I saw an article entitled Why The Millenials Are Doing So Poorly and figured I should find out just how badly my kids are doing. The article features a photo of a kid in a dunce cap.
Just so we know who we're talking about, according to the Pew Research Center, Millenials are those born 1981 to the present. The Baby Boomers are defined by the years 1946-1964 and the Gen X-ers are those born between 1965 and 1980. (Millenials are sometimes split into Generation Y born between 1975 - 1992 and Generation Z born between 1993 and present.) Finally, the Silent Generation is the 1928-1945 group.
The results of a Pew Research Center Study are at least part of the reason that Mark Bauerlein from Emory University, the author of the article, is in abject despair about this age group who he essentially trashes in this article. I read the Pew Research article he refers to and I even took the Pew Research Quiz to find out how "millenial" I am and I couldn't agree less with Bauerlein. He's writing on Minding The Campus, a website whose focus I share (or thought I did), but, frankly, an academic is an academic. Nobody is ever okay except them.
A quick Wikipedia check of Bauerlein reveals him to be a convert to Catholicism and a liberal or libertarian on social and political issues. He wrote a book called The Dumbest Generation. He sounds a lot like Michelle Obama on The Tonight Show talking about knuckleheads.
Bauerlein notes that Millenials tend to vote as Democrats, give Obama a fairly high approval rating, lean favorably toward activist government. But on the "quickie"quiz, Millenials identify as politically conservative in roughly the same proportion as the other age groups.
Bauerlein writes that Millenials "judge politics by how it affects them, and we see that personal-only perspective in their social focus." While it is the case that a high percentage of Millenials have some sort of "social networking profile," it is also the case that a lot of people must be on electronic devices a lot of the time; I text as much as a Millenial, I play video games as much as Millenial (oh dear), read a daily paper as much as a Millenial (rarely if ever) and watch TV as much as a Millenial (rarely if ever).
A defining characteristic of Millenials according to Pew Research studies is disaffiliation. Millenials "are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics." I find that to be anecdotally true among the Millenials I know including my own kids. I don't think that's necessarily a bad trait. Yes, it could reflect apathy or malaise but it may also reflect a healthy skepticism of the lines that have been drawn in the sand for the Millenials by their predecessors.
Millenials didn't come from nowhere. They're inheritors of a popular culture and a set of values that they didn't create or even help to evolve as did many of us Boomers, whose children the Millenials are. Heaping criticism and disdain on them as Bauerlein does is mis-placed, uncharitable. Low marriage rates among Millenials, low levels of social trust, skepticism that God exists, where did it all come from? We have the opportunity to influence, mentor and educate this group. And the responsibility. Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory, must cross paths with hundreds of students a year. As Catholics, if that applies, and it apparently does to Bauerlein, we're called to evangelize the culture.
Get out there and get to work, man, and stop crying in your beer with grumpy articles like this one.