- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Shut up, Millennials, and deal

This is a pretty great rant [1] — but also a pep talk — by a Millennial to his own generation. It’s full of great passages; it’s hard to know which parts to quote. I hope you’ll read the whole thing before commenting. Here’s a sampling.

Until recently I didn’t understand the definition of entrepreneur. Building businesses and making money on my own was always just something that I did when I was forced to, I didn’t think of it as a job or a career. Until recently I didn’t understand the idea that being an entrepreneur permanently wasn’t something that should be looked down upon.

The story of why it took me 25 years to figure this out says a lot about my generation, the pain and disappointment many of them are feeling right now, and why they need to start thinking differently.

I was raised in a town about 45 minutes north of New York City. The Chappaqua public school system is often ranked top 10 in the nation, if you didn’t get into an ivy league school, a top northeast liberal arts college, or Michigan, well, you just didn’t. 33 of my graduating class of 320 went to Cornell. I grew up in what will eventually be seen as the epitome of everything that went wrong regarding the way upper middle class parents raised my generation, and how many Millennials see the world today.

They didn’t keep score in my little league baseball games until I was 13, lesson, everyone’s winner, no one is better than anyone else.

In school they never posted grades for the whole class, everything was private, lesson, school is not a competition and everyone is “smart in their own way”.

I once found out what another student in my class received on an 11th grade social studies paper, I read the paper, then went to the professor and confronted him over our grades. The answer I received floored me, he said that the other student deserved a higher grade not because his paper was of better quality, it wasn’t in any way, but because that student had “worked hard” and deserved recognition for his perseverance. I asked him if a college we were both applying to would take our respective grading curves into account, he told me to get out of his face.

We were indoctrinated into being good team members, to work well in groups, to collaborate. Leadership was shunned for fear that it would promote certain students and lower the self esteem of others.

On sports teams everyone was given equal playing time, because once again, we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Our parents and teachers attempted to build bubbles of fairness, equality, and an “effort is what counts the most” environment.

And most important, we were taught to follow the rules, to work within the system. Our lives were scheduled with activities back to back to back. School, homework, 5 different clubs, 3 varsity sports, 2 community service commitments, not a minute was left free.

The system was meant to lead us towards one thing, getting into a great college.

I don’t blame my parents, teachers, and coaches for having this view. Many of them were the first in their families to go to college, and that was a major accomplishment back then when a college degree meant a lot. I don’t blame them for coddling us from the real world, for trying to institute a sense of fairness, for teaching us to work with each other. It’s not their fault.

But it really screwed us.

Again, read the whole thing.  [1]

(Via, where else, The Browser. [2])



27 Comments (Open | Close)

27 Comments To "Shut up, Millennials, and deal"

#1 Comment By Sam M On November 11, 2011 @ 11:01 am

I think this offers an interesting counterpoint to Rod’s concern that today’s schools are places of violence and bullying. This kid paints a picture of coddling and constant softness.

Does one disprove the other? Does a system where the adults refuse to make distinctions force the kids to play that role on their own?

Dunno. Just an interesting contrast.

#2 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 11, 2011 @ 11:15 am

That’s an interesting point, Sam. I should say that I don’t *know* that schools are places of violence and bullying. All I know is from my own experience, which was not good, but not good in a way that I believe is fairly typical, especially of teenagers.

Don’t you think it’s possible that this kid’s suburban Westchester schools could have been places of classroom pampering *and* bullying? It could be that this kid was in the overclass there.

I have a friend whose daughter, now in college, went to school in Westchester County. That girl is a mess. My friend is at wit’s end dealing with her. Says the girl was coddled from the get-go (my friend is not gentle with herself for her role here), and was malformed by the culture there, in exactly the ways this writer says. Daughter is terrified — terrified! — of failure, and paralyzed by the fear of taking care of herself, including taking initiative. I’m going to send this link to my friend and see what she says.

#3 Comment By Zathras On November 11, 2011 @ 11:20 am


There is a book by a couple of Evangelical Millenials you might like along these lines. It’s called Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. It’s not perfect, but it’s very interesting. [3]

#4 Comment By Irenist On November 11, 2011 @ 11:25 am

There’s a lot of good advice in his essay.

