Reader Request Week 2017 #2: Those Darn Millennials

Srs asks:

Many people over a certain age have the opinion that Millennials think they know it all/have overly inflated self-esteem/etc because they were given participation trophies when they were young. Do you think this opinion has any basis in fact?

Nah.

One, of course, an older generation being angry at the Millennials for the participation trophies they handed out to them is both ironic and stupid. Two, I’m of the opinion that participation trophies and ribbons are generally more important to parents than to kids, because everyone wants to believe their child is special (i.e., that they’re not fucking up as parents), and they want some concrete manifestation of this.

Three, participation trophies and ribbons are neither new — I got a few when I was a kid, and I’ll note that no one really gave a crap about them then — nor are they given solely to Those Damn Kids™: Go to any running event you care to attend and you’ll see that everyone who runs gets a medal, pretty much for registering for the event. Congratulations! You can fill out a form! And why not? Everyone likes swag, and that’s basically all these things are. It could have been a t-shirt, but I guess runners like medals more. Or maybe they get both! Honestly, I don’t run unless I have to. I don’t know.

Four, it’s just the Millennials’ time in the tube, which is to say that every generation of younger people gets shit on by the olds, and right now it’s the Millennials. I remember being in my early 20s and watching everyone throw up their hands at Gen-X; they called us “slackers” and wondered if we were ever going to get real jobs or just sit around in flannel listening to those damn grungy bands or whatever. Prior to that, of course, the Baby Boomers were all hippies, with their damn free love and marijuana, and before them were those beatniks, blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda Jesus Christ it’s all so predictable you could set a clock, or at least a few Time magazine covers, by it.

I think it’s pretty stupid, and in the particular case of the Millennials, I have a fair amount of sympathy for them as a generational cohort. For the last few decades we’ve been making it more difficult for people to get ahead economically — the choices are to go to college, and get saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of non-dischargable debt right out of the gate, or not go to college, and then mostly never have a job that makes more than $30k a year. When you pull shit like that, of course Millennials are generally going to be broke and not, say, buying houses or squirting out kids at the same point in life as earlier generations.

Add on to that the general New Gilded Age we live in, in which the vast majority of income growth in the last couple of decades has gone to the top few percent while at the same time life costs have spiraled up (tried to rent in NYC or SF or LA or other places where jobs that pay well actually are these days), and yeah. Stop shitting on the Millennials for the awful hand they’ve been dealt, which they (largely) had no part in dealing. If I were in the business of assigning blame to generational cohorts, I’d be pointing fingers at the Boomers rather more than the Millennials; they’ve been the ones with the cards for a while now.

Beyond this, I know my fair share of Millennials, and utterly unsurprisingly, as individuals they are all over the board. Some are slackers. Some are hugely industrious. Some are fuck-ups and some are not. Some are people who I care for and love, and others are people I would be happy never to see again. In my experience they have roughly the same proportions of varieties of the human experience as any other generational cohort, because people are people, and the Millennials are people.

So, basically, all this backhanding the Millennials is bullshit. They’re generally doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and participation trophies don’t have much to do with it one way or the other. Or if they do, it’s because of this: Because an earlier generation decided to give them participation trophies, but keep all the other prizes for themselves.

But thanks for playing, Millennials! And don’t worry: society will be dumping on the kids who come after you soon enough.

(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)

79 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2017 #2: Those Darn Millennials

  1. I don’t reserve my designating certain folks as snowflakes to an age. It’s the lazy, put your hand out and expect to get something that I label. I went to college and squeeze 4 years into 5 and then worked 3 jobs to pay off my debt in less than 3 years. I still haven’t made it as the next American Nobel Prize Winning Dramaturge. Who do I blame? Me.
    I’ve met some fine young millennials and the not so fine. Everyone makes choices on how to live.

  2. Minor quibble – you get the medal for finishing the ride/run/whatever, not signing up. So, there is a level of accomplishment beyond filling out a form. And, in general, this true across the board. Not everyone won, but also, not everyone finished, or tried. Nothing wrong with recognizing effort. Relatedly, nonvaledictorians get diplomas, and no one complains about that. Doing something you’re not good at is worth acknowledging. There’s an argument to be made that trying something you’re terrible at is more worthy of recognition than the thing at which you excel.

  3. Bah ! Damned kids ! Yes I’m older than you John :)

    I ran a business & we hired a lot of “kids” – some were screw ups. Some industrious as hell. Some in between. And we even had a kid who was a pot head that was one of the best employees we had. Go figure.

    I agree. They’ve mostly been dealt a shitty hand and do the best they can with it.
    Same as most other generations – just that it seems to be getting worse as time goes on.
    Boomers could expect to “do better” than their parents. Even their kids could expect to “do better” than their parents. But thats been getting less true the further out we go from post WWII and its definitely because “the system” is stacked against those up and coming.

    You used to be able to get decent job without a degree.
    Now you need a degree to get an entry level position.

    Its no surprise that kids are not moving out until later & later (or moving back in even)

  4. “One, of course, an older generation being angry at the Millennials for the participation trophies they handed out to them is both ironic and stupid.”

    This could have been the entire post. :)

  5. Brian Ledford:

    “Minor quibble – you get the medal for finishing the ride/run/whatever, not signing up.”

    Inasmuch as in my personal experience I know people who got medals for registering for runs, I suspect this might not be a consistent thing.

  6. Yep, remember the “those lazy slackers” accusations. Then many of our generation worked in the tech industry and … well, the baton was passed. The Youth of Today is just like The Youth of Yesterday, except with diminished expectations. Hence, the Youth of Today is still living at home, and the Youth of Tomorrow may never leave. Have they come up with a name for the Youth of Tomorrow yet? One of them is coming up in my own home as we speak. How about The Disillusioned Generation?

  7. Well, Socrates looked askance at Plato’s generation, Plato viewed dimly Aristotle’s generation and I am sure Aristotle never thought Alexander the Great would amount to much. Sound’s familiar doesn’t it. And as an official Baby Boomer, I think my generation is highly over-rated. Many of the young people I know impress me, whichever generation they are!

  8. Every generation is quite certain that the younger generation is a bunch of entitled prats. That’s been going on since we came down out of the trees, and I’m pretty sure those old proto-humans were complaining about those newfangled kids and their neanderthal friends.

    Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more
    worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more
    corrupt.

    –Horace. 20BC

  9. As a cusp-y person (’82), I agree with John and Canucklehead. I also think some of the crap we get is because Kids Today grew up with more technological stuff going on, and a worse economy, and are likely to ask questions as a result, like: “Why *do* we need everyone to be in the office 9-5 M-F, when our workload is entirely online?” or “Why *should* people’s health care (and indeed general well-being, given that we have fewer jobs that need doing by humans0 be tied to Role X in Capitalist System Y?”

    And that tends to bug the sort of person whose attitude to progress comes down to Because I Suffered, Nobody Else Should Ever Have It Easier.

