Tuned in to the Today Programme on the radio this morning, I listened to Douglas Robb, Headmaster of Greshams School in Norfolk, defending his recent blog about grit, millenials and young people in the workplace. He has come in for a certain amount of stick over the course of the week from alumni of his school and the media because of his comments concerning the most recent generation of young adults entering the workplace for the first time and his perception of their sense of entitlement.
He’s not alone in these views of course. Over 2,000 years ago Aristotle observed the same traits in the young people of his day and gave a very similar message.
“They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things -- and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning -- all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything -- they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.”
And neither was Aristotle alone in this view. Socrates was also scathing concerning the youth of his day.
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
However, I differ in my opinion to Douglas, Aristotle and Socrates. Whilst I can see a certain truth in what they have to say, and have indeed observed similar traits in young people myself, I actually believe that it has ever been thus and necessarily so. Both Aristotle and Socrates observed nearly two and a half thousand years ago that this is the nature of well educated young people. They believe that they are capable of great things, they do things to excess, they have high expectations and believe themselves equal to great things. I believe that it is precisely this that will allow them to thrive. Whilst they will desire to tear up the rule book and do things differently, the reality of mundane first jobs and hard graft in the workplace will temper this while giving them enough self belief and determination to thrive.
So, no doubt this blog will fail to stir such a response as Douglas’, however, I prefer to avoid generalisations and tend to steer clear of damning proclamations about the youth of today...they may inhabit a slightly different context to the one that we grew up in, however, there is very little that is truly new in this life and I suspect millenials will thrive in their modern world just as we have in our ancient one (even if they do contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers!
John F Gilmour