helicopter-style, over-indulgent parents blah blah blah blah"—you make his post sound like a Slate article, which is way more insulting than anything we said.

    In any case, one of the main premises in "the point [you] think Ed was trying to make" is that (in so many words) kids today suck, so it's fair game for discussion; just because Ed wants to focus on the causes behind an alleged phenomenon (kids today sucking), the truth of which he takes for granted, doesn't mean his readers have to do the same.

    I now dub you Butt Kicked.

  47. anotherbozo Says:

    DB: I'm so disappointed in you–I thought we were close to communicating. I thought we might have proceeded to discuss how all these various personal experiences might fit a larger, albeit more complex, picture.

    Instead, your debate tactics leave us back where we started. So does the boring right/wrong game.

    I doubt you're even ready to be intellectually honest. Why twist my words and meaning, so that I have to unravel them before we can proceed further?

    Maybe I gave you too much credit, that you just want to jerk off. Okay, but not with me. Life is too short.

  48. Amused Says:

    BK: Oh, come off it — "self-absorbed"? Notice I did not say anything about my own academic successes, or anything of that nature. That school children in other countries spend much more time studying — often with tutors and often with the help of parents who free them from chores — is simply a fact, one supported by the personal experience of many, including my own. At no point did I claim I was superior by virtue of being born in a country with a much more demanding school curriculum, and yours is an absurd interpretation of my comment. Ed's personal experiences seem to be a tad circumscribed by the fact that, apparently, he has never lived anywhere but the States. I offered my own, different experience as an indication that his conclusions are erroneous. Where you get it that I am somehow being insufficiently self-deprecating is beyond me. But hey, thanks for permitting me to disagree. Damned magnanimous of you.

  49. DB Says:

    anotherbozo: I didn't realize that comments such as "Your analogy sucks, by the way" were really an invitation to such a discussion—but if you want to have one, I can drop my shtick. Here; the ball's in your court now:

    My (brief, initial) take on the matter: to the extent that Ed's impressions of his students are true (and aren't just reflective of his "own increasingly bitter attitude," as MaybeDontTeach put it), I suspect that they are largely a function of those students' demographics, which Ed has in the past indicated to skew upper-middle class (e.g., all his talk about the kinds of cars that they drive).

    The set of conditions that he has often attributed to them—e.g., the sense of entitlement, the learned helplessness, etc.—can be imputed to their privileged backgrounds; to generalize from them to generation whatever it's called as a whole is quite an unfair leap.

    The same goes for the alleged causes of that set of conditions:

    "[P]arents who have every reason to fear for their children's economic future attempt to eliminate all challenges, distractions, and responsibilities except academics from their lives. I'll take care of everything for you; you just be sure to study a lot. Oh, you don't know how to study? Here's a tutor and three Kaplan courses."

    That may be what rich parents are saying to their kids, but it sure isn't what lower middle class (let alone poor) parents (i.e., the majority of parents) are saying to their kids (i.e., the majority of kids); they're saying things more like, "oh, you turned 16? Alright, time to start working at Taco Bell, kiddo." "Time for college? Have fun with those loans, junior." And they sure aren't getting SAT tutors, getting coddled and hovered over, etc.; their parents can't afford the former and don't have time for the latter.

    The writers who focus on things like that need to get out of their bubbles and realize that the parents and kids whom they know by way of their upper west side milieu (or whatever; this is more directed toward such writers in general, not Ed, though it loosely applies to him too by analogy) aren't representative of parents and kids in general.

  50. DB Says:

    One more thought: The students with whom Ed has run ins—and hence the ones who are most salient to him when he thinks and talks about students in general—are going to tend to be the most horrible ones. The (relatively) silent majority of students who just plug away and don't make a fuss are much less noticeable. Thus, for obvious reasons of basic human psychology, it would be natural for him to form an unduly negative opinion of students in general—but he's way too smart not to use his intellect to overcome his biases.

  51. Amused Says:

    Assuming that children indeed take longer to mature these days, there are many reasons for this that seem more plausible to me than blaming it on too much studying.

    For one thing, people live longer and stay active longer. That means that people spend longer in positions of power and influence, and the young, consequently, spend longer waiting in the wings. As our society grows older, it is increasingly becoming a gerontocracy, with rarer generational shifts. If the time that it takes to check out increases, so does the time it takes to mature — makes sense.

