It Turns Out, The Kids Are Alright

On September 28, 2010, in Articles, by Josh Perlsweig

The millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2001, had a rough summer on the pages of the NY Times.

First, there were two opinion pieces, “The Culture of Narcissism” and “The ‘Me’ Generation”, both pointing to a lack of empathy and concern among youth.

Then, there was “What Is It About 20- Somethings?” which asked the question “why are so many people in their 20′s taking so long to grow up?”. The author identified factors that appear to be delaying adulthood and annoyed several readers by seeming to dismiss service programs like City Year as “experimentation of ‘emerging adulthood’ “.

Last week in the online magazine Miller-McCune, Sara Barbour took a stand for her fellow millennials with an article titled “Me Generation Actually the Us Generation”. She references a UCLA survey of graduating seniors to make the case that the huge increases in applications for Peace Corp, AmeriCorp and Teach for America are more than just a reaction to uncertain economic times:

“In the 2008-09 survey of graduating seniors, 77 percent rated “helping others who are in difficulty” as “essential” or “very important,” a number that came in above “being very well off financially” at 60.8 percent. When asked to describe their “understanding of social problems facing our nation,” 86 percent deemed their understanding “much stronger” or “stronger” than when they entered college; the same terms were chosen by 82.4 percent for “understanding of global issues.” Furthermore, 46.2 percent said “working for social change” was “essential” or “very important” when thinking about their career path after college.”

I agree that the millennials (full disclosure, I’m one of them) deserve more credit for their commitment to public service. The genuine desire to help others and to have a positive impact in communities must outweigh economic uncertainty when deciding to give a year or two of service.

And it should come as no surprise to anyone who has met the first class of Teach2Serve students that they belong to an engaged and committed cohort. Surely, we can expect great contributions from the “us” generation.