  10. Since there are various age ranges with which to mark the Millennial generation, I’ll go with the one I most recently saw Gallup use, people born from 1980-1998. I’m at the leading edge of Gen X (also according to Gallup, who pegs my generation starting in 1965). And all my kids are Millennials. The oldest was born in 1981 and the youngest in 1996. We were often the house where kids hung out and my kids did a lot of the normal kid stuff, so I not only know them, but a swath of their friends. And personally, I’ve always been pretty impressed by their generation. They have their heads screwed on pretty well and I think they are actually doing better in a lot of ways despite having been dealt a much worse hand. And empirically, as the CDC and other organizations (as I picked up through places like Healthcare Triage) on many measures kids have been doing better on most measures. Things like alcohol use, drug use, teen births, etc. all peaked with my generation and have seen nothing but decline throughout the millennial generation’s time as teens and adults. And unlike Gen X, there are a *lot* of millennials. They outnumber Boomers, I believe. And that’s not a bad thing. It gives me hope for the future.

  11. If I had to judge the Millennial Generation by the super-smart young people I work with, the Millennial Generation is going to do just fine. However, as a generation, the Millennials do have their own unique constellation of problematic issues (as all generations do).

    Does anyone else perceive Millennials to be:

    – Overly socialized? (due to parental over-reliance on “play dates”).
    – Overly medicated? (due to overuse of Ritalin as a tool of behavior modification).
    – Overly indebted? (due to $1 trillion in student debt).
    – Overly obedient? (We’ll see how the “Resistance” to Trump plays out, but don’t hold your breath).
    – Overly idealistic? (And along came Obama . . . ).
    – Overly exploited? (overpriced college degrees.)

  12. I think that a person should receive something the first time they complain about younger generations. Something to welcome to them to the club of being an older person. Maybe a badge, or I got it, a trophy!

  13. I’m with Brian Ledford — the races I like to run, you only get the medal if you actually run the race. My favorites have a booth where for a few bucks you can have your name and official time engraved on the back of the medal. As a child I *never* was successful in athletics, so getting even the “congrats! you finished!” recognition for completing that 5K or 10K now (in my 50s) feels wonderful.

  14. Baby Boomer here. When I was a kid participation trophies (actually, “participation patches” back in the day) were common on the sports teams I was on. They recognized the kids who consistently showed up for practice and worked hard. That was all that most everybody got, since only the team that won the Little League/Pop Warner championship actually got trophies. I ca’t say the patches were treasured, but they were some nice recognition by the coaches to everybody who came to practices in the cold and rain.

    And no, everyone don’t get a participation patch. Occasionally the best athletes didn’t get one–they were getting by on natural skill and ability, frequently skipped practices, and showed up only when they could get special recognition.

    And I like the analogy to academics–we give high school diplomas to others besides the National Honor Society members. For many kids the diploma isn’t anything more than a participation trophy, one they get because they showed up and participated and not because they excelled.

  15. While I concur that it’s mostly about the Ritual Shaming Of Kids These Days, I will note one area in which most Millennials of my acquaintance are *better* than those before them: they are, to a person, more tolerant of those different than they are, then the generation before them. (How much of that comes from living in California, in an affluent and diverse area, is a good question, but here’s a data point for you.)

  16. And as far as participation awards go, “History is made by those who show up”. Maybe trophies aren’t the best way to teach that lesson, but that’s not a reflection on the value of participation.

  17. I always hated “participation medals” – either I win or I didn’t
    Close wasn’t good enough (yeah I’m competitive that way)

    I just feel really bad for the poor bugger who ran the Barkleys and finished 6 seconds AFTER the 60 hour time limit
    Now THAT you SHOULD get a participation medal for

  18. Don’t forget generalizations go both way. A generation always blames the previous generations for screwing things up.

  19. WRT to your statement that any non-college graduate can only earn about 30K, Mike Rowe (yes, that one) would disagree. He runs a foundation that helps people looking for ‘trade’ jobs – jobs that are begging for applicants. A successful ‘trade’ education can get you 70K/year, and often higher (into 6 figures)

    His foundation has grants (not just loans you have to pay back) for interested people that don’t mind working with their hands. You’ll find much info at his site http://www.mikerowworks.com . I suggest anyone that assumes that a college degree is the only way to make decent wages take a peek at what he has to say.

    Mike Rowe is not just another ‘pretty face on TV’. He has a genuine interest in helping people succeed or ‘better’ their life.

  20. I generally regard the generational cohort one inhabits to be as meaningful as knowing their astrological sign i.e. of no use whatsoever.

  21. Aside from it being the usual generational thing, I think some of this is backlash on the stuff a few years ago about millennials being SO different and a new, digital native generation that older folks just couldn’t understand, i.e. books like this – http://www.borndigitalbook.com/excerpt.php. Along with that came the usual spate of articles that they were special and needed to be catered to in the workplace because we needed them (because they were SPECIAL). So now you get the “yeah, you’re not that special kids” reaction. NOTE, though, that the same thing was true of yuppies (kids of the 1945-60 timeframe) and Gen X.

    PS: On participation stuff. I suspect this started with Gen X as an outgrowth of the self-help/self-esteem stuff in the late 70s and the 80s. I played sports as a kid (I’m.. oh god… 58) and we didn’t get jack for showing up or finishing. Even walking UP HILL. BOTH WAYS. IN THE SNOW.

  22. My daughter is just barely a millennial (born in ’98), and most of the kids her age I know are thoughtful, tolerant, and hard-working, even if they’re doing it in different ways than previous generations. NC is fortunate to have a good community college system (even if with funding issues now), and several are taking advantage of it, whether to start on a degree before having to face debt, or to get a trade. Some had opportunity to start that in high school, on the state’s dime. (My youngest – ’00 – is hoping to do that too.)

  23. Reader Request: Hart Scmidt’s Mom
    This has been bugging me ever since I read This Must be the Place.

    As a female and Mom I admit to being prickly about mom portraits in sci fi. To my eye, so much cartooning and taking the easy way through never allowing an older mom to be a dynamic person. ( Bujold being the exception).

    So what’s up with Hart’ts Mom? He loves her because she nags. Oh, John, did that slip by you? Or is it an on purpose counter to the wonderful but very strong/ yang Jane, Zoe, female soldiers and Abumwe?

    I kept hoping his Mom would have a deep spy past…you know, Helen Mirren with pearls and a code book. But nagging is what he loves about his mother? Or can he just not think of anything to love about his mother because she still is not a person to him?

    arrrggg. Help.

  24. Rick Hellewell:

    “your statement that any non-college graduate can only earn about 30K”

    Actually it was “mostly never have a job that makes more than $30k a year,” which is slightly different. Mr. Rowe is correct that trade jobs can be decently waged, and I encourage people who don’t go to college to learn a trade (and applaud Mr. Rowe for helping in that regard). I also know that here in Bradford, the small blue-collar/rural town in which I live the median income for men is $31k, and $22k for women, and $43k for families. I also know only about 6% of the folks in town have a bachelor’s degree or better.

    Which is to say it’s possible to make more than $30k without a college education. On average, though, that’s where you’re likely to end up.

  25. *Every* generation that gets as old as mine (I’m a Baby Boomer), thinks the newer generations are lazier, more selfish, and has terrible taste. Each generation is worse than the previous, as each century is better than the previous.

