The word entitled has been often used to describe today’s young people. Webster’s defines entitled as “having a right to certain benefits or privileges.” There are many who would argue this description is accurate for many Millennials and Gen Z, but one question I have yet to hear asked or answered is this,
Do they have a right to feel entitled?
You may disagree, but my answer to this question is yes. Please hear me out. I have three kids in the millennial generation and from the time they were in elementary school, a college degree has been sold as the silver bullet. You know the spiel…get good grades, get into college, finish college and get a good job and you’ll be set. This has been repeated by almost every teacher, counselor or administrator throughout their education at some point in their journey. All along, kids plugged away at mounds of work, many of them juggling sports or part-time jobs along with their studies only to find the pot of gold they were promised is conspicuously absent.
Today’s teens and young adults are facing challenges far greater than any generation prior to them. College is hard and many students are ill-equipped to handle the stress and pressure. Having attended college later than most, I studied alongside them and witnessed their struggles first-hand. I have frequently said that motherhood prepared me more for the college juggling act than high school ever did. I still stand by that. This past semester, I had the privilege of an invitation to return to my college and teach. My experience has reinforced my opinion that some students are in college who aren’t ready or need additional support.
It doesn’t help when parents of many students are constantly reminding them of how much the tuition for education is costing them. Parents, one thing you need to own up to is that you made a choice to pay for college. If you are like most parents, you encouraged your child to go to college alongside the school system. That was a choice on your part. It is part of the package when you choose to have a child.
There are many young people in college — especially those in their first and second years — who are there because everyone told them was the best next step. One look at the employment rates among college grads tells us that the silver bullet isn’t working for many of them. Forbes stated in a 2017 report roughly 44 percent of college graduates ages 22 to 27 were working in jobs that do not require a college degree, meaning that one in three grads is working in a job that requires nothing from the hard work they put in at school. Granted, reasons for this range from unhappiness in their chosen field or choosing a different path, but for some, there are simply no jobs available in their chosen field or they can’t make enough money in their chosen profession (any teachers want to chime in here?).
It is true that the traditional college route works for some, but for others not so much. Some young adults have to make their own path. More and more often, entrepreneurial endeavors are the order of the day. We need to help our young people rise to this challenge if this is what they aspire to do.
So what’s the difference between those finding success in their lives and those who aren’t? One of the biggest problems among young adults in both the Millennial and Gen Z groups is that these amazing people are believing all the negative being said about them. Research has illustrated for years that one negative comment requires multiple positives to balance it out, roughly 6:1. Consider how many negative comments are received by the average human being in a given day via all media outlets, with social media being the biggest culprit. Many of those in authority say the solution is easy — just get off the phone. The reality is it’s not that easy. How exactly are students supposed to stay off social media when many teachers and professors are relying on social media to interact with them. I entered college at age 36 and became more attached to my phone than at any other time in my life because of the massive use of social media channels for students, professors and the school at large to communicate.
These amazing generations are inundated by negative messages of “lazy,” “entitled” and having a lack of perception of the realities of life. They don’t deserve this shame. The truth is that depression and other stress-related illnesses among young people are at an all-time high. We, as a society, have created this. When the new technology hit, it is perfectly understandable that it was used for fun. Gaming opportunities soared and social media was born (remember MySpace?). When kids came home from school and chose to be alone in their rooms, few saw it as an issue. Oftentimes, fatigued parents (sometimes single parents) believed their kids were home safe. The parents themselves could enjoy a rare moment of solitude.
No one realized what we were creating.
The time for blame and shame is over. It is time to stop blaming and start being proactive. It is time to use our gifts and talents as a society to help this generation find solid footing and walk their own path.
The upside to this story is, despite society’s learning curve, times are changing. Awareness is growing. Kids, teens and others are using technology to solve problems and create positive change in our world. That same potential still exists in our young adults, but many of them need our help to realize it. Rather than beat down this generation, let’s give them a hand up and teach them how to stand.