When it comes to cliche op-eds these days, the main staples tend to be America’s going to collapse like Rome, there’s a new Cold War with Russia, and millennials are screw-ups because they were always told they were special and they got trophies simply for participating. It’s that third, slow-news-day, filler editorial I’d like to tackle in this off-topic post today.
First of all, I staunchly maintain that I am not a millennial. I am one of the last Gen Xers, if you want to get technical about it, and I insist you do. Indeed, many anti-millennial rants lump me in with “Generation Y,” but there’s one crucial detail the writers of such rants omit when they do this, namely, they forget that they are complete and utter morons. I am in my early 30’s and have very little in common with someone who graduated college even a few years ago. I often find examples of a total generation gap even when talking to someone who is but three years younger than I. Yet though I don’t consider myself part of Generation Y, AKA the millennials, I do know what they’re going through when I see no-talent hacks attacking them for their supposedly coddled upbringing. If you happen to be a millennial and you’re confused because you can’t remember your high school teachers chucking trophies at you simply for turning in your homework, read on. I’ll let you in on a little secret- It’s bullshit. Mostly.
Take a seat and let me tell you a little story. I come from a very conservative background. I spent a part of my formative years in a very conservative, religious environment in the beginning of the so-called “Culture Wars” of the 90’s. If you’re a politically moderate American, and if you’re considering only domestic policy, you probably remember Bill Clinton as being a president who presided over a more-or-less healthy economy, but who had a number of indiscretions and was economical with the truth from time to time. Welfare reform and NAFTA are a couple negative spots on Clinton’s record as well. That is not how we saw things in my household or in the churches I attended. No, Bill Clinton was a Communist sympathizer, drug runner, and pervert, while his wife was a lesbian who practices witchcraft. Clinton’s administration was a sign of the end times; he would open the door to an invasion of foreign UN troops who would then go door to door confiscating our precious guns. Christianity would be banned, replaced by some kind of pagan Earth Mother cult. Suffice it to say, I know what it’s like for those Russians who get their news from the TV and buy into the alternate reality it creates.
Obviously these ideas were not uniformly represented among the sources of news we listened to. Rush Limbaugh and other talk radio hosts were usually careful to steer clear of outright murder accusations against the sitting president. They were also hesitant to go in for the UN-related conspiracy theories, especially in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, which brought militia groups and their beliefs into the national limelight. The more radical stuff came from The 700 Club with Pat Robertson, and the prophesy-laden sermons of televangelist John Hagee. In general though, most of these broadcasts had one thing in common, something which tends to be an integral part of any form of reactionary or conservative propaganda. The trope has no name that I’m aware of, so let us refer to it here as the “shock reel.” The shock reel is a list, either in print or in a speech, which contains a number of anecdotes and claims that are intended to shock and outrage the audience. An old favorite for the shock reel is any story involving a particularly unusual or outrageous performance artist. You chain these stories together and ask your audience, “What is our world coming to?”
Among the shock reel bogeymen I remember from those days was something called “outcome based education.” Growing up I would hear that some public schools, always in some other state, were experimenting with all sorts of new measures intended to bolster children’s self-esteem. High self-esteem was supposedly deemed supremely important by the crystal-gazing, ex-hippies who had supposedly taken over the government once Bill Clinton seized the White House by being legally elected. What all this self-esteem-oriented education entailed was the elimination of letter grades or grades which signified failure. How students felt about their work was taken to be paramount. This was constantly contrasted with education in “the good old days,” in this case of the baby boomer generation, which supposedly focused on the “Three R’s” of “readin’ ritin’ and ‘rithmatic.” The fact that the very concept of the “Three R’s” is based on the expression of an obviously illiterate dipshit seems to have been lost on that poor, misguided baby boomer generation, but I digress.
As I was going through school, roughly grades 5-11 I remember continually hearing about how public schools were supposedly dumbing down their curricula to focus on building self-esteem. And yet for some bizarre reason, the schools I went to weren’t participating in this nefarious scheme, even though they were at times in different districts. I also did attend one year at a private Christian school, and cannot say that the level of education was any more advanced than what I experienced in public schools. In fact the Christian school was worse because they constantly injected their politics and Biblical literalism into our lessons. Don’t even get me started on their sex education program.
Aside from that year, of course, I was mostly educated in public schools and I graduated from a public high school. During that time I kept hearing about how ridiculously easy school had supposedly become, but again, it always seemed to be other schools. I won’t say there were not problems with our curriculum, especially in the field of history, for example, but in retrospect I can say that I had a pretty damned good public education and I’m also quite certain that it was superior to that of some of my baby-boomer relatives who kept telling me how dumbed-down my schooling supposedly was. I’m not going to name name’s but at least one of these Rhodes’ scholars revealed as late as 2009 that they didn’t know who the United States was allied with in the Second World War, i.e. the war that individual’s father actively participated in. Of course there still are plenty of intelligent baby boomers, obviously, but the point here is that education is an active process in which the individual bears much responsibility for their own results. Most of my education took place out of the classroom, on my own initiative.
The point I’m getting at here, dear millennial readers, is that I believe you when you say you didn’t get a trophy just for participating in field day. I know that you didn’t get a perfect grade in history just because you could properly match the name George Washington to his portrait. I know this because before they started ganging up on you, they were ganging up on my generation. That’s right- they used to say the 80’s kids were the screw ups. We were constantly told that we were special, our self-esteem was paramount. At no time did these people ever think about who was responsible for this. After all, who were our parents, our teachers, etc.? They were all baby boomers. That right there should help dispel any myths you might have about the wisdom of that self-entitled, shrill, world-fucking generation. Let me tell you something else, millennials. There was another generation that was supposedly “lost” even before that. The press kept lamenting the youth, saying that they were far too interested in drugs, drinking, and sex to amount to anything useful. Then that generation came of age and fought in this little scrap you may have heard of called World War II. Or then again maybe you haven’t; you are millennials after all.
For the non-millennials- give the kids a break. There’s nothing wrong with having a laugh at the expense of youthful naivety or ignorance, but before you go writing several pages about how stupid Generation Y is, you might want to make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row too. Also keep in mind that the people who are actually responsible for the sad state of TV, movies, and pop music that is geared toward a millennial audience are themselves much older, often boomers. That goes double for parents. If your average millennial in their early to mid 20’s has an over-inflated sense of self-worth, who is the culprit? Most likely it is the parents who filled their head with self-esteem building, “positive thinking” nonsense. If this generation truly is doomed, there is literally no one we can blame other than those who raised it and shaped its entire world. Maybe it’s you who should have been told you weren’t special or gifted. Maybe you were the ones who needed a big red F.