OK, back to the question at hand. Are today's college graduates ready for the working world? You know, the world where you use a w-4 calculator to manage your paycheck. I say not really but not for the reasons you hear usually. I say no because no 22-year-old is really ready for adulthood and no 22-year-old ever has been. The process of growing up and into an adult self takes a long time and the older I get the more I realize that it's a process that never really ends.
But I think questions such as today's get asked for reasons that have nothing to do with the young people at any given moment. I think the act of asking that question comes from an anxiety on the part of the people asking and it's an anxiety as old as humanity itself.
Hesiod was an 8th Century BC Greek poet and a contemporary of Homer's. Nearly three thousand years ago he had this to say: "I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint."
Three millennia after Hesiod, not much has really changed. Every generation looks down at the youth following them with some sort of generalized disdain. Every generation gets judged as lacking by whoever's running the show at a given moment in time.
I'm a Generation X and we were given that name by author Douglas Coupland who wrote an article in 1987 for Vancouver Magazine. His article, Generation X, lamented the lack of cohesion and identity among us post-Boomers and the name stuck. We were called latchkey kids in elementary school and as young adults we were judged to be slackers. To the Baby Boom under whose shadow we toiled thanklessly, we were useless and lazy. We had no drive, did too many drugs and would never amount to anything.
My generation's in charge now and in my generation's popular estimation, Generation Y is everything we were accused of being. The once bitterly resented Baby Boomers have become allies in the quest to hold onto our relevance as the first signs of age discrimination start to show their ugly heads.
It's on another front that Baby Boomers and Generation Xers tend to agree, and that's the near deification of the Greatest Generation. The Greatest Generation were the Boomer's parents and our grandparents. They fought the Second World War and lived dutiful, quiet lives. At least that's the popular image.
When the Greatest Generation were teenagers, the popular opinion of them wasn't quite so great. In 1935, Columbia University president Nicholas Butler summed up the grave youth problem. "Day by day the newspapers report one grave crime after another, one moral delinquency after another, and one dereliction of duty after another."
Journalist Maxine Johnson traveled 10,000 miles studying this new "Lost Generation," the title of her 1936 book. Everywhere she found teenagers "confused, disillusioned, disenchanted," in a state "rapidly approaching a psychosis."
"British tea and King George's taxes would be unloaded today without protest" by 1930s youth, ... Today's younger generation accepts whatever happens to it with sheep-like apathy."
Also in 1936, historians George Leighton and Richard Hellman shouted from the pages of Harper's Monthly "[A] generation, numbering in the millions, has gone so far in decay that it acts without thought of social responsibility. High school kids are armed, out for what they can get... The Lost Generation is even now rotting before our eyes."
Government estimates of venereal disease and abortion in the 1930s were the highest of any generation before or since. One result, American Mercury reported in 1936, of "the drinking bouts in which high school and college students frequently indulge, resulting in promiscuous relations." Studies by noted social scientists in the 1941 text, Personality and the Family, found 80% of the young men and 60% of the young women of the 1930s reported having premarital sex. Marriages contracted in 1935 were four times more likely to end in divorce than those of 1885.
I found those quotes in Mike Males' Oblivion X: Today's Youth are Always the Worst.
Remember those quotes the next time you hear a regressionist politician invoking the values of the World War Two Generation. And remember them too the next time you get ready to launch into a tirade about these damn kids today.
So back to the topic of today's Blog Off. Of course college graduates aren't ready for the working world, no young person is now and none ever has been. The point of being a young adult is to spend the rest of your 20s figuring it out how the world works. An education is a tool set to help people get to 30 so they can be taken seriously.
The youth of today will do just fine. They'll figure it out and they'll take the reins from my generation over the course of the next 20 years. Besides, they can't screw things up any worse than the Baby Boomers did.
To see how other people answer this question, here are some more #letsblogoff paticipants:
Bob Borson's Life of an Architect
Nick Lovelady's Cupboards
Veronika Miller's Modenus
Becky Shankle's Eco Modernism
Tamara Dalton's Design Studios
Tim Elmore's On Leading the Next Generation
Rufus Dogg's Dog Walk Blog
Sean Lintow's Homeowner's Resource Center
Bonnie Harris' The Wax Blog
Amy Good's Amy's Blog
Rich Holdshuh's Concrete Detail
Tim Bogan's Windbag International
Hollie Holcombe's Green Rascal Design
Cindy Frewen-Wuellner's Urbanverse
Steve Mouzon's Original Green