Millennials – The Dumbest or the Smartest Generation?


There is a very interesting article at Education Week this week about the Millennial Generation. Titled, “Are Millennials the Smartest or the Dumbest Generation?” the article discusses presentations given at an American Enterprise Institute luncheon by Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University and Neil Howe, a historian, economist, and demographer.

I know this conversation has been regular lunchroom fodder at every school in which I have worked.  Personally, I think the answer to the question really is “none of the above.”  Millennials are their own unique generation with a different set of strengths and weaknesses than previous generations.  I am always marveled by their ability to quickly assimilate and utilize new technology in ways in which I would have never dreamed…or in this case how to use its power to spread cheating tips.  At the same time though, I am also regularly concerned by what seems like a lack of ability (or maybe a lack of desire) to pull information from traditional classroom materials, such as textbooks, and complete traditional classroom assignments.  Which strength or weakness will predict their future success?

Generationally, I sit on the fence.  I am a bit too old to be a Millennial, but I am also a bit too young to be part of Generation X.  This location though, provides me a unique perspective.  I cherish many elements of 20th century education and society, but at the same time I also see my world drastically changing month by month in 21st century society.  I love reading books in their paper form and watching the news on TV (computer screens are too small).  I also appreciate the lessons on diagramming sentences and expository textbook comprehension provided by my very 20th century (and maybe even a little 19th century) teachers.  At the same time, I couldn’t imagine life without Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, and my blog.  Each of these tools I learned on my own with my “Millennial inner tech sixth sense.”  I’ve also become a huge fan of the New York Times ever since I found their iPhone app.  Over dinner last night a friend said, “I got rid of my Facebook account.  I can’t keep up with it.  I’m going 20th century.”  Very quickly I found myself convincing him to restart it for the simple reason that it would connect him to his student’s social networking reality even if he never “friended” any of them.

As I think through this paradigm, I’m left with the same question I always have as I walk down this train of thought.  Should we try to change our students or has the world so drastically changed that we are the ones who must adapt to their reality?

Which reminds me, I have quite a few books on the Millennial Generation waiting to be read in my library.  Perhaps I should go get one.  Check out this link if you are looking for some of your own.


Photo: Neocastigos by Paulo Fehlauer on Flickr.

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