    I love how Elizabeth Kolbert presents some tribe living in the Amazon as an example for how kids should really be raised. I mean, way to compare apples and oranges. Their society is COMPLETELY different from ours. That six-year-old girl who can prepare dinner all on her own? She'll be a mother by twelve. And dead by twenty-eight, give or take. She'll probably lose her parents and become part of the "older" generation when she is still a teenager. Oh, and she doesn't go to school. "Life skills" can be thrust upon you pretty quickly when you become orphaned early, have lots of children early, die early and don't have to bother with education. I understand the surface of it may look adorable to a casual Western observer, but I really think the early maturity of children in those societies comes at too high a price — don't you?

    Then there is the issue of birth control and falling birth rates in the West. In the past, married couples had lots of children, often in spite of their wishes and with little food to go around. A fifth or sixth child was just as likely to be seen by its parents as another mouth to feed as an eagerly awaited personification of its parents' hopes and dreams. Again, it's easy to give your kids lots of tough love when there are eight of them running around, of which five you didn't even particularly want to begin with. These days, most children born to middle-class parents are wanted, and few in number. Hence treating every child like a delicate project.

    That is, of course, without even considering the fact that Kolbert exhibits massive confirmation bias. She writes about kids that she wants to write about, without particular regard to how prevalent the phenomenon of spoiled kids is.

    As for students supposedly lacking necessary life skills — I think it's rather a matter of shifting priorities as you grow older. These days, I am a neat-freak. As a teenager, however I didn't think twice about leaving my clothes draped over the back of a chair; at that time, keeping a super-neat house simply wasn't that important to me. Same with food: as a college student, I knew how to cook, but chose not to, because you need every second possible to devote to the academics. Somehow, I survived, and most other people do, too.

  52. mothra Says:

    Yep. More of a "parents these days" post, and not really even quite rant worthy. Now Mr. GG–that's a throw-yourself-on-the-floor-shrieking-and-crying-until-you-can't-breathe-rant/tantrum. Dude. No one forced you and your wife to go to law school and run up debt. You admit that your wife has a sweet job paying gobs of money; I am guessing you'll be fine.

    But all of this finger-pointing is pointless. (heh). The fact is that now, unless you are in the top 1%, no matter what fucking age you are, you are screwed. I'm 51 and I am TERRIFIED. Once the Repugs get finished ending Medicare, Social Security, and any assistance program out there, I really just don't have a clue how exactly I will live when I retire at age 85. Sure, I have savings. But that isn't going to pay for my living expenses AND healthcare. I am really just kind of hoping I die at 70 so that I don't have to find out what it is like to be elderly and homeless.

    What we all should be doing is figuring out how to educate the rest of our idiot citizenry so they'll stop voting for Republicans and get rid of the plutocracy for once and for all.

  53. Elle Says:

    I love how Elizabeth Kolbert presents some tribe living in the Amazon as an example for how kids should really be raised.

    Who could wish more for their children than an arranged marriage to a cousin in infancy (although you get to hold off your glorious nuptials until you're twelve, if you've had a bit of an education), rigid gender roles, and grinding subsistence farming? The smidgen of Matsigenka ethnography I just read featured the charming tale of a child being married off to her stepfather, after trying to run away to the anthropologists' hut to avoid it.

    Still, as long as they know how to cook dinner.

  54. MaybeDontTeach Says:

    @Ballyho: "you poor, poor precious snowflake! Nobody else in the history of the world has ever faced the insurmountable problem of going to college and paying attention in class."

    Um, no. Everyone in the history of the world has been a freshman who asks dumb questions and makes mistakes and behaves in annoying ways.

    The archetype of the feckless student – especially the freshman – which is centuries old. So before raging at kids these days, at least bother to watch Animal House and read other bitter old dudes whining about kids these days.

    Plus, as others point out, Ed seems to generalize about all his students based on the most annoying kids, and doesn't seem to recognize there have always been annoying kids who cause problems.

    This sort of reductive myopia is vexing and, as I've said before, little different than some of the facile dishonest condemnations on the right. I expect better.

  55. wrist Says:

    I've run into some undergrads who are "immature, lazy, and unprepared to do any work", but I've run into more undergrads who don

  56. wrist Says:

    Well, that didn't work; let's try that comment again?