Many Americans are currently trying to live in the ruins made by previous bad advice, however. A lot of Boomers were encouraged by lenders like Countrywide to get mortgages they couldn’t afford, or by financial advisers to use their houses as ATM’s.

A lot of Millennials were told by guidance counselors to “major in what you like.” They were even given aptitude tests in high school to determine what they like–who was hiring wasn’t a consideration on these tests. So they majored in English or Art History or some such. And the colleges’ brochures, and the U.S. News rankings, and the counselors there, again, never told them not to do this. Then they couldn’t get jobs. But they got new glossy brochures, and heard from new guidance counselors, that a PhD or a law degree might save them. So they took on more debt, and did that.

Or maybe not. Maybe they went to a for profit trade school to learn something practical–maybe welding, or computer programming, at DeVry or ITT Tech or wherever. Or “business” at U. Phoenix. Then they found out that the curricula at their for-profit school was so attenuated that, despite barely being able to read or add, they now had associate’s degrees that signified nothing to employers in those fields. And debt, just like the kids who majored in English. Non-dischargeable debt, unlike the kind that “entrepreneurs” get when their business ventures fail, and the law lets them, but not these misled kids, declare bankruptcy and start over.

Or maybe they listened to the commercial that told them to “be all you can be” and got maimed or killed in a pointless neo-con war.

Or maybe they listened to parents who told them to be altar boys, or hang around Penn State.

Do people need to own their own bad decisions? Sure. But a lot of *children* have been advised by *professionals* to take on massive debt, or hang around pedophiles, or go to war. Do these now adult children need to own their bad decisions? Sure. (And am I comparing high schoolers picking a college major to abuse victims? No. Just comparing the adults involved.)
But what a lot of these scruffy, often-boorish OWS kids and many of their peers are mad about is that *every* institution in society is incompetent, lying, or both. And isn’t that something worth being concerned about?

We complain a lot around here about entitlement and MTD replacing Tradition. But there is a massive education industry lying to *children* about what they should be doing while it inculcates MTD. Every institution in our society is a whited sepulcher. How are we to get the kids to follow tradition, to “keep calm and carry on” when everything is broken? Prophetic voices need to be raised. Own your sins and misjudgments? Yes. “Shut up?” No. And shame on us for wanting to tell them to.

#5 Comment By Adele On November 11, 2011 @ 11:25 am

When I was a kid (60s, 70s, early 80s), we were raised to think hey, life is tough. You win some you lose some. Get used to it. My mother was a college professor (recently retired) and my sister is a high school teacher. Both will tell you flat out that today’s kids think they’re ENTITLED. Entitled to an “A”, entitled to sue if they don’t get one (seriously!), entitled to a trophy. It’s astonishing, really. It reminds me of the movie “Meet The Fockers” when, after viewing Greg’s parents’ wall of 9th place ribbons and such, De Niro says (paraphrasing), “I’ve never seen so much celebration of mediocrity.” Sadly, our society is raising a bunch of brats who think they’re better than everyone else. They get into college and cheat; get out into the workforce, and can’t figure out why not everybody looooves them! If you’re taught your whole life that wow, you’re awesome(!) you grow up to a real world of disillusionment.

#6 Comment By Mont D. Law On November 11, 2011 @ 11:41 am

I call shenanigans.

The points these kids are making are valid, well articulated and game changing. The adults in charge not only designed the current system but ran it into the ground and then ignored the causalities. Now these same adults want to just ignore all that and paint these protesters as privileged whiners to avoid their responsibility is shameful. The plain fact is your country has spent the last 30 years destroying the middle class, an act of outright suicide, supported whole heartedly by most of you here.

That your children and grandchildren are doing something to protest that, however unseemly you may find it, should make you proud. It is more than we did.

#7 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 11, 2011 @ 11:43 am

I hope you all will notice that this essayist is blaming the older generation for coddling his generation and leaving them unprepared for the world that the older generation actually ruined. His point is simply to encourage his fellow Millennials to do what is necessary to thrive in the world as it is, not as it ought to have been.

