The nonprofit Educational Testing Service has released the results of its 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies among millennials, and the United States appears to be in trouble. American millennials ranked dead last in numeracy, behind Poland and the Slovak Republic in literacy, and second-to-last in “problem solving in technology-rich environments.” That third category finally gives the lie to “at least they know how to use computers.” It appears that American millennials don’t know how to do much of anything, despite achieving higher overall levels of education than any generation in history. Wrestling with declinism after the jump.
Because I know you like it, let me lay some demographics on you. We are looking at two groups of Americans: one has lost 13% of its net worth since 2005; the other lost 37% over the same period. Since 1984, the median household worth of one has increased by 42%, while the worth of the other has declined by 68%. One has seen its share of the workforce increase since 2008. The other suffers unemployment at a rate 50% higher than the national average. And one of these groups claims to have invented rock and roll—no, not white people. We are talking about the differences between people over 65 and people under 35. All these fun statistics come from this article by Joel Kotkin, cheerfully titled “Are Millennials the Screwed Generation?”
The New York Times once again stretches its credulity to stretch ours with this article about student plagiarism, whose central thesis seems to be that kids today don’t understand the concept of authorship. Props to Mike Sebba for the link. The article contains the usual professorial stories about hilariously obvious student copying, including this classic font-shift tell:
The tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.
First of all, way to hand the problem off to the writing tutor, professor who does not want to have to go to academic court. Second, the article considers this and other anecdotal instances of egregious ripoff—plus the omnipresent recent surveys, in which the number of respondents who say that copying from websites constitutes “serious cheating” declined from 34% to 29%—and concludes that modern college students don’t understand the concept of plagiarism. Guess why? If you said “the Internet,” then congratulations—you’re ready to write trend pieces for the New York Times. Here’s your Zune.
The New York Times managed to make me feel both sad and angry—my two basic emotions!—with this article about the career prospects of recent college graduates as compared to their counterparts in previous generations. That’s the sad part. The angry part comes with Louis Uchitelle’s framing device, which wisely presents the article’s many surprising/dry economic statistics in the context of one particular Millennial, Scott Nicholson. If he still hasn’t found work, I suggest Nicholson hire himself out as the world’s least sympathetic protagonist. He graduated from Colgate in 2008 and has lived with his parents since, unable to find work. He also just turned down a job with Hanover Insurance Group that would have paid him $40,000 a year.
Yesterday at Combat! blog we got a little freaked out about how it’s entirely possible that everyone will get too stupid to operate America. Those of you horror movie fans who still crave tales of terrifying democracy will enjoy this article in the New York Times about Arlen Specter’s town hall meeting. It tells the story of Berks County Tea Party chairman Jon Stahl, a 65 year-old laid off from his job 18 months ago, who has since organized protests against taxes, the stimulus plan and health care reform. Presumably he is able to work full-time to stop government welfare because he gets social security benefits. The Times article points out that anti-reform protesters arrived several hours early to the meeting, creating enormous lines. I quote:
Proponents of the overhaul voiced the opposite fear, also citing larger issues at stake. “This isn’t just about health care,” said Carolyn Doric of Harrisburg, “it’s about political power and a means to regain political power.” Ms. Doric did not get into the meeting.
Normally, reading something like that would cause me to buy a high-powered rifle. But then I remembered the Millennials—that idealistic new generation that swept Barack Obama into power in the first place, and constitutes a new creative class of educated, informed, young professionals immune to conservative populism. Previous generations may have devolved into single-issue tax phobics, but the Millennials won’t be consumed by their need for disposable income. Right?