    I've run into some undergrads who are "immature, lazy, and unprepared to do any work", but I've run into more undergrads who don’t realize that the level of initiative they displayed during high school is insufficient to get them through college. There was a young woman in my freshman pre-calc class who had never gotten anything other than an A in high school math and therefore figured she should be able to easily get an A in college math – with the same amount of effort. That's the attitude I’d expect to see as a result of having one's theretofore entire education run by one's parents (& possible teachers/tutors). After all, if one has never made a single decision re: what to study/how long to study it/how to study it, if other parties have always told you, one never develops that initiative/responsibility. I reckon some of that sorts itself out eventually, but I'm not sure. But anyway it, from my undergrad experience, seems a common attitude. FWIW & all.

    Post-graduation, which is what GG seems to be fired up about, is an issue totally divorced from the attitude undergraduates have. Which is what Ed’s bit seems to be about.

    With regards to that, yeah, it’s all fucked. But MaybeDontTeach is wrong that dread regarding the future is an excuse for not paying any attention whatsoever in class. (MaybeDontTeach is right about the sexism, though.)

    TL;DR: Just because millennials are utterly fucked doesn’t mean that a some (possible a lot) aren’t useless and lazy.

  57. bb in GA Says:

    When I get in front of these young'uns to try to teach them college ALGEBRA (..eeeew) I always and frequently sell hard on how intelligent they are about games.

    Hey y'all…YOURS is the generation that knows technology and gaming. This algebra stuff is just a silly game with detailed rules. Y'all are mostly experts with technology and rule based games. This one may be a little boring in comparison, but YOU CAN DO IT!

    No one here is allowed to say they are 'stupid", 'dumb' and 'not a math person.'

    I get pretty good results…

    //bb

  58. Ballyho! Says:

    MaybeDon'tTeach: Um, no. Everyone in the history of the world has been a freshman who asks dumb questions and makes mistakes and behaves in annoying ways.

    Really? Then what was the point of your endless tirade about how poor, pititful you has had just the worst time ever on the whole history of the world and nobody understands what a special, precious snowflake you are because nobody until you has ever suffered so? As was raised upstream, the generation before you had it tough, too, graduating in a recession with no jobs to be had. As several others have commented, everyone now has it tough. You completely ignored those facts in your tantrum about how terribly, terribly hard your life is.

  59. xynzee Says:

    Given all of this angst about "kids today", anyone of you consider reading "Generation X"? Just saying'. Been a slog for myself to find sustainable and suitable work since graduation over the past 20yrs., so it certainly hasn't been much of a picnic here either. So getting to watch the whole "promise" of getting a good career track job straight out of Uni, unravel just before you got there wasn't a fun thing to watch happen.

    From what I've seen of the uni age kids I work with, and from what an ex-flatmate of mine experienced (he's about GG's age I'm guessing), it sounds like the situation is closer to a socio-economic issue than anything. Where mumsy and dadsy treasure their pwecious li'l snow flakesy-wakesies!

    Few of them know their head from a tea-kettle when they start, and don't get me started on their sense of entitlement, "How dare they make me mop a floor!" A fair whack of them are like Towlie from South Park, "Wanna get high?"

    My ex-flatmate left school at 16 to enter a trade. He'd work 50+hrs and go to tech school as part of his apprenticeship requirement. He had little respect for most of his peers we went to church with, bar one. From the time term started until the final exam, this guy was rarely seen. He was doing a double science degree, and treated his studies like a job. Everyone else would whinge about not being able to go to a party on Saturday night because they had a paper due the following week and how their lives were ruined because of it. His peers and the kids I work with would have lived in the same neighbourhoods as each other, and gone to the same schools except for time lines.

    bb: you sound like the old surveyors who taught me math for my recent studies. If only someone had shown me how math was useful to graphic design (see Escher's work), or handed me a theodolite I just might have faired a bit better in math.

  60. Recall Says:

    "Really? Then what was the point of your endless tirade about how poor, pititful you has had just the worst time ever on the whole history of the world and nobody understands what a special, precious snowflake you are because nobody until you has ever suffered so? As was raised upstream, the generation before you had it tough, too, graduating in a recession with no jobs to be had."

    Which recession was that? Ours is the big red one at the bottom:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-j7kIzVklysI/T8i6lFycA9I/AAAAAAAANlo/LvjX9hSp0KY/s1600/EmployRecAlignedMay2012.jpg

  61. argh Says:

    You know there's an old saying feminist/anti-racist circles, "this isn't the oppression olympics". Meaning, there's very little point in trying to figure out who has it worst, and the only way to make any progress is for ALL oppressed people to ally and work together.

    I think we need a version of that for class struggles… yes, this recession is very bad, but the American economy has been very hostile to average workers for a very long time (or maybe always). Let's not waste effort trying to figure out whose life is the worst. Let's support each other and try to make things better for everyone.