#8 Comment By Irenist On November 11, 2011 @ 11:49 am

@Adele: Maybe some kids are like this. Some kids are in prison, or working at Wal-Mart, or working as C.N.A.’s cleaning up the vomit and excreta of the elderly. Contrary to what magazines and t.v. say, not all Boomers were at Woodstock, and not all Millennials are the college-educated children of suburban parents. Really. Lots of Boomers were in Vietnam instead. Lots of Millenials are working sh*tty jobs, and coming from communities where almost no one goes to college. These generalizations are based on the same upper-middle class NY Times naval-gazing as those “all our kids are on their iPads all the time” columns: most Americans of any age don’t have iPads. B/c y’know what? MOST Americans aren’t upper middle class. Shocking, but true.

But then, plenty of children of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s were obnoxious spoiled snots, too, and some of them went on to think they were “entitled” to get rich by selling credit default swaps, or tranches of junk mortgages, or faulty showers that electrocuted soldiers in Iraq. (Oh–those soldiers dying around the world right now, btw? Millennials, Adele, almost all of them.)

Boomers, X’ers, Millennials. White, Black. People.

Sniping about generations is a waste, and a media-approved distraction from calling out the real corruption in our society.

#9 Comment By Sam M On November 11, 2011 @ 11:53 am

“Don’t you think it’s possible that this kid’s suburban Westchester schools could have been places of classroom pampering *and* bullying?”

That’s what I was getting at in the second part of the comment. Without any traditional hierarchies in place, the kids are forced to invent their own, which can be even more ruthless than the previously sanctioned ones because they go on in the dark, beyond supervision. It’s the same argument that holds that you are better off alowing 18-year-olds drink beer in bars, where there are bouncers, rather than having them drink vodka in dorm rooms where there are no bouncers.

I am not arguing that cliques have suddenly appeared. They have not. I am just wondering if the two realities might actually exist and be related in some way.

A system in which one girl gets to be the homecoming queen was certainly a raw deal for a lot of people. BUt perhaps the system does not fall to egalitarianism even when we try to make it do that. Eliminating scores in baseball should, in theory, eliminate the jock versus non-jock differences. But of course, it doesn’t. Redefining beauty to include everything, no matter how hard we try, does not result in equal attention from the boys.

We told them that pecking orders were terrible and refused to give them any. They came up with their own, and they are not necessarily better.

I am not saying this is fact. Just wondering.

#10 Comment By Irenist On November 11, 2011 @ 11:57 am

Rod, it would have been easier to notice that if you hadn’t headlined this “Shut up, Millennials, and deal.” Dealing is important. We’re all trying to. But “shutting up” isn’t part of dealing. That miserable McQueary guy dealt by “shutting up.” It doesn’t help. Yes, we all need to try to fix our own lives. But an engaged citizenry, or an engaged congregation, is the only way to fix the broken, decadent empire around us. Go read the Book of Jeremiah, perhaps. “Shutting up” is *not* part of dealing. I have been a fan of yours for a long time, but calling rightly enraged people entitled whiners is unhelpful. When you say “Shut up and deal” what I hear is “Don’t you trust the bishops?”. I know that’s not what you mean, but it sure is what I hear. After all, if these kids shut up and look only to their own economic salvation, like some kind of materialist Theravadan Buddhists, what about the kids who come after them? These kids see their brother lying by the side of the road. And they’re trying to deal with it. Cut them some slack.

#11 Comment By TTT On November 11, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

Millennials are absolutely not one shred more lazy, coddled, or entitled than the Boomer Babies. I’ve done education and communications work for both demographics and don’t need to rely on the sloganeering of marketers. What was some oldster’s vote for Bush other than a celebration of mediocrity?

#12 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 11, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

Rod, it would have been easier to notice that if you hadn’t headlined this “Shut up, Millennials, and deal.”

Irenist, that was my characterization of the author’s intent. He’s telling members of his own generation, “Look, we were screwed up by our parents and the culture they raised us in, and they’ve screwed up our job prospects. But guess what? We’re not going to get anywhere complaining about it. Here’s what we can do to adjust and to prosper.”

I read his piece as saying that yes, we were dealt a bad hand, but here’s how we can make the most of it. Why is that a problem?

