Helicopter parents, professors who aim to please, the dumbing down of standards in courses and decreasing curriculum requirements have succeeded in reducing our young workforce to a no-discipline, no-talent pool of job seekers. Harsh words for sure — but a generation out there is desperately in need of a reality check.
As a small-business employer, I have seen a disturbing downward talent drift in job candidates — most acutely in the past five years. When a job candidate’s first question is about vacation days or benefits, we know we have encountered collateral damage from the teachers and parents who believed in “softening the learning experience.” Armed with a meaningless bachelor’s degree from colleges and universities that allowed majors in non-core subjects, we see youngsters who cannot write, research or think analytically. Their lack of discipline is evident in job applications filled with typos and cover letters that reveal no interest in teamwork or service — rather, they emphasize their high opinion of themselves. (Many young job seekers come forward with an executive attitude that is backed by zero capabilities).
To heap insult on injury, this generation is unable to face criticism or negative evaluations. Having been shielded from the hardships of tough educational standards, they require praise and positivity — no matter how superficial their work and dedication may be. Recently, George Washington University Medical School offered faculty the opportunity to attend a lecture on how to work with millenials. It has come to this: They cannot perform, so it falls to employers to figure out how best to save their careers.
As someone who has worked with countless extraordinarily hard-working and skilled young people over the years, the dearth of college graduates with any ability is fear-inducing. While there are still some wonderfully capable individuals among this age group, the sweeping majority are simply not hirable. And the institutions of higher learning that passed them along to us need to take a long, hard look at the damage they are causing. Bring back core curriculum courses, cease grade-inflating and stop allowing professors to be popularity-graded by their students — a practice which pushes professors to go easy on students to get high marks in return.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently gave a speech in which he recognized that America’s competitiveness was at risk if we continue to allow an entire generation of students to get by on lessening standards and discipline. It is not just our competitiveness that is at risk — but also the likelihood that with this generation of non-learners, America will not fill critical jobs, develop public leaders or establish a framework for excellence in the future. Surely this is too high a price to pay for satisfying anxious parents, preserving failing students from their own lack of effort and keeping teachers from truly teaching. Let’s hope for all our sakes that we can get this millennial generation back on track and equipped with the tools they need to succeed.
Marina Ein is founder and president of Ein Communications, a public and crisis relations firm in the District.