  26. Someone to whom I am related by marriage who was born in 1945 has a certificate from the town in NJ she grew up in for her dog named, Zero, for “The Most Ordinary Dog.”

  27. The millennials I work with are nice kids. They do, however, need to be instructed; when things don’t work right, they’re confounded. Jury-rigging’s not a millennial thing. At least not yet. They’ll learn as the depression gets worse. My parents were children during the Great Depression, which led to a generation of jury-riggers, tinkerers, and improvisers. For example, their washing machine lid broke and wouldn’t stand up. There were no instructions in the manual on repairing or replacing the lid, so my father calls the repair shop. Nope, can’t repair or replace, gotta get a new washer, sorry. So he installs a hook on the cabinet above the washer, that fits into the groove on the lid and holds it up. That was 15 years ago. Hook, lid, and washer are doing just fine, and no one’s lost any fingers.

    The millennials will be doing things like this too as times get harder. Don’t count them out just yet.

  28. I don’t know which rock I’ve been hiding under (I can get lost pretty easily when I don’t have a map), but thank you so much for being the first place I’ve seen the term the New Gilded Age, because, as a lit and history major in college (if it hadn’t been for library school I’d probably be asking you if you want fries with that) I’ve been calling what we’re living through now a rehash of the Gilded Age for some time now.

  29. I was born in the peak of the Boomer years. My kids are Millennials. In looking at my own offspring and at other Millennials I know, I know full well they work harder and get less for it than I did at their ages.

    My kids both finished college at the peak of the Great Recession with mountains of student loan debt. They both scrambled to land jobs – ANY jobs – and they both hustled to work their way up in their professions. At this point, they are both hard-working and extremely well-compensated professionals who routinely work 50 to 60 hours per week – and they’re both still slogging away to try to pay off that burden of student loan debt.

    When my spouse and I were the ages of our kids, we had paid off our student loans and were in the process of buying our first home. Despite the fact that our kids make more now than we do (and several times as much as we did at their ages), it is hard for me to imagine that either of them will be able to buy a home for at least a decade.

    And as for those who grumble that Millennials are disengaged and never vote and it’s their fault that the Cheet-O won, more of the Millennials I know vote in every single election than any other generation. My sibling the Gen-X college professor is so tuned out from the political scene that she doesn’t even notice there is an election coming up until my elder Millennial sends her an email catechizing her on the various races and initiatives on the ballot. My Gen-X sibling was ready to pack it in and move to Canada on November 9, while my Millennial offspring and their peers used the day to organize and take action.

    As a Boomer, I am damned proud of this Millennial generation, thank you very much. We owe a helluva lot to them. And when (or if) we retire and start drawing Social Security, we’re going to owe them even more.

  30. I always remember the song Kids from Bye Bye Birdie:

    Kids, I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today
    Kids, who can understand anything they say?
    Kids, they are disobedient, disrespectful oafs
    Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy, loafers
    And while we’re on the subject…

    I think the central question “what’s the matter with kids today?” from the song is just as relevant now as it was in 1960. What WAS the matter with them? Did we ever figure out what made the teenagers of 1960 so objectively inferior?

  31. Hi Pedro,
    Responding to your critiques one by one here. Are Millennials:
    – Overly socialized? (due to parental over-reliance on “play dates”).
    This is the first criticism I’ve heard of it. “Millennials don’t know how to socialize without their smartphones” seems to be the more common critique.
    – Overly medicated? (due to overuse of Ritalin as a tool of behavior modification).
    As someone whose life was significantly improved by the judicious application of psychoactive drugs, I’m going to bristle at this one. However, it’s also wrong. Studies seem to show that one group is overdiagnosed with ADD – white boys from upper-middle-class homes. Girls, children of colour and poor kids tend to be underdiagnosed and get told to sit down and shut up just as much as they ever did.
    – Overly indebted? (due to $1 trillion in student debt).
    We are also the most educated generation in history. It’s not our fault the older generations told us to go to college, made it impossible to get a good job otherwise, and then jacked up the price 500%.
    – Overly obedient? (We’ll see how the “Resistance” to Trump plays out, but don’t hold your breath).
    I thought we were lazy and entitled?
    – Overly idealistic? (And along came Obama . . . ).
    Young people are idealistic?! Stop the presses! This has never happened at all before in history! (Also, why do I get the feeling that if we were pessimistic and cynical that would be held against us too?)
    – Overly exploited? (overpriced college degrees.)
    I’m not sure if this is meant to be a criticism of Millenials, unless you think it’s worse to be a victim of exploitation than its perpetrator.

  32. @Rick Gregory
    55 here
    >Even walking UP HILL. BOTH WAYS. IN THE SNOW.
    Our hill is steeper & the snow deeper
    Hell I had to carry the damned horse too :)

  33. Laura W:

    Have they come up with a name for the Youth of Tomorrow yet?

    A generation doesn’t get an official cultural name or contemptuous nickname until the bulk of the generation is in their college and twenties — when they’re invading the workforce and become competition for older generations for jobs. That’s when the older generations then suddenly announce with many think pieces that the new workforce generation is lazy, spoiled and scatter-brained and will destroy civilization (so don’t hire them or fire the older workers.) They declare the people in their twenties to have the mind-set of teenagers and frequently blame the twenty-something generation for things that are popular among teens of mainly the even younger generation. Everything said about the Millenials was said exactly the same about Generation X, including the digital technology and the participation rewards complaints, once the bulk of Generation X was struggling through recessions into the workforce. Funny how that happens, huh?

    The current younger folks, loosely tagged Generation Z for now, aren’t quite old enough to need to be attacked yet and get their monikers. But when most of them have hit eighteen, then they will become the worst things ever.

    Generations are considered to be, as it happens, eighteen years in length, the time it takes for a person to reach our randomly legally assigned age of adulthood. This makes a group of rather disparate ages in the same generation, which is why general assumptions about generations other than mass cultural influences and historical events is bunk. The Boomers were born from 1946 (right after WWII when they became the big baby boom) through 1964 (ages 71-53,) making them both the hippies and the yuppies in the 1980’s. Gen X was born from 1965 to 1983 (ages 52-34,) and the Millenials were born from 1984 to 2002. So the oldest Millenials are thirty-three years old and the youngest are 15 years old. Yet journalists are desperately trying to talk about them as if the entire generation is all fifteen, not a group that includes adults with established careers and kids of their own.

    Millenials are way busier than previous generations. All those “participation rewards” were because they had really organized schedules and were required to do lots of activities, from community service to team sports leagues to science fairs, entrepreneur projects, etc. to the endless competitions the adults dreamed up for them. Even lower income kids had pretty regimented up-bringings. They are waaaay less doing lazing around in their youth than previous generations and were forced to be way more competitive than previous generations. Sports in particular are no longer fun time but became very competitive, expensive and time-consuming, with kids pressured to get on national teams and try and get scholarships, like mini professional athletes. The Millenials are excellent at competition, but they are also very good at collaboration and networking. They have friends and acquaintances all over the world through the Net. They pool resources and build businesses. They like crafts, DIY and learn cooking. They are way more concerned about the environment, having been raised on conservationism. The Millenials are smarter than us, really, but with the usual angst, cynicism and worry of people who are mainly in their twenties or entering adulthood, plus have had their education resources starved by greedy politicians. And they are probably the only ones who are going to save whatever can be saved of civilization and the planet, rather than destroy it. And Generation Z after them is going to have an interesting time.