#13 Comment By Extollager On November 11, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

He gripes because he was taught to “dissect Shakespeare” instead of job skills.

Maybe he should have attended a vo-tech. Nobody’s making you pile up student debt to get a university education — assuming you can find one that gives a real education rather than indoctrination in political correctness, etc. anyway.

To people who like what he said, though, again, I’d say: Swamp the vo-techs and community colleges with your enrollment, if job training is what you want. Don’t enroll in a university with a tradition (or a facade) of liberal arts and then grip about not learning job skills.

#14 Comment By Gus On November 11, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

I HATE the categorization of entire generations as all one way. Not all baby boomers took to the streets and protested. I work at a software company, which means I work with a lot of milennials. The kids I work with are almost without exception smart and hard working. They don’t ask for things to be handed to them, they happily work hard for them. Older generations have been complaining about those lazy, entitled kids for as long as I can remember.

#15 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 11, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

Extollager, I think what you might be missing is that this kid was raised in Westchester County, NY — a bastion of middle and upper-middle-class privilege. He was raised in a culture that would see going to vo-tech a sign of massive failure. This, I think, is part of his point about how ill-equipped the culture in which he was raised left him and his peers for the world as it is.

#16 Comment By Irenist On November 11, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

Rod, first of all, as a comboxer, I’m grateful you’re engaging with me on this at all. Bless you for finding the time.

Second, that was the author’s intent, and you accurately reflected it. But I think my sorrow is that I expected more from you than to agree unequivocally with that intent.

Third, generalizing from his fancy school district to all millennials is the kind of NY Times trend piece b.s. that, as one of the many younger folks that is first generation American, first generation in college, and below the poverty line the whole time, tends to rile me more than it should. Sorry about that.

He’s 100% right that we have to play the hand we’re dealt. And his money-making ideas are superb. I bookmarked the page so I can reference it. But he’s wrong when he characterizes the bad economy as based on global labor costs, as though the greed of our CEO’s and the macroeconomic ignorance of our politicians were a law of nature rather than willful sin.

Hence my Theravada Buddhist reference: they believe that you seek nirvana for yourself, and let desire take the hindmost. Christians are different: we are called to work out our own spiritual salvation with fear and trembling, but also to go and preach the Gospel to all nations. We’ve a kerygmatic mission as well as a mystical faith.

That’s what I mean by prophetic witness. Just as the kerygmatic dimension spiritually is to preach the Gospel, the material incarnation of that is often to speak truth to power, to cry out in the wilderness for justice.

What your headline and his blogpost seem to me to do is to separate these, to turn us into “materialist” Theravadans, telling us to, like Weberian Protestants, work out our own “I’ve got mine” with fear and trembling before outsourcing, and not raise our voices for those left behind. I’m married. We’re trying to start a family. It is my responsibility as one called to the vocation of marriage to claw my way up in this economy to be a good provider. And I’m striving to do that. But I *will* be damned if I limit it there, and don’t worry about the next generation of misled college applicants and altar boys. Ironically, the blogger himself isn’t shutting up–he’s giving good advice to those college kids about how to deal. He’s just telling *them* to shut up.

So by all means, let’s deal. But let’s not shut up.
With great admiration for you, I hope that’s clear. It’s not the “deal” part that bugs me. Good for you and him. It’s just the “shut up” part. That’ll leave the “bad hand” in place, to be dealt to another generation. The Benedictines tended their gardens. But the Dominicans and Franciscans preached the Gospel. We need to deal. But we also need to speak out.

#17 Comment By Adele On November 11, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

Irenist: I didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers. I totally agree with you, BTW. I’m actually on the side of those protesting OWS. I was merely stating that there are many today who truly believe they’re entitled to a great life, regardless of work ethic, or lack thereof. We’re failing our children if we don’t tell them repeatedly, hey, a “C” is a great grade if you worked really hard. Not all kids can get “As” in everything. You aren’t special, but average is okay, too. Frankly, I was raised in poverty for the early part of my life. My greatest memory of early childhood was always being HUNGRY. I have nothing at all against Millennials. I understand them and am raising them. I’m not as ignorant as you seem to think.

