The kids are alright

It seems that every generation looks down, in some ways, on those who follow. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before my peers started talking about those who follow in our footsteps. Even so, I’ve been surprised to hear talk about how “kids these days” just don’t get it. They’re lazy. They’re entitled. They can’t put down their smart phones long enough to engage with the real world.

It sounds an awful lot like the accusations hurled at my generation by those older than us.

It could be that I’m overly sensitive because I’m on a generational cusp. Although there aren’t clearly defined boundaries between generations, most folks who write about such things declare that the birth-year cutoff for Generation X is either just before or slightly after I came into the world. And I can identify with both Gen X and my millennial brethren. I like to argue that I’m an X-er, but you could make a solid case either way.

But I don’t think that’s what’s holding me back from critiquing millennials. I think the truth is, our youth have a lot to offer.

For years, I’ve self selected the millennials with whom I spend the most time. I oversee Birmingham magazine’s intern program, and so I’m personally responsible for ensuring that the students I spend time with are the best and brightest. I’ve been spoiled.

However, in the past two years I’ve also started teaching at the college level. I have no input into who enrolls in my classes. All I know is they’ve taken the prerequisites necessary for a 300-level communications course, and they are bright enough to attend the universities where I teach. And although these students are usually a bit earlier in their career paths than my interns, who are typically seniors, I’ve been delighted by the kids I teach.

In my experience, millennials aren’t lazy–or at least, not any more so than I was in college. (I’d be ashamed to admit how many classes I skipped because I couldn’t find a parking spot.) They aren’t self involved; in fact, many of my current students dream of jobs in the nonprofit sector.

These kids are charming, funny, ridiculous in the best possible ways and driven. I was a pretty well-rounded student with a solid GPA, a slate of extracurriculars and a total of four internships between undergrad and graduate school. But these kids are usually so much more. I often hear from them a year or more after they’ve completed my class or finished my internship. They are eager to receive advice about how to enhance their portfolios, contribute to their communities and edit their resumes. Yes, it’s in their best interest, but they also come to me after doing the work and research themselves. They know that their instructors are there to guide them into the “real world” after college, and they take advantage of that help (something I never thought to do!). They’re bright and enthusiastic, quick to embrace technology and savvy enough to know when it’s relevant for their careers.

I could be biased. For whatever reason, I get along especially well with college kids. But I think the truth is, the kids are alright.

Today’s subject line comes from The Who song by the same name.

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