Kent State PR prof Bill Sledzik offers a pungent reflection (or is it a moderate rant?) on teaching Millennials how to write, and how the task differs from teaching GenXers:
"I expect a lot from students, and I don’t coddle them. But even the old grizzly bear has made concessions to the Millennial ego. For
instance, I no longer use the label 'trainwreck' to describe the worst
papers. I did with the GenXers, and they responded."
Well, 20 years ago I was a GenXer at Kent State my English composition prof Dr. Jack Null gave me a "D" on my first paper because I had neglected to type a period and thus had created a run-on sentence. And yes, I responded: First by complaining bitterly, and then by taking the rest of the writing very seriously.
By the end of the semester I was laughing along with my would-be adviser as he told a tearful girl she her term paper would be docked a grade for being late.
"But my printer broke!" she cried.
"She thinks God broke her printer," Dr. Null muttered to me in the hallway later.
But that's not the end of the story—and this is why I'm the very last to bellyache about these cheeky Millennials:
I thought Dr. Null's was the last comeuppance I was ever going to get, and by the time I hit the workforce, I thought I was the veteran with the writing chops and the work ethic, and everyone else was the dumb girl with the broken printer.
Several months into my first writing job, at Ragan, there was an editorial meeting about how to re-enliven the front page of The Ragan Report.
The obvious solution was to have founder and Larry Ragan resume writing his popular front-page column, gravely titled, "It Seems to Me." But Larry was getting older, and he didn't want to go back to cranking out a weekly column.
"I'm pretty creative," I said brightly. "Maybe we could trade off!"
Along with the temperature in the room, my idea was silently dropped. Later it got back to me that the word "callow" had come up in Larry's assessment of me, and I didn't have to doubt where he got the impression.
But neither do I blame myself or rue my youthful confidence. It wasn't disrespect of Larry's years. It was just overconfidence—in my mind, in my writing ability, in my education and my upbringing.
And to me, any kid you'd want to hire shows up thinking he or she is the Second Coming. It's how the kid handles the bad news—and how you deliver it—that makes the difference between whether that kid leaves you and goes on to star somewhere else, or whether he or she sticks around and, as happened for me at Ragan, eventually takes your place in the saddle.
Because eventually, you are going to need that saddle filled. And probably, sooner than you think.
Three years later, Larry died, and I was chosen to help edit his memoir, in which his widow Jeanne wrote, "Larry liked you so much and thought you did a wonderful job."
Thanks, in large part, to Larry.