#18 Comment By Rod Dreher On November 11, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

I see where you’re coming from. “Shut up and deal” is a reference to the last line of “The Apartment” — see the clip I posted with this. I intended it as if to say, “Let’s not satisfy ourselves with complaining about how rotten we have it; let’s be creative and figure out how to thrive despite it all.”

I should say here too that just because I post something here doesn’t mean I agree with it 100 percent. Often I just think it’s interesting and would spark a good discussion.

#19 Comment By Mont D. Law On November 11, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

[I hope you all will notice that this essayist is blaming the older generation for coddling his generation and leaving them unprepared for the world that the older generation actually ruined. His point is simply to encourage his fellow Millennials to do what is necessary to thrive in the world as it is, not as it ought to have been.]

I understand what he is saying and he is wrong. These kids are protesting an unjust, destructive system that is gutting their country. A country they were raised to believe was the greatest in the history of the world. And the best advise this guy can offer is ignore all that – there are still ways to get your piece of the increasingly scarce pie. Never mind the injustice, the poverty, the corruption, you can still get yours.These kids would not have to take to the streets if their parents had done their jobs properly. This attitude reflects the adults strategy perfectly, get your slice and to he11 with everybody else.

#20 Comment By Irenist On November 11, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

Extollager: Vo-tech doesn’t always work either. A lot of tech colleges (ITT, DeVry, UPhoenix) prey on people with low reading and math skills. They don’t teach them anything, and saddle them with lots of debt. Take it from me: I’m a vo-tech alum, and I’ve seen what happened to my classmates.

#21 Comment By Irenist On November 11, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

Adele & Rod: Thanks to you both for your understanding words. And sorry for more or less hijacking this thread. You’re all kind to put up with me.

#22 Comment By Libertarian Jerry On November 11, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

Rod,I think what has happened over the last 50 years or so has been planned by the Elites. That is for the general dumbing down of the American population. Whenever the Socialists take over an economy they destroy that same economy. This is counter productive because Capitalism creates a large middle class. A large middle class,with something to lose,will not support Socialism or Communism. So, in order to attain power the Left came up about 80 years ago with the idea of changing and controlling the society culturally. This is called Cultural Marxism. Today,if you look at Public Education,Academia,the Main Stream Media,Hollywood,the Arts etc. they are basically influenced and or controlled by the leftist elites. This is done through corporations that are owned and or controlled by the elites. Or are funded by the elites through tax free non-profits,endowments,trusts and foundations. The decades long assault on American culture has resulted in the large scale destruction of the American paternalistic family unit,the creation of a large Dependency Class plus the centralization of both wealth and power in the State. And has eased the path to the collectivization of America. The final result of 50 years of this Cultural Marxist assault has been the creation of a nation of sheep and debt serfs, who will serve their elite masters. The idea of being self reliant,self sufficient and independent thinking does not exist in the vast majority of the population.

#23 Comment By seaoctopus On November 11, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

“The final result of 50 years of this Cultural Marxist assault has been the creation of a nation of sheep and debt serfs, who will serve their elite masters. The idea of being self reliant,self sufficient and independent thinking does not exist in the vast majority of the population.”

The plan of the Illuminati and Bilderbergers has been revealed. Luckily my tinfoil hat has protected me

#24 Comment By Senescent On November 11, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

We would prefer not to.

#25 Comment By Conradg On November 11, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

I am having a ridiculously hard time posting this in the right thread. Sorry for the spamming. It was intended from the start to go here, but somehow it got on to other threads. Perhaps it applies to all of them:

Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse

They f–k you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were f–ked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

#26 Comment By David J. White On November 12, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

Whenever the Socialists take over an economy they destroy that same economy. This is counter productive because Capitalism creates a large middle class.

Really? And here all this time I thought it was strong unions bargaining for good wages and benefits, combined with government support in the form of things like the GI bill, together with lack of industrial competition from countries destroyed in World War II that created our large middle class. Silly me.

#27 Comment By Stef On November 13, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

He forgot the “Don’t get sick and rack up medical bills because your little enterpreneurship project doesn’t allow you to get medical linsurance” part.

It’s just typical salesman blather, the same in every generation. “I’m a self-made glad-hander and you can be too.” Same old same old.