  34. Speaking as a millennial who is regularly rhetorically shat on by baby-boomer assholes who don’t understand that I’m literally nearly having heart attacks getting through college for a chance at a $60,000/year job (and I’m a VERY LUCKY person in that I don’t have to pay for that college trip, all my friends have it worse), thank you. I know that my generation’s no better than the last, and that the only reason we’re trying so hard as a generation to save the planet is because we’ve seen the last two not only actively fuck over the planet but actively fuck us over, and once we’re in charge we’ll probably do the same damn thing.

    I don’t have much else of a point because I’m stressed out, the only bit of fun I’ve had in months was going to my first-ever con on Saturday, and the President is an idiot Nazi who’s actively trying to destroy the nation I love. I just wanted to thank Mr. Scalzi (pbuh) for this post and for acknowledging that my generation does indeed have it tough.

  35. As a Boomer, I call BS. I have NEVER gotten a participation ribbon or trophy for anything. No, I don’t have a problem with those who have per se, but please, don’t equalize. And if you haven’t been paying attention, Boomers are already getting the blame for most things wrong with this country. I agree with you, you can’t generalize about a generation – though we have been hearing it since the 1960s – but there is a difference. When it was us we just said “F#ck you, dude” because we knew they were full of sh!t. Too many millennials are pulling the covers over their heads, sucking their thumbs, and wailing, “Woe is me. It’s not fair!”

    Life ain’t fair, dude. Whoever told you it was, was lying to you. So suck it up and get on with it.

  36. Let me add, please, that I am ONLY talking about the whiners. Otherwise, despite all their advantages, my wife and I both agree that we would NOT want to be growing up today rather than when we do, as it is much tougher. She taught for 34 years and would not want to be starting out as a teacher today. And forget trying to finish college in four years, assuming you can afford it. The deck is stacked against that.

    But, on the other hand, did Millennials ever have to get up out of their chairs and walk all the way across the room to change the channel on the television? I think not.

    ;)

  37. “wondered if we were ever going to get real jobs or just sit around in flannel listening to those damn grungy bands or whatever. ”

    Umm, isn’t that pretty much your lifestyle?

  38. Ya ya, trade schools, blah blah blah.
    Average salaries for various education levels:
    High school: 30k
    Trade school: 42k
    College: 52k

    Mike Rowe opposed Bernies idea of free college because he thinks the real problem is that kids are lazy and we need to bring back a strong work ethic, and then we can bring back manufacturing jobs. As if he can resurrect the “good old days” by pretending robotic automation doesnt exist.

    People pushing trade school over college are just pushing the same anti intellectualism crap we’ve had forever. They whinge about nonexistent bachelor degrees in underwater basket weaving while cherry picking that a plumber can make a salary far above the bachelor degree average while ignoring that it is also far outside the trade school salary bell.curve too.

    If higher income is the goal, then first choice shoud be college. If you cant cut college, then try a trade school. But to push trade school as the first choice is a lame attemt to hide your anti intellectualism behind cherry picked salary data. Mike Rowe is a luddite. Actually, that fits pretty well, because luddites destroyed machinery they were afraid would take away their jobs, and Rowe is pretending robot factories dont exist. Rowe is singing a song about how old John Henry beat the steam powered drilling machine and if millenials werent so damn lazy, they could do it to. But he never sings the verse about how it killed old john henry.

    This whole “millenials are lazy” has been going on for thousands of years, and all it is is the older people trying to shirk their own responsibility for why the world didnt turn out the way they hoped, so they make kids the scapegoat. The world is the way it is because of US, but that makes me uncomfortable, so I’m gonna blame these kids who just got out of high school???

    And Mike Rowe captures that idiocy perfectly, and all of it is wrapped up in good intentions with a pretty ribbon promise of better salaries on top. But open it up and its just the same stupid “kids are lazy and thats whats wrong with the world” nonsense inside.

  39. Additional thoughts:

    1) A lot of the anti-millennial statements I’ve seen are of the “these kids today don’t know how to [change a tire/write in cursive/do home repair stuff] ZOMG NOT ADULTS,” ignoring the facts that home and car ownership makes less sense for more of us, that we *do* know how to use public transit without taking forever or fact-check stuff on the Internet before forwarding it to everyone, and that “life skills” depend on the life in question. No, I don’t know how to fix a pipe. Do you know how to churn butter?

    2) From a possibly-millennial perspective, I never saw nearly as much whining from my cohort, at least as media goes, (until maybe Girls, which I agree is awful) as I did from GenX. As whiny slackers go, I believe the protagonists of RENT and Reality Bites take the cake, and then complain that the cake’s not authentic, maaaan.

  40. whingedrinking said, “I thought we were lazy and entitled?”

    Oppressed by unhappy economic circumstances beyond your generation’s immediate control? Check.

    Given bad advice by elders? Check.

    Led astray by political elites? Check.

    Lazy and entitled? Nope. (Your generation is no worse than mine in that respect.)

  41. My close friends and I (all millennials) have spent quite a bit of time discussing the generational stereotypes and trying to piece together what feeds them (beyond the perpetual “kids these days” mentality that is repeated with every generation). While ‘lazy and entitled’ aren’t accurate descriptions of the whole generation, there are definitely some common disconnects that we’ve noticed. In my experience (which is limited to my peer group so isn’t necessarily true across the board) a lot of the friction between age groups comes from the fact that millennials are more prone to 2 things – openly questioning the status quo and holding ‘non-traditional’ priorities.

    isabelcooper touched on the questioning of the status quo above – why are we working 9-5 if more flexible schedules are better suited to some jobs? why do new mothers (usually) get a few weeks off but new fathers have to go back to work the next day, often leaving their wife and newborn home alone? does it really matter which bathroom people use? why is healthcare tied to salaried careers when more and more of the workforce works nontraditional careers? why do car-marriage-house-kids go in that order, or any order? why is pink hair unprofessional?

    the different priorities that millennials commonly hold are the source of most of the pearl-clutching think-pieces. Why aren’t millennials buying houses/cars/diamonds/vacation homes/stocks/groceries/paper napkins/etc/etc/etc? Beyond the obvious economic reasons, mostly its because our priorities are different. The ‘entitlement in the workplace’ complaints go along the same line – most of corporate America is still built around the idea that employees put a lot of time and effort into their career at the beginning, please their employer, move up the ladder, stay with one company for 30 years, get more perks as you get older, and retire with nice benefits. But that isn’t the reality anymore and millennials know that, so instead they put value on flexible schedules and time off and benefits that aren’t linked to an experience hierarchy but are helpful and rewarding to them right away instead of grinding away at a job, waiting for mid-career benefits when they know that, whether through their own choice or their employer’s, they likely wont be at that job in 15 years.

