Many of us have bemoaned the snowflake generation: late Millennials and GenZers as a group, or at least particular ones like the Squad.
GenZers are the progeny of Millennials (born 1977-1994). This may be a case of letting the fox watch the henhouse. Research indicates that Baby Boomers continue to offer financial support to many of their Millennial children so they won’t need to enter adulthood well into their 30s. Millennials also have more college degrees, and college debt ($1.56T) than any previous generation; the situation is worsening with GenZers.
At my university, the transition to 100 percent online education has brought about much moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth by young students. Examples of these “poor young people” being unable to work through assignments and problems, without their teacher’s presence for counsel, are rampant; the need for unconditional positive reinforcement by many GenZers abounds.
Some recent past personal experiences aptly illustrate this snowflakeism. During the last three years of my 37 years of university teaching, I actually had mothers accompany their college senior students to my office hours to complain about their child’s grades. Invariably either the student didn’t know how to calculate his/her grade, despite clear instructions offered in the syllabus, or had missed the midterm exam or major project. During one office hour I looked at the student’s mother and asked, “How old is your daughter?” She proudly said “24,” then caught herself, shook her head, apologized for wasting my time and left with daughter in hand.
Consider parents with children in K-12 grades and you see how self-reliance has skipped them as well. They throw up their hands at the responsibility for homeschooling their children during our lockdown. Many kids would much rather turn their attention to texting friends and playing videogames than deal with new subject material online.
In these times, discussions about what GenZers can and cannot do devolve into how difficult/boring learning over the Internet can be, and take place among like-minded peers through text messages over What’s App, KIK, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. Words like "boring," "too hard," "stupid" and "irrelevant populate" such messages.
Glaucon, Plato’s older brother and Socrates' interlocutor in Plato’s Dialogues had discussions about true education. The crux of these discussions was that a true education creates an inner realization about what an individual can and cannot do. What they want to do should not factor into the educational equation.
Issues like subject matter interest or difficulty were never brought up in Dialogues. While there are many astute and successful Millennials, the younger members of this generation have had a disproportionate share of deadbeats. The same can be said of GenZ. Hara Estroff Marano in Psychology Today has suggested that we now have front and center, a nation of young people who are wimps. Most of our nation’s future want to be cared for in perpetuity. That is why leftist ideology has so much appeal to them.
This abject fear of life’s vicissitudes is what Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt warn about in The Coddling of the American Mind. The authors characterize GenZers among other things as: 1) Disconnected from their elders; 2) Social activists; 3) Digitally connected at birth; 4) Scared and hyper-sensitive. Their suggestibility to violence as well as laziness is also sadly accepted.
PBS claimed that one-in-five school students have mental illness and that their schools don’t help with this problem. The NEA teacher’s union, argues that more school counselors (new union members) must be hired to deal effectively with this epidemic of mental health problems in K-12 grades. Most of these schools are government-run and when you expect government to fix problems, you sadly will be waiting for Godot.
This situation is sadly being played out in today’s medicine. During the Covid-19 pandemic the Wall Street Journal ran an April 30th story about how young doctors (older GenZ and younger Millennial medical residents) cope with and are struggling to treat the pandemic’s sickest patients. One psychiatry resident who had been asked to care for the sickest ICU patients claimed: “My initial reaction was shock, and kind of thinking I can’t do this.” NYC + Hospitals CEO Mitchell Katz said, “You are learning stuff about what care looks like under battle conditions.” Apparently those conditions were anathema to the young residents. Dr. Katz described a letter of protest he actually received from 44 of his hospital’s medical residents amid this pandemic saying, “As trainees, we are horrified and scared, paralyzed with feelings of helplessness and guilt.”
Nationally, small medical practices have been selling off to large corporate medical groups in the past few years because the owners can’t find any young doctors who are interested in taking business risks and working long hours to make a practice successful. Young doctors only want to work for a maximum of 35-40 hours per week, no weekends with no on-call requirements. They want to be kept.
To quote an Eagles song targeted at snowflakes: “Get over it!”