I’m usually pretty ambivalent when it comes to “generational” studies aimed at proving something that’s never really been proven: that somehow, someway, kids today are better (or worse) than kids in the past and yadayadayada. I’m even more put off when boomers try to “explain” Millennials with “hard data”, which usually amounts to assertions backed up by “expert” opinion and small sample sizes. But hey, it’s August, and when there’s little good news to be had, sometimes it’s necessary to create some.
So when I read boomer journalist Rob Fournier’s worry that “those born between 1982 and 2003″ are either too disgusted with partisan politics or too disillusioned with the scope of impact available to those who work within government to be involved in politics, I shrug it off. I just don’t buy it. Sorry.
Here’s Fournier’s basic premise:
The trouble is that Millennials believe traditional politics and government (especially Washington) are the worst avenues to great things. They are more likely to be social entrepreneurs, working outside government to create innovative and measurably successful solutions to the nation’s problems, even if only on a relatively small scale. … A generation ago, government had a monopoly on public service. To Millennials, the world is filled with injustice and need, but government isn’t the solution. They have apps for that.
It’s probably worthwhile to note that none of the “hard data” compiled by Fournier would suggest that the assertions you just read are distinctively Millennial, which is to say that if a piece like this wants to be taken seriously, I’d like to know how many similar students and young people felt about government service say, 30 years ago. My gut tells me the results would be eerily similar.
And since when has it been a bad, or even new thing that young people would rather involve themselves in various forms of work prior to entering politics? Do we really want a bunch of college grads entering the public sector without experience that matters? I sure as heck don’t, and I’m one of them!
This annoyed me too:
College students increasingly prefer the private sector, graduate school, or non-profit work, according to the Partnership for Public Service’s analysis of the 2011 National Association for Colleges and Employers Student Survey. In 2008, 8.4 percent of students planned to work for local, state, and federal governments after graduation. That number reached an all-time high of 10.2 percent during the 2009 recession, before dropping to 7.4 percent in 2010.
Now, just 6 percent of college students plan to work for public sector institutions, and only 2.3 percent want to work at the federal level.
Wait, college students — most of whom are completely overwhelmed by massive student loans and horrendous job prospects — prefer the private sector (or where the money is), to government work? Well knock me over with a feather.
Ok so in the end, Fournier sort of concludes that the two-party system may see its demise in the future, replaced by apps and a younger generation hell-bent on destroying the natural order of things.
What he actually finds is that it’s kind of a popular thing for young people to express disinterest in involving themselves in partisan politics, especially since part of the deal of being young and arrogant and know-it-all is accepting that you just don’t jive with that whole Washington thing. Millennials, like boomers and whoever the hell came before them, believe that they are set to do new, awesome, groundbreaking things that their elders necessarily couldn’t, or wouldn’t.
And yeah, new technologies, human progress, societal tolerance, changed demographics and everything-else-you-can-think-of-that-is-unique-to-Millennials, does signal that the parties will change and “how will government work in 15 or so years?” is a legitimate question we’ll have to grapple with — it just doesn’t happen within Fournier’s article.
But here’s my expert analysis: Millennials are just better, ok? I have “hard data” to back that up.