The Smartest Generation

There have been a host of great pieces written about Millennials in major outlets as of late; and reading these have provided some confirmation bias on an argument I’ve briefly touched on in previous posts. Namely that Millennials are the smartest generation. I believe every generation has an aura that symbolizes it, especially after history has cast its’ judgement.Image

We have the greatest generation which endured unprecedented economic distress and fought heroically in the deadliest war in humankind’s history. We have the Boomers who were the driving force behind civil rights, ending the war in Vietnam, and growing the American economy. And we have Gen Xers, who often get a bad rap as the “lost generation,” but who are largely responsible for truly realizing many of the ideals of the civil rights era. Gen Xers are the generation that embodies critical thinking, as they are skeptical of authority and seek alternative opinions.

Now, of course these are all generalizations, this is not a science. Normally I would say that should go without saying, but disclaimers seem necessary in this day and age. Having said all that, I believe history will look back on millennials as the smartest generation. This actually seems fairly obvious if you think of it this way; each generation builds upon the knowledge of every previous generation. As time goes on the knowledge base grows; we must know more about the world because more information exists in the past than previous generations had access to. Add to that the exponential growth of technology and the growing expectation that millennials should at least possess some background in programming; well, we end up with some pretty high expectations of a knowledge base for young people.

A few years ago the aggregate student debt in this country surpassed the aggregate credit card debt for the first time. Debates were had about whether this was “good debt” or not, whether we’re setting young people up for financial trouble, and whether college is even necessary for many young Americans. What was lost in this debate is the fact that young people have pursued higher education at record numbers, and during the recent economic downturn many students went on to pursue advanced degrees instead of entering the job market right after college, I being one of those people. What was lost in this debate is that we’re producing a highly educated generation that will lead the country for the next four decades.

Personally, my decision to pursue an advance degree was a calculated risk. I had seen the studies that concluded that those entering the job market in tough economic times tend to always lag behind their peers in earnings potential. Over time the added student debt I would rack up furthering my own education would more than pay for itself by the extra income I’d earn throughout my life. I still think it was a solid economic choice, despite being further indebted. The benefit of this choice for me, and the thousands of fellow young people who made this choice, is expanding our knowledge base beyond the four year college experience.

I learned a lot during my college years, especially in my last two years of undergrad. And as much as I learned during those years, I’ve learned even more during my two years of graduate studies. Despite it being a tough job market right now, I believe that pursuing higher education and advanced degrees will be beneficial in the long run. And that attitude is shared by a significant number of my fellow millennials.

As I discussed in my inaugural blog post, this is a generation that has grown up being told that education is the most important attribute for future success. Beyond that, we’re a group that enjoys learning, and many young people pursue job opportunities that provide for lifelong learning and professional growth. A fellow blogger briefly discusses her own experience pursuing educational experiences on the job.

While the education system has not worked for every millennial, and there are plenty of young people who have not had the educational opportunities that some of us have had. Overall we’re more educated, more informed, more knowledgeable, and more willing to learn than previous generations. I believe this is what we’ll be remembered for, not as the “entitled generation.”

 

Do you consider yourself part of the smartest generation? Do you agree or disagree with my characterization of millennials as being the smartest generation? What are your views on education and the unprecedented levels of student debt? Do you think your student debt was worth the education you received? TYPE your comments and SHARE this post.

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