  42. Generations are just bullshit. I can’t even … conceive how one could characterize a person by the year that person was born, nor how people as much as 20 years different in age share pre-defined characteristics. We, our brains, like to find patterns that don’t exist and generations are one such pattern. As someone born before the end of World War II, I find people pretty much the same regardless of age and I find life increasingly richer, despite greater debt or other current burdens. I personally would much rather owe more money but have today’s Internet and electronics than suffer the information debt of the forties, fifties, or even the start of the sixties.

    What essential difference does it make if some today get or don’t get what those in the past didn’t or did have? Things change — evolve — in our culture for better or worse, but generally better. But I do fear for the future of the planet with anti-science attitudes prevailing — especially with regard to global warming. And then there’s Donald Trump, who has no fecks to give (no typo, think about it).

  43. Hate to say it, but “they all got medals and ribbons just for showing up” is literally true of the Second World War generation. You say “participation trophy”, I say “World War II Victory Medal”.

    (To be clear, I think this is a good thing. They should have got them. Just showing up is 80% of the battle.)

  44. I don’t recall participation trophies when I was a kid (I’m in my early 50’s now), BUT – I got to attend a Seven Sisters college for about $10k per year including room and board (and that’s before financial aid), attended law school (more expensive) and still graduated with less than $40k in student debt. My parents were lower middle income, it’s just that tuition had not yet exploded. My job hunting was somewhat fraught, being in the early ’90s during that recession, but grads now have an even harder time. So I’m still counting myself luckier than the Millenials.

  45. Participation awards are fun, they bring the team together and make people feel like part of a community. What is wrong with that?

    My gripe with millennials is that far too often they seem ready to settle for much less than they could get if they worked together, too much dog-eat-dog and devil take the hindmost attitudes in them, and they drag down the earning power of everyone else above them by doing so. I think a few more participation medals and a few less only-the-winner-gets-prizes competitions would have been a good thing for them. However, I admit that as a gen-xer who is trapped in a position by a boomer and a silent-er who won’t retire above me and who can’t get a wage increase because the millennial hires will fight to prove who can live on the least cash, that my gripe is a self serving one.

  46. @cam: “…and millennials know that, so instead they put value on flexible schedules and time off and benefits that aren’t linked to an experience hierarchy ..”
    Now imagine you’ve done work for 15 years, seen a variety of situations and how they play out and have actually done the work over and over… and then some kid comes in with no experience to back up their opinions and craps all over your experience, wants things now instead of earning them? What would your reaction be?

    @crypticmirror – “Participation awards are fun, they bring the team together and make people feel like part of a community. What is wrong with that?”

    Participation tchotchkes and moments of the fact that you took part are fine. Participation *trophies* risk devaluing competition. There’s value in striving to be the best at something and to being rewarded for actually being the best. There’s also value in losing and learning that not everyone wins… which can lead one to try harder, practice more and if you’re still not the best, to accept that gracefully and still value the effort to be as good as you can. But recognizing achievement is important, I think.

  47. @Rick Gregory: I’d say that it depends on the situation and the benefits.

    First of all, the whole “seen a variety of situations and how they play out” thing is great and valuable–but you also need to be aware of how those situations might be changing, and how things might *not* play out that way any more. The kid who “craps all over your experience” by pointing out that, say, the company might want a website and an email address that doesn’t end with aol.com likely has a point.

    Second, there are two kinds of benefits at work: limited by nature and not. Salary is generally the first–if there’s only so much money to go around, then absolutely the person with fifteen years of experience should be making more. (The fact that said person generally gets dicked over in favor of some hair-gelled little shit who got his MBA from the same college as the CEO’s son is a whole different issue, but one that’s been around since at least the eighties.) Vacation is likely similar, since someone presumably does have to do the work.

    But things like flexible schedules, WFH arrangements, freedom from certain traditional dress codes, and so forth aren’t limited in a lot of positions. Unless the role is one where someone really does need to be physically on site from X to Y every day, as long as we work out things like meetings equitably, me working from home or having a flexible schedule doesn’t make life harder for anyone else. Thus, the only reason for Mr. Fifteen Years to object when Newbie Guy wants that kind of perk is the “I Suffered And So Must You” attitude mentioned above, which is a dick way to approach life.*

    * I was an older child, so I did my fair share of complaining that my sister got things easier or earlier than I did. (I threatened to make my toast at her wedding on the theme of And She Got Her Ears Pierced at Ten.) But I got over that shit by the time I graduated college. It’s perturbing to see how much of the business/political world still runs on it.

  48. Rick Gregory, and that’s exactly where the friction comes in between the groups. The mid- and late-career employees see the early-career employees as wanting all their benefits immediately without putting the time in the earn them, whereas the early-career employees think of it differently – they don’t want the senior-level benefits now, they just want their employers to allow room for different priorities in how work-life balance is accommodated. I’m not saying that hierarchical benefits should be done away with, they serve a purpose and are generally fair. But millennials see little value in putting years of work in for future perks that they likely will never have the chance to cash in on and so they shift their priorities to more immediate (and more minor) things that help them take advantage of the time and money they have now.

    As an example, the industry I work in has dismally low vacation time for early career employees that meanwhile has to literally force their senior employees to take all their vacation by threatening to dock performance reviews. Vacation time is always going to be hierarchal, there’s no getting away from that, but the range is a little absurd. And the biggest complaint among early career employees is that when they try to negotiate (like we are always told to do) for more vacation time in return for taking salary cuts or forgoing a promotion, inevitably they are given a salary increase instead. And people say to just be thankful for the extra money or that the promotion will help you down the line but its not what we want and we see no reason why an extra 3 days of vacation is harder for the company to give up than an extra couple thousand $ a year.

    A related example, in one company in my industry, there’s a quirk in the HR policies that ties the amount of maternity leave women can take to years of experience. Which makes no sense whatsoever in that it punishes women who have children earlier in their career. There was a push to do away with that when the company re-structured some of their HR policies but instead, they answered those requests by adding paternity leave time off. Which is a good thing and long overdue on its own but why was that the answer to an unfair maternity leave policy?

    I don’t necessarily blame the mid- and senior- level employees for being annoyed at the “entitlement” of millennials because I will admit that on the surface it often just looks like we are asking for more stuff that other people had to work half a career for. But then it comes back to questioning the status quo. Why cant you give the same maternity leave to every pregnant woman regardless of how long she’s worked at the company? And in a profitable and well-paying industry why did anyone ever have to work 5 years before getting 2 weeks of vacation and why are we still stuck in that model when it doesn’t match current priorities? And if I have 1 day a week where I know for sure that my entire workday is going to be spent in my office, on my computer, barely interacting with anyone other than via email, why can’t I do that from my home office instead? These are the kinds of things millennials are asking and asking for and “because that’s how its done” is not an answer that will satisfy.

  49. Perhaps Millennials are not as adept at jury-rigging appliances/automobiles, but perhaps it’s because such items are less and less likely to be jury-riggable. I was once discussing cars with a guy who hired out for transport to the airport, and he was mentioning that he has always done his own maintenance and repairs, but was discovering that much of that was no longer possible with more recent models (the example he gave was replacing a headlamp – now you have to replace the entire assembly, which needs to be done at a dealer’s).

