I’m the parent of a citizen who falls into the broad category of Millennials (born between 1980-2000), and am proud not just of his ongoing successes, but of his peer group’s values. My son Campbell has done much to challenge stereotypes – even, or perhaps especially the ones that I thought were humorous – that I had carried through what I might have assumed was a liberal upbringing and on through much of my adult life.

Self confessed Millennial Malcolm Harris has dived much deeper into all of this with his headline-making book: “Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials,” which, as its subtitle suggests, challenges much that we take for granted in the education system. In so doing, Harris confronts many other stereotypes we older people reserve for “kids these days.” They are more demographically diverse than our own generations (certainly in the States), and facing unique hardships. In the USA, a third of them will be arrested before their mid-twenties, according to the Brian Lehrer Show interview with the author on WNYC; they are the first generation to have but a 50-50 chance of being financially better off than their parents, according to an article in the New Yorker; those who have gone to college – and a massive difference between Millennials and previous generations is the expectation, from parents and employers alike, that they WILL go to college – have seen their student debt double within their own generation (the class of 2016 is, according to the New Yorker, looking at $37,000 in debt each).

I’ve never been one to slag off the “kids” – especially their music which, however hip I might like to pretend I remain, is not made for the likes of me in the first place. As such, I’d hope I don’t fall into the category of those who badmouth Millennials at the drop of a text message. But the publicity surrounding Harris’s book – and especially, the engaging call-in on the Brian Lehrer Show – has given me cause to much further thought. I hope you’ll find time to engage.



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August 2021