The Millennial Generation

The liveliest session at our national convention in Chicago this week focused on understanding our current students. Every student is unique, of course, but social scientists attribute broad characteristics to those who belong to a generation.

Our current students are in the middle of the Millennial Generation (those born between 1977 and 1996). They are primarily the children of the Baby Boomer Generation (those born between 1946 and 1964, representing the baby boom that followed World War II).

As a member of the Boomer generation, I’m familiar with the positive and negative attributes ascribed to my generation. The same range of attributes are applied to Millennials today (and, in the interest of disclosure, my wife and I are the parents of two Millennials).

In Chicago, the most provocative speaker was Gigi Carroll, senior VP and creative strategist for Draftfcb. She describes Millennials as optimistic, indulged, empowered, egocentric, educated, entitled and ambitious. She calls them the “choice generation” because they demand personalization of their experiences, in part because their parents have involved them in family decisions since a young age. Social scientists say this generation has enjoyed unparalleled influence over household decisions, from where to eat to where to vacation.

“They have been the most protected generation,” Carroll said. “Car seats, bike helmets, knee pads. Everyone gets a trophy for playing. Parents are regularly negotiating on their behalf…. As a result, adolescence has been extended into their 20s.” She called them KIPPERS, for Kids in Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings, with up to half moving back home after college. “Things are good in the basement,” she quipped. “Big-screen TV, bathroom, privacy when friends come over.” Unlike Baby Boomers, Millennials often describe a parent as their best friend.

Millennials are “prematurely affluent” and “conspicuous consumers,” but they also are unusually altruistic and involved. For example, 74% of Millennials say they are paying attention to politics, compared to only 13% of 18-29 year olds in 2000.

Millennials also are a highly social generation. Communicating one-to-one is almost an oddity. They communicate and travel in packs, and they have an ongoing need for feedback and relationship maintenance. They are used to constant hovering around them. They’ve never known life without a computer. Three-fourths have a Facebook account. They have cell phones and portable music devices. They are adept at using three to five pieces of equipment at the same time.

All of this has a bearing on how we teach effectively, which is why this was the liveliest session at our national convention this year.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Students, Teaching

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