    Millennials and those that follow may then become more adept at another kind of jury-rigging – electrical circuits, code, 3D printing assembly. Who knows what new skills will be encouraged with the increasing use of “makerspaces” at libraries and schools? There have been wonderful reports of college students developing inexpensive and customizable prosthethics via 3D printing.

    Perhaps it’s naive, but I want to believe that curiosity is not a human trait that is likely to be stamped out by circumstances of entitlement or 1%/99% inequities.

  50. @Rickg
    “Participation *trophies* risk devaluing competition.”
    See this is where we have a problem. You say it is a bug, I say that is a feature. There is nothing wrong with striving against yourself to be the best you can be, but when it turns into a -I can only win if someone else loses- situation then it becomes a problem. I think it has become a real problem in not just millennials but in the post-9/11 generation who is coming after them. In fact the 9/11 generation (those who grew up completely in the age of 24 and -Enhanced Interrogation is what Heroes Do- attitudes) are a generation who terrify me in a way I never previously thought possible. We need more general participation medals and trophies and much less of a focus on competition itself, but I think it might already be too late.

  51. Rick: “some kid comes in with no experience to back up their opinions and craps all over your experience”

    This is really the problem, isnt it? Kids just dont respect their elders. They dont accept their elders’ solutions are the best solutions and instead try to find solutions best for them, right?

    People like Mike Rowe who opposed free college did so because he doesnt think kids today have a strong work ethic. And Mike wants to bring back that strong work ethic l, and send kids to trade school and bring back the good old days and make america great again.

    Except, Mike Rowe is living in fantasy land. There will never be manufacturing jobs ANYWHERE on the planet like there were in the 40’s because automation is on track to replace every blue collar job and many white collar jobs that exist. Voice recognition eliminated most phone operator jobs. Friend of mine manages a US assembly line and was telling me about these highly programmable, easily programmable, extremely smart and safe robot arms they can buy for $50k and will last for years with little or no maintenance. The vast majority of the line jobs 20 years ago no longer exist at his plant. Its not laziness, and it isnt millenials wanting participation awards, and it isnt millenials “crapping all over your experience”. It is the writing on the wall. But so many older people refuse to see it for what it is. Trump is president because he promised to bring back coal mining jobs when even china is looking to cut back on their dependance on coal. Trump is president because so many old people want to believe Trump can bring back manufacturing jobs that dont actually exist anywhere anymore. So many old people are living in fantasy land about the direction the world is going, and rather than face it for what it is, they want to blame young kids because those kids dont want to embrace their fantasy of how the world works.

    Well, sorry, but the world hasnt worked that way since the manufacturing explosion of World War 2, and maybe the decade or so after.

    President Trump was elected because almost half the voting public is living in a delusion that we can bring the country back to the 1950’s somehow. And Millenials seem to to be the first generation to really acknowledge that its just a delusion.

    Any american who is 50 years or older has an experience of life based mostly on an economy that will never exist again. Ever.

    “Participation *trophies* risk devaluing competition.”

    What? No they dont. Thats silly. You’re taking something entirely subjective like “how people value an idea” and trying to cram it into some zero-sum-game nonsense that insists to give something some people value here must inherently take away some value from everyone else everywhere. Maybe if the coach gives little Johnny an award for showing up then that makes YOU feel the trophy for first prize is somehow less valuable, but that is YOU. And you brought that baggage to the conversation, it isnt universal truth.

    Most of the nonsense about todays generation is old people not being responsible for their personal baggage and expectations they bring to the conversation, and them trying to pass of their personal subjective ideas as if they were universal truths. As soon as one generation complains about another genration as if we are right and they are wrong, its like one culture complaining about how another culture is doing life wrong.

    They dip their french fries in MAYONAISE? My god, they’ve destroyed french fries for the entire planet now.

  52. I’m Old but have spent my entire life in the Country of the Young, AKA university towns, and the constant that I’ve observed is that young people are, um, young. And the young are great drivers of fashion, and every kind of fashion changes, including fashions in dumb or annoying behavior and imprudent life choices and music that’s just, you know, noise, and which they enjoy playing at high volume right under our bedroom window at 2:00 a.m. (And why do you wear your hair like that? And you’re going to a job interview wearing *that*? Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? No, I don’t recognize any of those people on the Us and People magazine covers. What do you mean, “What’s People” and “What’s a magazine?”)

    Sorry, got carried away there. In any case, I’ve observed changes in externals but not bright dividing lines as the generations have passed (under our bedroom window at all hours of the night). My “generation” (which was not actually a single demographic cohort) expressed some of its best and worst in response to the Vietnam War, and many of the university students I saw in the late 1970s through the 1980s were way too focused on buying their first Beemer or Mercedes before they turned 30, and I find the current crop of political-purity enthusiasts of all stripes really tiresome (flashback to the 1960s). But the big picture is of the usual parade of folly and virtue in different haircuts. (But jeans with holes in the knees? Really?)

  53. Russell: “parade of folly and virtue in different haircuts”

    What was up with mullets, man….

    ;)

  54. as a boomer, I welcome our millennial children.. they are my only hope of retirement..

    Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Its round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies: God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
    – Kurt Vonnegut

    I see way more whining from boomers than I do from millennials – why aren’t those damn kids getting married/buying cars/houses/diamonds ? (really – https://twitter.com/theeconomist/status/748670361840009216?lang=en)
    Lower wages, student debt, jobs without benefits, and poverty account for 99% of what rich old people find strange about millennials.

    My oldest boy is a millennial, he is smart, ambitious and works way harder than I ever had to as a teenager or young man. His friends are all like him, they have been working hard and long hours since 9th grade to try and qualify in the college lottery, now working long and hard hours at college and summer jobs to try to qualify for the postgrad lottery that is what college used to be. I can no longer afford my house in Denver so he has no hope of being able to buy a house here. My nieces and nephews in Australia cannot ever hope to afford houses in Perth, except by inheritance. They are engineers, Phd in microbiology, etc etc.

    My younger boy is not quite a millennial, but he is a committed socialist, as he can quite easily see that capitalism has failed. It’s very difficult to argue him out of this, since he is basically right. We don’t have a millennial problem, we have a failed state problem..

  55. @Greg: Word re: jobs. And then people resist job retraining because the available jobs aren’t “manly enough,” which…guys? Machines can perform ninety percent of traditionally “manly” tasks better, faster, and with far less trouble (and yes, I include the one you’re thinking of here) and that’s not going away any time soon.

  56. Greg: Mullets are after my time. I grew up with the crew-cut and duck’s-ass, spent college with the Princeton (pre-gel) and moved through the pony-tail before leaving the mating game. Now I have to figure how avoid the combover.

  57. Agreeing with Greg and isabelcooper re: automation. The idea that manufacturing jobs will regain their former ascendency is one that the folks working for Nissan and BMW and Ford in the UK who voted to leave the EU seem to share with some of the people doing similar work in the US, and it puzzles me: if tariffs are reintroduced at the end of trade negotiations, those companies are going to unbolt the arms — if they aren’t so old that the accountants don’t say “Eh, depreciation costs” and scrap them — from the factory floors, load them on a truck and haul them to the Netherlands, or Germany, or Poland, and the people remaining behind can whistle for work that will pay as well.

