On Generational Whining: Or Why Your Complaints About My Students are BS

I have a group of beautiful and brilliant seniors that have never written more than 2 pages in an essay. They are stressed out constantly, they worry about their grades, they don’t know how to be engaged with a task and they can’t complete projects on their own. The rich kids among them have been told they are special, and the poor among them have been told they are nothing. They are stressed, and confused and scared.

I grew up poor and poverty makes you both insane and insanely resourceful. I have no sense of entitlement; when you grow up poor that doesn’t develop, especially if you grow up in a large family and large community. So, it would be easy for me to point to my peers at Stanford and my privileged kids now and say that this generation is entitled. I just don’t think that rich kids thinking they are special and deserve more is a new phenomenon; I’m pretty sure that is just the American way.

As far as this being as generational issue, I will say this: the schools have trained my kids to need a lot more hand holding and to be a lot more stressed out than they should be, but old people, before you get all smug about that statement I want you to understand that it is your fault.

It is your fault. Yours. You created this mess, and now you expect me to clean it up. I was a kid and some of my students weren’t even born when you put in place the kind of high stakes testing that made it so that teachers didn’t think they had the time to assign essays. You voted on the laws that eliminated equalized funding in the schools, and you drew the district lines that make it harder for my poor kids to succeed. They lack independence because of the way you designed the schools and defined success.

And you want to know why my kids are stressed? Because they are growing up in a world where the only way to feed your family is to either go to college or go die for country. These kids aren’t working to be rich. They aren’t going to college to significantly better their lots in life. They are doing it to survive. Because you created an economic system wherein that is the only option. And while you did that you made college so expensive that even many of my privileged students can’t afford to go even when they have the grades, the work ethic, and the intellectual vitality to do so.

I threw my neck out at work today. This happens fairly often because I have a serious medical condition. I love my work, but when this happens I am reminded that I am always doing more than I physically should, and that I pushing myself to my physical limit. I work because I love my work, but I also work because I need to eat and I need health care. Frankly, even with my Stanford degree, I was limited in my options because I had to work somewhere where I would get really good health care. And because you continue to refuse to pay for education, instead of my job being professionally manageable I now have class sizes that make it nearly impossible for most teachers to assign essays, and in my case, where I make that a priority, I physically pay for it.

So from one incredibly not entitled, but extremely stressed out Millenial, save your morality speeches for someone who grew up in a time of economic prosperity with multiple options for employment, pensions and health care who was told they were super special, like the baby boomers. Take a good look in the mirror, and then come talk to me. Until then, I’ll be working.


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