I’d like to start this blog post by saying this: I never intended for my first post to turn into a rant about millennials. In order to get off on the right foot and avoid talking about ‘ME ME ME’ (because we’ll get to that later,) let’s talk about you.
Let’s say you, as a human being, have a daily list of tasks you must fulfill. Let’s go even further and say you’ve got reading assignments that will help you prepare for future tasks. How do you prioritize your list? Which assignment do you complete first? And most importantly, what music do you listen to while you work?
Let’s also pretend you asked me those questions. Today, I’m starting on the shallow end of my to-do list by reading ‘Toward a Composition Made Whole’ by Jody Shipka (and I’m listening to my ‘Currently Listening’ Spotify playlist, which features songs by Penny and Sparrow, William Fitzsimmons and James Blake.) I’m also ignoring the advice I’ve received from several instructors to keep my sentences under twenty five words in length.
Shipka wrote what I consider to be a lengthy introduction. I know all about lengthy introductions. I’ve spent three whole paragraphs introducing this blog post, and I still haven’t written anything meaningful. Or have I?
Would you like me to sum up Shipka’s introduction in one word? Easy: multimodal. I want to point out an excerpt where Shipka shares a pair of ballet shoes with a writing workshop group.
“I had encouraged the session’s participants to ask questions while I was describing the tasks and student texts I had brought to the session, but it was not until I shared with the group a pair of pink ballet shoes on which a student had transcribed by hand a research-based essay that a member of the audience, a teaching assistant in the history department, interjected, ‘I have a question. So where did she put her footnotes? On a shirt?’”
Later on, Shipka continues,
“My sense is that his attention was focused primarily on the final product, while I was positioned – by having created the assignment, the course itself, and having worked closely with the student over the month she spent working on the shoes – in ways that allowed me to see, and so to understand, the final product in relation to the complex and highly rigorous decision-making process.”
These passages helped Shipka to define and demonstrate the importance of multimodal communication, but for me, they also highlighted the generation gap that exists between some students and teachers.
I’d be willing to bet that my generation has witnessed and adapted to more changes in digital media and technology than any other generation, and not just because ‘digital’ hasn’t existed for more than 50 years. Books like Shipka’s wouldn’t exist if figuring out new ways to use developing apps, tools and other technologies (like evolving language) wasn’t critical to our futures, yet we, the students in charge of bringing the future to the world, are being criticized for our development, adaptation and technological experimentation. That’s what the teaching assistant’s remark sounds like, anyway.
Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, we’ve arrived at the millennials conversation.
If ‘multimodal’ is the buzzword from Shipka’s introduction that ‘s scaring readers, it’s nothing compared to ‘millennial,’ the buzzword currently scaring all Americans 30 and older. TIME Magazine’s ‘The ME ME ME Generation‘ is one of hundreds of articles bashing my generation for growing up and learning how to exist in our society. The following is author Joel Stein’s introduction to the now-infamous article:
“I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow. But I have studies! I have statistics! I have quotes from respected academics! Unlike my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I have proof.”
I’ll save you the trouble of describing Stein’s millennial argument and instead link you to articles that have done the counter-arguing for me. The Atlantic Wire’s Elspeth Reeve countered a bit of Stein’s ‘proof’ in ‘Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation.’ Tom Wolfe compared and contrasted ‘ME ME ME’ to the original ‘Me Generation’ of 1976. Ah, 1976. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Even a quick skim of those articles clues us in, dear reader, to the same concept that Shipka is trying to get us to open our minds to. The future is a tabula rasa for us to scribble on, erase and spill coffee across. Essays and traditional compositions don’t have to be one and the same. Ballet shoes doesn’t scare us, and they shouldn’t scare you, either.
Finally, it’s time to talk about me (even though I’ve been doing it for the entirety of this article.) I’m a communication major, I’m a writer and I did write something meaningful in this blog post. I’ll let you define it yourself.