Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Participation Badge Generation

As my residents move out this week, the more I hear from their parents. Today, I had to endure a one-sided conversation from a father whose daughter was leaving after having a less than stellar semester. He told me that his daughter, Laura, is so confident in her abilities that she is actually surprised she is not the top of her class or best friends with everyone on her floor. According to her father, Laura has never failed at anything.

After listening to Laura’s father rant about her terrible roommate and horrible professors, I walked away thinking about today’s generation. I realized that Laura is not accustomed to hearing “no” or failing at anything, because she is of the Participation Badge Generation. This is a group of students who, in Little League, received a trophy just for playing. They were told by their parents they could be anything they wanted to be when they grew up. This generation was always protected by mothers who overly praised their mediocre children and fathers who argued with anyone who disagreed.

For anyone following my blog, you will know that I have been called negative and jaded by my peers. However, being from the generation prior to the students residing in our halls, I believe I have a realistic view of the world. I am under no illusion that at 5’2” I will be a basketball star or, with my poor eyesight, I will be a fighter pilot. I do not care how many times I am told that my future possibilities are endless, I know I will never be the next Michael Jordan. And I am okay with that.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of reality, especially for the current generation who has rarely faced disappointment. What will they do when they do not land a high-paying job right after graduation? What will they do when their boss critiques them on their average performance? Will they call mommy and daddy, asking them to correct their evaluation since it must be wrong? At some point, our students need to feel the sting of failure and stare down the reality. No matter how confident you are that you will be the next Zuckerberg, if it is not meant to be, it will not happen.

That’s called life.


  1. You are speaking of the same residents who come into my office, tell me they have a problem, and then they hand me their cell phone...with Mom on the other end. Yeah for summer semester and summer camps. While 6th grade soccer camp kids are often loud, I rarely hear from their parents.

  2. Ugh. Tell me about it. Something happened to students in the last couple of years. I'm 23, started college in 2006, and my 'generation' definitely did not have this sense of entitlement. In the last few years the scope of our society has changed you said, the Participation Badge Generation. Parents who babysit their children through all of life's struggles damage those children beyond repair, even if they do so with the best of intentions. Sometimes, in order to teach someone to fly, you have to kick them out of the nest. My parents support me, but they also knew I had to find my own path once I came to college. So they rarely interfered or meddled. When I was a freshman who had a problem with his bill? I called the office myself. I worked in our university's billing office last summer, and I can't tell you how many grad students - GRADUATE students - who had their mothers call me to talk about their bills because they didn't know how to do it themselves.

    It's sad. I don't think you're jaded. I think you're realistic.


    1. Btw, I love your blog. I don't know what the summer has in store for Bad Hall Director, but I hope you continue to post throughout.