  62. MaybeDontTeach Says:

    @ballyhoo: "You completely ignored those facts in your tantrum about how terribly, terribly hard your life is." You haven't offered any facts and, worse, haven't read what I've written. I suspect you are confusing my comments with another because I haven't mentioned my life. I'm old enough to have read this "kids thes days" crap multiple times and, as I point out again and again, it's crap by people who are too stupid or vain to remember the term "youthful folly" exists for a reason, as does the mockery of "kids these days" crap. It's especially bad coming from a teacher of history who should be highly aware of how long the "students are so spoiled, unlike my day" meme has been around. It about telling the difference between human nature and one's own need to invent narratives which make you feel superior, and "kids these days" isone.

    With students you are always getting older and more experienced while each batch of students is newly unlearned. No matter how good a teacher you are, at some point you forget or lose patience with how they aren't gaining experience like you. And a bad teacher will then resent or scorn students for their inherent lack of learning, forgetting it's his job to provide that. A person who thinks kids these days are vastly inferior hasn't been paying attention to the idiots they've known all their lives. The kids are alright, they're just younger than you and being old doesn't make you better, just gives you fewer excuses for ill informed judgements.

  63. MaybeDontTeach Says:

    "MaybeDontTeach is wrong that dread regarding the future is an excuse for not paying any attention whatsoever in class" is such a dishonest simplification and exaggeration I hope you aren't a teacher. The behavior referenced wasn't a lack of "any attention whatsoever" but the natural flaws of any group of freshmen. Students have always been distracted more than we adults think they should be, they've always been prone to overestimate themselves yet ask the same dumb questions. That's why they are students – to learn better. But if you as a teacher are inventing theories as to why they are Worse Than Ever based on hyperbole such as "not paying any attention whatsoever in class"- Really? How many kids are like that? Have you kept accurate count? What's your measure beyond your increasing jaded view? – then maybe your lack of perspective is what fails to inspire your kids.

  64. MaybeDontTeach Says:

    And yes, increased pressure and worry tends to accentuate naturally annoying tendencies more – kids are paying more while teachers earn less, thus more friction.

  65. Nomad Says:

    GG opined: he needs to know how to execute a Google search and plow through a mountain of data in an expeditious manner.

    And how many years of University are required for this skill? I thought it was mastered by everyone's grandparents.

    And GG offered:
    Unfortunately, his teacher is likely to be a fucking dinosaur that tests his ability to memorize the names of the inventors of the internet and the date the first PC hit the market.

    You simply blame everyone older, Mr. Grumpy McDiaperpants. That makes you a hypocrite.

  66. T.W. Says:

    I'm an undergrad, and I agree with this article. Many of my friends in college have dorms/apartments that lack the faintest attempt at organization. They're late paying bills, or keeping up with chores. If it weren't for meal plans, they'd freak out over when or what to cook.

    On the other hand, we're so saturated with the amount we DO need to know, that it just could be an overload for the current generation. The tribe mentioned in the article only needs to learn to survive. Give them 7 hours of class a day until they're 18 and see how much longer it takes to make them adept in hunting or construction.

  67. MaybeDontTeach Says:

    Isn't it a bit embarrassing that this entire conversation is based on an article which is the biggest pile of cherry picked, confirmation bias crap since the last Thomas Friedman book?

    Kolbert makes the wild claim kids are most spoiled since ancient dynasties and doesn't even bother with the usual lazy trend piece trick of using some random stat as the basis. It's actually worse than Friedman in that way.

    Instead she makes absurd assertions and expects readers to buy it, perhaps because it plays upon the universal "kids these days" bull.

    The article relies upon selective anecdotes from a transparent piece of academic sensationalism which compares a patriarchal tribe where woman start having kids at 16 to a tiny sample of 31 families with little indication they reflect the norm (the tendency to allow cameras is a sign they may not be). Then there are examples from parents who got a book contract to inflate their individual experience into generalizations.

    It's pathetic that Ed and many comments here indulge this article they would have mocked and scorned if it wasn't about something which plays into their own biases.

    The actual discussion should be how such articles pass the smell test, not wallowing in the premise that it's empty premise is true.

  68. Recall Says:

    "GG opined: he needs to know how to execute a Google search and plow through a mountain of data in an expeditious manner.

    And how many years of University are required for this skill? I thought it was mastered by everyone's grandparents."

    If you want, I can show you an example of Ed failing at this very same task.