  58. (At work now, so cannot peruse the Comments as I’d like, & maybe this has been said already – if so, apologizings.)
    Hippies in the 60s also complained about the state of the world that was bequeathed to them. (Bowie’s “Changes” is one example – there are tons of better ones but that’s what comes to mind.) (Yes, I know Bowie wasn’t an actual hippie.) Well anyway, those hippies were/are Boomers. Feeling that you’ve being dealt a less-than-optimal hand isn’t a new thing.
    Being a Boomer myself, it has kinda seemed to me (mind, this is just a conjecture / something to mull over, not a full-fledged argument) that the “Greatest Generation” (i.e., the Boomers’ parents) has only in the past 5 years begun to loosen its controlling grip on our culture. Maybe it’s just my own perspective, but the WWII generation still controls a lot of the wealth, and how it is utilized, in each family and in society. Even from beyond the grave, the way they set up trust funds and allocated their estates has continued their position of power.
    But mostly I don’t see “generations” – certainly not in daily interactions with others. We’re all just people, and we’re all in this together. IMO, best to delight in the uniqueness of each person, not lump people into categories by any criterion, whether race, gender, religion, or generation. More “Us,” less “Them.”

  59. I seem to recall that archaeologists have found 5000-year-old clay tablets in Mesopotamia with inscriptions complaining about lazy, entitled young people.

  60. Bear in mind that poorer Millenials are actually really good at jury-rigging stuff. The complaints about the younger generation tend to revolve around upper middle-class mainly white Millenials working clerical entry jobs in corporations. And yes, they don’t know how to fix the office copier when it breaks. Neither does the senior manager — they call the repair people for it and it might actually cost the company money if they fitz around with the copier instead of calling in the repair people who are contracted to do it. And the Millenials are more likely to know how to program and use all the features in the copier’s complicated computer chip brain if you give them an hour to play with it. But because the senior manager once changed the oil in a car when he was a teenager — a skill he no longer actually has because he never had to use it again, he tends to lord it over the younger folk. Or because his father used to change the oil — so he knows the theory — but he’s never had to do it.

    The average white collar career is never going to involve changing a tire. But when I got my first smart phone, I handed it over to my daughter to set stuff up and download the most useful free apps. She never took a course in it, she never read the manual for the phone — she just figured it out plus learned of stuff from Millennial friends. They figure stuff out quick and most of it is pretty useful to today’s offices. And the tech they work with has been planned to go obsolete and have to be replaced, not repaired, by the Great War, Boomer and Gen X generations, the ones who keep complaining we have to all know old manual labor skills, even though they usually don’t have those skills themselves. So what they mainly get up in the grill about is that the Millenials don’t know corporate cultures yet — and as expressed up thread that they question how useful a lot of the corporate culture is for the operation of the company or their jobs.

    But poorer Millenials — which are a lot of them — can’t throw out and replace stuff like good little consumers. They have to figure out how to keep a fridge running, or an old used car if they have one, or get free WiFi, or build makeshift shelves, etc. Or they have to go without it and figure out another way. They have to fill out a lot more forms, as no one is around to do it for them, and their parents don’t have the same savings as the post-War adults managed. They don’t get “participation medals” because they don’t get to participate — they don’t get to play sports or enter competitions, can’t afford it or get the training. And they have it a lot harder than a lot of the generations before them, so they have to get pretty creative. But those Millenials aren’t of interest to magazines and newspapers for “think” pieces, unless they’re writing about crime — and blaming the POC Millenials for it — or how the public schools are bad and so we should get rid of them altogether. They seldom write about the co-ops and start-ups that Millenials hustle on, unless one breaks the lucky million investor barrier. And a lot of Millenials are immigrants, who came from countries where jury-rigging is very much going on, or countries that have actually some better solutions to the established ways of doing things in their new home. But they don’t get much attention either except as threats to “real” people’s jobs.

    So the complaining about Millenials is mostly fear — they’re young and energetic, they learn fast, they look at things differently, they are coming into the workplace and threatening our jobs, etc. And each generation when it’s young doesn’t think much of the older generation’s ways of doing things and treating people — and are less and less shy about letting their elders know it. When the latest crop of twenty-somethings hits the workforce, they remind their bosses that the bosses don’t actually rule and that they’ll be replaced down the road. It’s mortality that drives the narrative. And our obsession with the upper middle class as the only measuring stick.

  61. History always makes me chuckle…

    Boomers grew up (1956 to 1976) on songs about John Henry winning a race against a steam drill, but killing himself in the end, and they think he was the smart one. (Wikipedia says the real John Henry probably died in 1870ish timeframe).

    Then in 1977, Johnny Paycheck released a country song called “Take this job and shove it”, about a man who was bitter for working long hours and hard work, and seeing no reward for it. It was almost as if after trying to fulfill on the promise of John Henry, and failing, the boomers got fed up and everyone loved the song about telling your boss to go to hell.

    Then they made a movie in 1981 of the same name.

    Then Reagan hit, and the boomers snapped back to attention, and call all the younger genrations lazy and disrespectful.

  62. I learned a long time ago that anyone who can’t explain to you why you’re wrong without playing the “older and wiser” card is full of shit. I’m in my 20s now. When I was in my teens, people in their 20s would occasionally tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about, by sheer virtue of my being slightly younger. Now that I am slightly older, I can say with authority that those people are full of shit. From what I gather, shitting on the younger generation has been a popular pastime for the older folks for as long as there have been people. I guess it’s on us younger folk to make sure that we don’t go around telling the olds that they’re too senile and decrepit to still be relevant. It cuts both ways.

  63. @old Aggie… were you the guy in my office yesterday telling me this exact same thing re the greatest generation? (If not, you’re not the only boomer who says the same thing!)

  64. @Kat Goodwin re: jury-rigging – hear! hear!
    That’s yet another example of how the age gap results in people looking at things in 2 completely different contexts. Just because millennials have never changed the oil in their car doesn’t mean they’re not good at working with their hands or figuring out solutions on their own. And the disconnect comes from a very important distinction. Just because I’ve never changed the oil in my car doesn’t mean I CAN’T change the oil in my car. Thanks to the internet, a reasonably intelligent person can learn to do just about anything, and those who complain about millennials’ lack of hands on skills seem to forget this, and also don’t realize how much it frames our learning and our lives.

    For example, my vacuum cleaner stopped working a couple months ago. I have never in my life seen the inner workings of a vacuum cleaner and my extent of maintenance had been cleaning the round-brush. But I googled the manual, found a you tube video, played around with it for a while, and viola, working vacuum cleaner! And if someone had asked me before that day if I had ever fixed a vacuum cleaner, I would have said no. If someone had asked if I knew how to fix a vacuum cleaner, I would have said no. But neither of those facts stopped me from figuring it out and doing it when it came necessary.

  65. @cam: Yep! Also, there’s jury-rigging and jury-rigging.

    I don’t know how to fix household stuff–that’s a problem for the super, and that’s why I *have* a super–and I don’t know how to change oil, because I don’t own a car*, but I know how to work around the stupid incompatible update shit my computer pulls, or MSWord’s more ridiculous moments, or how to handle my GPS so it stops taking me through downtown.

