The Case Against Generation Y: Exhibit #1123

by Jamison Koehler on February 23, 2011

Jeff Gamso and Scott Greenfield have both had some fun recently with a proposed Bill of Rights for Students developed by some law students at the University of Miami.

Contrarian that I am, I wish I could take this opportunity to leap to the defense of this generation of young Americans – the Generation Yers — who have been the subject of much ridicule in the blawgosphere.  I could note how unfair it is to criticize an entire generation of people based on the foibles of a few.  I could point out that such labeling is not only personally offensive, it is also entirely unjustified.

Sadly, I am not able to summon my normal level of sanctimony and self-righteousness in this case; the young woman in this video displays the very naivete, self-absorption, laziness and sense of entitlement that people have been complaining about with respect to this generation.

The proposed list of rights combines the trivial with, well, the trivial.  My favorite “right” is the one that guarantees that students “shall not be expected to know material that was not covered in the assigned reason for that day’s class, nor covered in any of the lectures and/or assigned readings prior to that day’s class.”  This sounds a whole like the question teachers have been dreading since the days Socrates walked the earth:  Will we be required to know this for the exam?

Right #11 provides that “[n]o student shall be responsible for, in any graded assignment, material covered before or after the class’s scheduled meetingtime unless a majority of the students agree to elongate the class.”  In other words, the professor can’t start the class a few minutes early.  Nor can the professor say anything meaningful when lecturing a few minutes over the allotted class time.

As Gamso puts it, this “is about entitlement to ignorance.  It’s all about the rest, don’t you know.  Don’t make me know anything you won’t test.  Don’t test anything you haven’t made me know.”

Read in its entirety, the proposed Bill of Rights strikes me as having the same level of sophistication as the protest a 5th grader organized against our school cafeteria when I was in grade school.  It reminds me of the “report cards” our children once decided to give my wife and me when they were young, evaluating us, among other things, on our permissiveness and our cooking and cleaning skills.

Looking on the bright side, publication of the list did give Gamso the excuse to re-focus our attention on the real Bill of Rights.  You can never post that thing too many times.  Nor can you ever trivialize it through sorry imitation. It is also conceivable that the young woman is not a self-entitled slacker but a fantastic actress, and all of this is really a clever Generation Y hoax designed to embarrass the rest of us.  In that case, the joke would truly be on us.

3 Comments on “The Case Against Generation Y: Exhibit #1123

  1. Why are you calling this woman lazy? Instead of sitting watching TV in her free time, she and her classmates made a video to try and change something that they think is wrong. They think that they are at the whim of unfair professors, and I don’t think that you know nearly enough about the situation to suggest that the professors are right and the students are wrong. While that might certainly be the case, the only way you substantiate your case is by assuming that because this woman is young, she is self-absorbed, self-entitled, and lazy, and that she is complaining about nothing.

    You accuse her demands of being trivial. Of course they are trivial to you, and of course you don’t think it is very important if she receives a lower grade even though she studied as hard as possible because (hypothetically) she had a job and she had to leave class right when it ended, and missed some material.

    You are completely right that this video is like the report cards that we used to give you when we were younger. A random blogger would most likely dismiss those report cards as trivial, naive and self absorbed. Maybe that blogger would be right, maybe the three of us didn’t have the right to tell you how you could be more fair to us.

    Or maybe this hypothetical blogger would be wrong, and members of Generation Y have the right to express themselves however they know how. While our concerns may seem trivial to the weighty matters that fill the heads of authorities, when I was 7 years old, I cared a lot about being fed, and it didn’t seem trivial. If I went to law school, I would probably want the grading system in law school to be fair.

    Of course, this desire for the world to be fair displays the exact naivete that you accuse the young woman in the video of. But why should you attack us for being naive? We are young! We are supposed to be naive. It might annoy you that all the law students in the world don’t only busy themselves with solving world hunger and are so self absorbed as to suggest that they should be treated fairly in a matter that is important to them, but I think what is truly trivial is your attack. It would be like writing back to the three of us after receiving a report card and saying you lazy, self-entitled children, how naive to think that you can write a report card of your parents! The world isn’t fair, you can’t change anything, get used to it.

    The only people at fault for the supposed sins of Generation Y are the parents of Generation Y for telling their children that their voices matter and that their opinions count. We aren’t self absorbed or lazy. We are inheriting a dirty, falling apart world from our parents, and there is a lot of work to be done if it is going to get nicer. So don’t call us naive for starting at the beginning, at something so trivial as grades in law school. And don’t call us lazy because we are going to spend our whole lives working to pay off the enormous national debt of your generation. Don’t call us self absorbed, because the real self-absorbed generation is the one that has been systematically destroying the planet we want to preserve for our children. Maybe you can call us self-entitled. Maybe we are entitled to create our own world for ourselves, and maybe our new world is going to replace your old world eventually. Maybe we have the skills and talents to do a better job than you did. If your generation doesn’t acknowledge our right to try and change things in the world, then I guess that makes our generation self-entitled. Although I prefer the term “self actualizing”.

    Dear Pops,
    sorry for the rant. you don’t have to publish it. I love you, despite all the mean things I said about your generation! I didn’t mean you.
    love Laura

  2. She’s right, you know, Jamison. Your generation has screwed things up pretty badly… 😉
    (BTW, you should be proud to have a daughter (a) so articulate, (b) so passionate about the world, (c) who reads your blog, (d) who will tell you, in public, she loves you.)

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