It seems to be inevitable that every few weeks, I have to read some version of the following:
1. Some article that explains that Donald Trump is actually a sophisticated and wonderful candidate who is saving our democracy by exposing the hypocrisies of it, and if you don’t see that, you are some liberal elite instead of somebody who recognizes the pull of populist strongmen who appeal to xenophobic tropes;
2. Some article that writes about how the university is dying, and it’s all somebody’s fault, and while it is must be parents, tenure, donors, tenure, administrators, tenure, political correctness, tenure, the internet, or tenure, or students, or…well tenure, of course, because there is nothing in today’s society that can’t be fixed by filching more benefits away from workers, or
3. Some article about how Millennials are entitled, and that’s not good.
Today I am going to take up the third. I generally think the kids are all right, but of the various diagnoses of Millenials and their ills, I think the problem is that they are not entitled enough.
Wait for it, before you sputter.
I got reflecting on this one day in my transit class when I was expressing irritation about a very expensive textbook, in its third edition, that costs close to $200, that is riddled with math errors. My students kept looking at me in disbelief that I would be so irritated by such a thing, and then spent the rest of the hour pointing out my own math glitches, gleefully, as though I shouldn’t think myself above math errors. Frankly, I am just grateful that the price tag had stopped me from asking students to buy this damn textbook.
Whatever, students like to call out professors, and I don’t care, but I have been shocked by their attitude ever since: they don’t actually *expect* expensive textbooks to have been proofread. They don’t *expect* quality. Instead, they *expect* to pay a lot of money for a textbook because textbook publishers *can* charge a lot without putting much effort into a book in order to make the margin they need to publish the book, so they *do*, and it’s just something Millenials put up with.
Then it occurred to me: these students have lived entirely during globalization where they have always paid $50+ for shirts where the buttons came off after two washings. The “Made in the USA” label is an abstraction to them; for me, much older, it was a real time and real, living thing, where “made in the USA” represented both a) an unsuccessful attempt to resist footloose capital that would sell out American labor in a heartbeat, driving down wages and benefits and impoverishing my fellows; and b) *quality* manufacturing. Their parents probably did not belong to unions, nor are they likely to know anybody who belonged to a union or who, thus, talked seriously about the entitlements of making a living.
It makes me sad to think of it–that we have taught our kids to expect so little, and to think that quality work is something nobody has time for.