    We learn what we need when we need it. Many of us don’t need it.

    * I live in a city. One of the great things about mostly renting cars is that maintenance is Not My Problem.

  66. “or not go to college, and then mostly never have a job that makes more than $30k a year”
    Mr. Scalzi, I’m in a small town in central WI. I know plumbers and electricians who are in the same age bracket as I am, making as much or more than I am. Skilled trades are out there and there’s work to be had, since as a society, we seem to have forgotten there’s a range of careers between ones that require a college degree and flipping burgers

  67. @Gryffinbrokewing: Scalzi has already address this above in the comments. It’s worth looking for the whole comment, but to sum up: “Which is to say it’s possible to make more than $30k without a college education. On average, though, that’s where you’re likely to end up.”

  68. Re Jury rigging

    Cyranetta is right about things not being juryriggable anymore. I used to adjust the points on my cars distributer cap, fiddle with the carberator to start the engine. Cars started off with about 150 feet of wire in them. Battery to starter, starter to key. Distributer to spark plugs. Lights. Radio. Literally, that was it. Todays cars have roughly five thousand feet of wire in them. Something breaks, you often need custom diagnostic computer equipment just to isolate the problem. Either you pay for the diagnostic equipment and spend hours and hours of learning how the system works, and only maybe can you fix it, or you hire a good mechanic and he gets it up and running quick and not too expensive.

    Baby boomers think millenials are dumb for not being able to fix a car, but its changed from shadetree mechanic to a serious investment for a hobby.

    Back in the day I had a clothes dryer. Over the years, i had to replace a switch, a belt, a loose wire, and even replaced the electric motor. Had the thing for… years and years and years. Left it when i moved. Got a new machine. Thing broke down within a couple months. Popped it open and it was a maintenence nghtmare. A couple of circuit boards. Wires everywhere. Googled around for the model and error code, and the answer from the internet was I would have to replace the motherboard, and apparnetly it was a common problem with this model. Had the store fix it cause i just bought it. Then sold it on craigslist.

    1950’s cars had 150 feet of wire.
    2017’s cars have 5000 feet of wire.

    Of course millenials dont do a lot of jury rigging, cause most products you buy these days are 2 or 3 orders of magnitude more complex than they were for boomers.

    I do love when boomers say stuff like millenials cant change their oil, but then that same boomer has to call a millenial to ask how to set up their wifi.

  69. Griffenbrokewing:

    Mr. Scalzi, I’m in a small town in central WI. I know plumbers and electricians who are in the same age bracket as I am, making as much or more than I am. Skilled trades are out there and there’s work to be had, since as a society, we seem to have forgotten there’s a range of careers between ones that require a college degree and flipping burgers

    We haven’t forgotten. What’s forgotten is that plumbers and electricians often make less proportionately than they used to because of technology and automation and corporatization, and that the cost of getting training to be a plumber or an electrician has risen so that many high school graduates can’t afford trade school either (Trade school is, after all, college — it’s advanced education.) Someone wanting to be a car mechanic in the 1980’s could do so relatively easily — get an apprenticeship/part time job in a garage and you’re set, with on-job training. But now cars are computers and you have to get training and certificates to do anything with them most of the time, which costs money — same problem as other sorts of college programs. Same with a lot of industrial jobs. I have a relative who didn’t get to go to college who’s a vet tech, a highly skilled job. She makes less than thirty thousand a year because it’s not a job that pays well and because she doesn’t have a certified degree as a tech (higher education,) that would entitle her to be paid a lot more. The people who have been able to afford more training, such as college programs, trade school, certification programs, etc. can get more money than the ones who have only a high school degree in the same jobs/industry, including blue collar jobs.

    People without a college degree or other higher education like trade school can start businesses or do trades that may make them wealthy — but it’s harder to do now than it was thirty, forty years ago. Living costs have continued to go up while wages have stagnated. Everybody except the very top people have less disposable income than we used to have. And the gap between those with a college degree and those without is widening, and with technology, it’s likely to get worse: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/01/12/pay-gap-between-college-grads-and-everyone-else-record/96493348/

    So Millenials are under a great deal of pressure to get a higher ed degree because on average it increases all their opportunities — including as plumbers and electricians. And that means enormous debt in the U.S. because we have a for-profit education system that is gouging the Millenials as much as possible. And instead of trying to fix that problem, we have a Republican party trying to make it worse to keep college grads a desperate debt-ridden workforce and keep poorer kids out of higher ed altogether so they’ll be an impoverished, desperate burger flipping workforce that will vote against their own interests.

    But that does go back to the think pieces complaining about the Millenials — they focus on college grads doing white collar jobs and say that means all the Millenials are spoiled and lazy. And that’s because the college educated kids in white collar jobs are the threats to the jobs of journalists and corporation media workers and their readers, whereas they already know the high school grads aren’t a threat because they have worked quite hard to make sure they can’t be most of the time. But those kids are Millenials too, and they have it pretty rough.

  70. I’m actually going to defend Trump voters who voted to “bring back manufacturing”

    Outside of technology magazines, who was talking about automation? I’m in my thirties. Since I was in high school, I would read article after article on the growth of China and India in mainstream press: Time, Bloomberg, Newsweek, MSNBC, Fox (I wasn’t as interested in computing and programming blogs at all). All of these articles were repeating the mantra that those countries were developing on outsourced American jobs.It’s only after the 2016 election that those mainstream presses started covering automation as consistently as they covered outsourcing in the 2000s.

    I only heard about the Singularity as I was getting my Masters in Machine Learning. That was the first time the thought had crossed my mind that automation was anything other than a rounding error in the loss of jobs. Would it be unreasonable for someone who had no programming inclination to completely miss this trend and assume the media was not misleading them?

  71. Average salary, by education level, and years experience:

    Now, those are averages. That means that each education level has some sort of bell curve to contain all the different actual salaries. Take this image:

    Imagine A is high school education. B is trade school education. And C is college education.

    See that overlap? The A curve at the far right fringe makes more money than some of the college degree people. Thats someone like, say, Bill Gates, who went to college, dropped out, started Microsoft, did some evil business maneuvars and is richer than half the people on the planet. Does that mean you should be a college drop out to make the most money? No. If you are predictively planning on what your future is going to look like based on your education level, you have to look at the center of each bell curve. If you think you’ll get lucky with just a trade degree, then you should be able to get equally lucky with a college degree, and still make more with the higher degree.

    The people talking about electricians making more than some college grads are just demonstrating they are bad at math and maybe should go for a high school or trade school job that doesnt need a lot of math. If money is the goal, then more degrees are better. Any luck you think will help you with a high school diploma should also help you with a phd.

    Now, if school just isnt your thing, then find a way to make money without a lot of schooling. But then you should admit that “less schooling” was your goal, not “more money”. The problem shows up when people motivated to avoid schooling, try to justify their choice by cherry picking from the extreme edge of a bell curve.

  72. I would just add that twentysomethings in general tend to be clueless and arrogant. I was when I was in my twenties, I’m sure my parents were when they were in their twenties, and on and on and on. It’s an annoying age, and us old farts are of an age to get annoyed with people of an annoying age.

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