Generation Z’ers had their hallelujah moment when they marched into college auditoriums over the past month with Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in the background.
Now, they can tuck their degrees, embossed proof of educational success, into dresser drawers or mount them on someone’s wall. Off these “zoomers” head to a full-time job or in search of one.
Yet they should not forget who helped them in their arduous journey: parents, professors, mentors. They deserve something, right?
Well, how ’bout a “thank you”?
Most won’t get one before Halley’s comet returns, which is the pity.
Since I left the higher-ed business 25 months ago, I doubt if I’ve opened a door for anybody, but a friend of mine kicked one down for a journalism major he had never met. The major needed an internship to fulfill academic requirements, and my friend, an editor at a daily newspaper in the South, heard about his plight.
My friend dug into his Rolodex, made a couple of telephone calls and then — what do ya know? — the man found out five weeks ago he’d gotten an internship. He began his internship last week.
In the days after finding out, he sent no text messages, made no phone calls or mailed no thank-you letters. He shared his excitement with peers, of course, but played the ghost to a stranger who helped him.
Perhaps I’m expecting from him what I should not. At some point, he can claim that his credentials from a top-ranked J-school got him the internship, not any calls a small-town editor made. He might be right to look at everything this way, but he is definitely wrong to think offering a thank you doesn’t matter.
I often weigh whether we’ve fostered a generation of entitled men and women who expect strangers to readily open opportunities for them. Gen X, Y and Z’ers never grew up saying “ma’am” and “sir,” which might offer a hint to why improper manners and lax standards bother us old fogies these days.
We see that the generations behind ours have lost touch with what matters. Over four million of them — the graduating journalism major is among them — just stepped into the workaday world, but how we can ignore signs of their disrespect is a jigsaw puzzle with too many pieces missing.
I realized we were on the gravel road to perdition, which is why I quit teaching. I had seen in the students I taught things I detested — things my peers detested, too. The only pathway to change would have to occur one student at a time. No counseling, no cajoling or no cussing was going to remake an entire graduating class. It was made over years; it would be remade over years.
My friend the editor was nonplussed. I wonder, however, whether he might be disinclined to open his Rolodex for another zoomer when Graduation Day 2022 comes. I’m betting he’ll stay in his lane and wish Godspeed to the next stranger who seeks his help.