Millennial life is like being a responsible teenager.
You do all your homework, you hold down a couple part-time jobs, and you only have friends over late on the weekends. Yet the elderly neighbors down the street still complain about having to live next to a bunch of kids. (“Hey punks, get off our yard!”)
Because no matter how you slice it, to them, you still look just like any other rowdy teenager.
Somehow, Millennials remain a favorite target of overzealous media personalities and puff piece drivel. We’re entitled. We’re snowflakes. We’re the most spoiled generation in decades.
Nevermind the harsh reality that we’re the first generation in history expected to fare worse than our parents’ generation: No matter how hard my generation will have to work just to match the social mobility our parents experienced, none of it matters. We’re still the Me Me Me Generation.
But in spite of all the criticism and complaints, Millennials are ahead of the pack when it comes to at least one thing: equity in our public schools.
Based on an excellent new survey from the folks at Educators for Excellence (E4E), Millennial teachers are noticeably more concerned with improving equity in our public schools for minority, low-income, and ESL students, who often lack access to opportunities and resources that other students take for granted. The study, which compares the attitudes of teachers under 30 with those of their more seasoned peers, has some interesting implications for all the critics who think Millennials are self-centered.
For starters, let’s just acknowledge that roughly 40% of Baby Boomer teachers don’t agree that students lacking equal access to quality schools and teachers is a problem.
American students haven’t made meaningful improvements in reading in 20 years, and, the average African American 4th grader isn’t proficient in either reading or math. Don’t tell me that’s not a problem.
4 out of 5 Millennial teachers agree that not all students have equal access to quality schools or teachers, and while my generation doesn’t exactly have a silver bullet to fix that issue, we at least acknowledge that our current situation isn’t acceptable.
Millennial educators were also more likely than teachers over 30 to indicate that inequitable school funding, a lack of properly maintained school facilities, and access to classroom supplies and resources were serious problems in their schools.
That’s likely because younger teachers are more likely to be found in urban, diverse districts, where they have more contact with disadvantaged and vulnerable students. And despite the fact that their seasoned peers were less concerned about all of these things, Millennial teachers know that these problems are real and that they affect students every day.
And we’re more likely to do something about it, too.
Studies show that Millennials, regardless of profession, collectively view education as the most important tool for achieving success in life. Millennials support far-reaching reforms in education by roughly a three-to-one-margin, including school choice initiatives that would help parents enroll their kids in a quality school regardless of their income or zip code.
And for Millennials who are teachers themselves, nearly one-third indicated that they would be likely to go on strike over inequitable resources or support services for students. For low-income and ESL students, intervention services, mentoring groups, and after-school programs are often the difference between sticking it out or giving up.
Say what you want about my generation, but giving up isn’t an option for us when it comes to equity. Peter Cunningham has already issued the call to action: “Go big. It’s time for a new civil rights movement with educational equity as the centerpiece.” We’ll get there, and Millennials will be instrumental in that fight.
But until then, Boomers, you can get off our yards.
Photo adapted from Chris Devers, CC-Licensed.