SOCIETY: The Weight Of Possibility–Defining Millennials

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photo from a past PPR at one of Posse’s partner schools. [courtesy C. Moore Photography]


From Disney dreams to recession stained realities, this generation grew up on happy endings and heroes, and grew into a less rosy reality.
Conforming, civility and the Great Depression defined The Silent Generation, while war and activism defined The Baby Boomers. While, the civil rights movement and the growth of new opportunities defined Generation X. But the defining issues of the Millennials didn’t seem quite crystal clear as a few Millennials debated back and forth about whether their generation has struggled enough.
“Yes we’re struggling, but what are we doing about it? We’re sitting here.” Light applause and a lot of mumbling met that statement as 18-year-old freshman Sandy Tran, stood up amongst 170 DePauw students in a small meeting room in the middle of Bradford Woods in Martinsville Indiana.
The Millennials, defined as those born after 1980 [81-2000], fall within the age range of 11 to 30. The first crop of Millennials turned 30 this year and as a flurry of articles and studies begin to take form about this generation, this Spring a slice of the DePauw University community came together at the annual Posse Plus Retreat (PPR) to map out their own definition of their generation.

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A Crisis In New York City Public Schools

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By:Rhonesha Byng

It is not uncommon to see a seventeen-year old in high school with only seven credits. Either way you look at it, the drop-out rates are increasing, and teenagers aren’t getting an education.

In 2000, 10.5% of teenagers, nationally, dropped out of high school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics five out of every 100 young adults enrolled in high school in October 1999 left school before October 2000 without successfully completing a high school program. An article by Washington Square Review found that 65 percent of New York City’s minority youth do not graduate from high school on time.

Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and Christopher Swanson of the Urban Institute found that about 50 percent of black, Hispanic, and Native American students fail to earn high school diplomas, as reported in the American School Board Journal (ASBJ). In New York City, one in six young people are neither attending school nor working.

“It’s bad because number one, we don’t have [any] books. Teachers don’t really care [and] half the students don’t go to class. We don’t have [any] real leadership. The principal [doesn’t] do [anything] he just sits in his office,” said Charles Barnett former senior of Canarsie High School.

Studies find that many students, especially boys, aren’t going to school. They sometimes do so undetected. Several parents are never aware that their child is not in school during the day, and schools usually do not make enough of a deal out of it. A program known as Attendance Improvement and Dropout Prevention (AIDP) provides funding for schools to improve their attendance rates and reduce their dropout rates. Yet, a report has found a “weakness in the Department’s distribution of funds.” Some schools received less than they were budgeted and some received no funding at all, while others received more than they were allowed.

Sophomore Jose Vinicio of Franklin K. Lane noted, “The teachers don’t care about the students. They don’t pay attention. All the students get away with everything. They’re in the hallways and all that.”

New York City public education suffers from a limited amount of funding. The result is schools which are ill-equipped as well as in poor conditions. These conditions combined with over-crowded schools cause the children to suffer educationally.

“The NY Board of Ed. is ill-equipped to educate our young people. It’s an ad equated system,” said youth director of St. Paul Community Baptist church Mr. Robert Hooks.
Teenagers are not going to school, not going to class, and dropping out all together. There has to be a root of the problem. The problem lies in the system itself.

“They come up with systems without taking into account that children aren’t systematic,” said Hooks. “Children are individuals and everyone doesn’t learn the same way.”

Curriculum within the schools is at times ineffective. Teenagers can not relate to the way things are being presented to them. Often, especially in teenagers of color, they do not find one familiar person to connect or identify with unless it is Black History month. Yet, even in that the same leaders are talked about year after year.

Senior at Science Skills High School Jaeson Williams said, “I don’t learn anything. They teach the same thing every year. It’s boring if you are going to learn the same thing you already know.”

Many students who aren’t in college-prep classes feel that what is being taught to them has no use for them in the real world. They have no interest in it at all and feel it is simply useless information. Thus, this belief is readily reflected in their school performance overall. Barnett firmly believes that what teachers teach have “no relation to life down the road.”

“It [The curriculum] could be fairly better. It doesn’t teach us things that we can go through in everyday life,” said Edward R. Murrow student Tangela Grant.

High schools are not reaching teenagers effectively and the result is a generation of people who are not educated to the best of their ability. Outreach programs need to be expanded. Teachers need to realize the importance of their relationships with the students. When students do not connect with the personnel they do not connect to the material.

In not completing high school young people will be locked in a cycle of poverty and unemployment. The economy will suffer as a result of an increase in unemployment and unskilled workers.

Perhaps even those who do stick with it and graduate may be ill-equipped as well. Standards are lowering everyday.

“It’s going down. The standards are being lowered and meritocracy is the order of the day,” said English teacher Ms. Angela Roberson of Transit Tech high school. “There are some teachers that pass students that have been absent 20 or 15 times.”
Junior at Canarsie High School Kyia Jones finds there are students who cannot even read aloud. “I think the boy was trying to read something like ‘satellite’ or something and he couldn’t and the whole class just laughed at him.”

This is no laughing matter when seventeen year olds cannot read or understand basic skills. According to the American Diploma Project, 60 percent of employers question whether a diploma means students have learned academic basics. They have also found that more than 70 percent of high school graduates go immediately to two- or four-year colleges or universities. But 28 percent of them have to take remedial English and math courses before they can start their regular college work.

According to an article in Washington Square Review, those under the age of 24 who are neither working nor enrolled in school, is also increasing.

There is a crisis going on within the walls of New York City’s high schools. There is a problem when the attitude of a majority of young people is in agreement with Sophomore Vinicio.
“I think we shouldn’t have school, it’s a waste of time.”

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