So, as is usually the case when I blog, I find myself in a bit f a quandary about just what to feel after reading this article:
I’m a generation in age removed from those I advise and teach and have noticed some accuracy in the reporting of universal tendencies in the behavior of members of the Millennial Generation. However, the general tone of the article seems to indicate that the HR people doing the assessing were as curmudgeonly as Mayor Shinn from “The Music Man.” And the suggestion that university educators are contributing to the problem simply isn’t good for the vein in my head.
No, let’s not break down the typical power structure of teacher-centered teaching by humanizing ourselves as professors. Ignore the fact that one of the verifiable universals of the millennial generation is that they respect and admire educators who are not only experts in their field but who can also have a healthy laugh at her/himself and display an appropriate level of irreverence from time to time.
“There’s this moral authority that some professors get uncomfortable with. For this to work successfully, when a professor calls out a student’s behavior, the administration should be there to back them up immediately and say, ‘Your behavior is wrong.’”
Isn’t is possible to impress the importance of professionalism and respect upon younger generations by earning it and displaying it to them as well. And what happens when the professor is being unreasonable with her/his demands of respect or accusations of inappropriate behavior, the department backs her/him unquestionably and the student is unjustly reprimanded? What have we taught the student then?
“One of the things you’ve got to ask yourself is, are we just a bunch of dinosaurs looking at young people saying, ‘What I’m seeing here is inappropriate,’ ” mused Polk, who made sure to note he was 61. “Are the changes in attitude here generational or are they lifestyle changes? Will you people eventually take on conservative professionalism or have things just changed?
And what if things have changed–is that such a problem? Do we really care if the investment banker reaping the super huge bonus at the end of the year despite his under-performance is tattooed or sports body piercings? Is the more-problematic behavior in this scenario the former rather than the latter?
By all means, as educators, it is inherent upon us to prepare those we teach for a successful life in the world of work–let us teach a strong work ethic and an unwavering sense of professionalism and respect. But to suggest that the only way to do so is to blast university education sixty years into the past is ludicrous.