It was at the start of class when my ears honed in on ageism springing from the lips of a classmate. He was describing to his friend an encounter he had with a group of “really old” people, with what I can only describe as youthful derision. He said the fossils fouling the very student desks he and his friends were now seated in must’ve been 40 years old. Horrified, I shrunk in my seat, desperately wishing I was invisible. I am five years older than the senile students they were discussing.
It didn’t take long for my embarrassment to turn to righteous anger. But then I remembered his disdain for all things old wasn’t entirely his fault. It’s been programmed into him ever since he arrived at Montezuma Mesa. I’m half-convinced San Diego State faculty receives bonuses based solely on the amount of instructional time devoted to praising youth. I might not remember differences in epistemology between certain philosophers, but I’m now incapable of forgetting how great it is to be young—even if there isn’t much proof backing up the administration’s hard sell.
Then again, the incessant preaching might not be what it appears to be. Perhaps faculty members spend so much time saying it because they’re trying to convince themselves they aren’t wasting their time teaching to the non-receptive. The professors can stop preaching. Judging from the amount of time students spend perusing Facebook, Pinterest and every other Internet time waster I spy on laptops, their platitudes are wasted. Millennials appear so bent on doing anything other than listening to lectures that I’ve even observed them watching soccer games during classes. It may be the only time in U.S. history anyone has watched a streaming soccer match.
My theory regarding millennial apathy was tested last week when one of my 100-level classes, where I’m the only soul other than the professor older than 25, offered an open note, multiple-choice exam. You’d think it’d be an easy A for every student, but it wasn’t in this class. The average score for the test was 72. Allow me to repeat: The professor allowed students to use notes during the test and still the average score was barely better than a D.
I could excuse low scores if their young minds were clouded from excessive partying the night before, but even there the millennial generation gets it wrong. College exists, if in part, for students to experience a lot of things university officials don’t want them to experience. It hasn’t been too long since SDSU was known for annually appearing in Playboy’s top party school rankings. Sadly, the fun police arrived at SDSU without opposition. Somewhere, Frank the Tank weeps.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on this generation, as it emerges from its parent’s basements for the first time. After all, even their generation’s heroes are banal. Actual rock stars with interesting lives have been sanitized into behaving like Stepford children. I couldn’t imagine any member of Mötley Crüe during its heyday rubbing shoulders with corporations at NBA all-star games. Today, appearances are worn like a badge of courage. The only thing squeakier than Kobe Bryant’s sneakers is Justin Bieber hamming it up during network commercial intros and outros.
Even more, my generation laid claim to tremendous rock acts helping us question the status quo our parents preached. The millennial generation clearly doesn’t have a U2 or Slayer to help guide it through the minefield of conformity it learned while watching “Hannah Montana.” It’s helpful to remember that while trying not to retch listening to “Gangnam Style” and watching stale “Harlem Shake” videos. It’ll be funny watching Deadmau5 and Skillrex take to the county fair circuit in succeeding decades. Ravers will look awesome standing next to Farmer John in his overalls.
Thinking all this through, I shouldn’t be embarrassed anymore about what I’ve experienced throughout my long tenure traipsing terra firma and sailing into distant lands. And I shouldn’t be angry when I hear millennials foolishly dismiss previous generations. Instead, I should feel sorry that they just don’t get it. Maybe my misguided classmate could find those old codgers again and ask them to demonstrate what he’s supposed to be doing during his college years.