Is Generation Z being raised to become a nation of wimps?

Drawn by Erika Allen

Drawn by Erika Allen

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Yes: Lax schooling has created a generation that can’t handle adversity

By Meagan Rockafellow

   The internet is flooded with illogical requests to “lessen the load” for current students. They call for standardized testing cancellations and easier AP tests, among other modifications. However, the internet underestimates us. Generation Z can take on the challenges we are told are “too hard” for us. 

   Gen Z is constantly coddled and babied in school, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. If our generation is constantly told that something is too hard for us, after a while we will start to believe it. 

   Decades before Gen Z, deadlines and test grades were concrete. There was no tolerance for late work and excuses. These policies raised previous generations to persevere through busy schedules instead of giving up. 

   Connie Klinkman, a 1970 high school graduate and teacher for 33 years, explains that during her time in high school, late work was penalized. 

   “Depending on the number of late days, the grade was reduced every two-three days by one grade level, hence if you submitted B level work it would drop to a C after two-three days,” said Klinkman.

   However, now, deadlines are relaxed. Sure, the homework was due on Tuesday, but if you turn the homework in on Monday the next week, you can still receive full or mostly full credit. 

   The lack of structure in classrooms has stunted Gen Z’s sense of urgency. Why work to get assignments done by the deadline if we know that we will still get a good grade in a week?

   Similarly, test retakes also foster bad habits in Generation Z. Prior to a test in any class, students always raise their hands and ask if there will be a retake.

   Before the test has even begun, students have accepted defeat and the teacher’s answer “Yes, I plan to have a retake available next week,” only reassures their failure. They know that the first test is merely an unimportant rehearsal before they can inevitably try again. 

   The majority of students in the class won’t study or prepare for the original test. Why should they? They are guaranteed a second chance if they fail. They have nothing to lose. 

   Only once the class receives their first test scores do they actually study. Everything up until that point didn’t matter, and the original test had no weight. They knew they had nothing to lose if they blew off studying. But now with the retake, they only have one chance left, and they will finally take their preparations seriously.

   In the classroom the lack of urgency is annoying, but not catastrophic. One day, however Gen Z will be the adults running our companies, running our government, running our healthcare system, and so much more. In the future, Gen Z cannot afford the same bad habits that lax schooling has allowed.

   Can you imagine if our healthcare system was run by Gen Z? Imagine driving 15 minutes to your nearest Walgreens to pick up a prescription for your treatment plan. You called ahead and were told the medicine would be ready when you arrive.

   However, when you walk up to the counter, the pharmacist looks sheepish when you mention your order. “Sorry… I actually haven’t started it, I was hoping you would be able to give me an extension? Maybe tomorrow?”

   The bad habits Gen Z is developing now could have disastrous consequences on America, all of which could easily be avoided by making school more structured.

   In addition to the lack of structure in school, many older generations feel as though they are helping Gen Z by criticizing the College Board Exams and standardized tests. 

   They “advocate” for us, tweeting at the College Board demanding the tests are made easier. They complain about standardized tests and beg for them to be terminated.

   However these twitter “advocates” are not helping Gen Z. Instead they push a narrative that the challenges previous generations embraced are suddenly too hard for Gen Z to handle.

   Our generation is tough and can handle the challenges thrown at us. We have adapted to online school, witnessed political turmoil, and lived through a pandemic. In comparison, a three hour test seems like a walk in the park. 

   However when we are constantly coddled and told challenges, such as standardized tests, are too hard, we start to accept those lies. Suddenly what was once a mere challenge  becomes a complete roadblock, impossible to navigate. 

   Now, instead of attacking obstacles, Gen Z whines and complains.

Tweets from Gen Z Twitter users

   Gen Z has been told our whole lives that life is too difficult, and sadly, we believe it. Psychologists call this the “illusion of truth” effect. After constant repetition of misinformation, researchers found that test subjects start to accept the lies as truths.

   The bad habits developed by Gen Z in school could have disastrous consequences on America, which could easily be avoided by making schools more structured and by changing the narrative created by older generations.

   We don’t need other generations to pity us or lighten the load, and we don’t need the relaxed rules that schools offer. Right now, Generation Z needs encouragement and support more than anything. Believe in us. We’re not weak.

 

No: Compassionate schooling is helping Generation Z

By Erika Allen

   Undeniably, school is less strict now. Concrete policies have become more flexible as teens are given more leeway in academic settings. 

   While school seems less tough on kids nowadays, calling today’s students lazy would be a disservice. The workload is the same, if not more, and students push themselves to take difficult courses. The differences between then and now are just necessary accommodations. 

   Deadlines are typically less forceful than they used to be. Students are likely to get extensions in today’s learning environment if they simply ask. 

   There are plenty of reasons why students could need an extension. Student A might work a part-time job four nights a week and struggle with her mental health. Student B might have had a family emergency, leaving no time for his homework. Regardless of reason, these students are forced to communicate with their teacher, which is inherently a good thing. 

   In the future, when these students have a job, they’ll eventually need to learn how to reach out to their boss for whatever concerns they have. What could be wrong with students developing these skills now? After all, they’re already expected to act like adults on a regular basis.

   Another difference between preceding generations and now is that retakes for tests are given out much more frequently.

   There are several tests throughout life that can be retaken, such as a drivers test or the SAT. That doesn’t mean that nobody takes the first test seriously. There’s still incentive to do well initially, because a good first test can save time afterwards. 

   Most retakes also require students to complete corrections to better understand what they missed, forcing them to put in extra effort if they want to take the test a second time. Retakes also provide students extra room to better learn the material. If they struggled the first time, they’re allowed to catch up with the rest of the class.

   Today, when students make excuses for not being able to do assignments, they are taken more seriously. While seemingly counterintuitive, this helps students to mature and grow as human beings.

   An important part in maturity is learning that you matter as a human, that your time is valuable, and that your thoughts and emotions are important. When students have reasons for not doing an assignment, they need to be listened to and taken seriously. Otherwise, students could internalize that their problems don’t matter and that they need to shove their own issues to get schoolwork done. 

   There are times where students make excuses just because they don’t want to do something. However, in most cases, students have a genuine reason, and they need to know that they’re being listened to. Dismissing any reason for not completing an assignment as “just an excuse” is telling students that they don’t matter as people, and that their only worth is what they can produce. 

   A new concept with Gen Z is something known as a mental health day. Occasionally, some students stay home from school for a day, as the name implies, to care for their mental health. Mental health days have received their fair share of criticism. Older generations claim that these extra breaks cause laziness and that students should learn to toughen through difficult times.

   However, sometimes a break is just needed. Whether or not someone suffers from a mental illness, sometimes students just need a chance to breathe for a day, something that should be normalized. While historically they haven’t been allowed in school settings, they’re something that should’ve been implemented a long time ago. 

   Additionally, today’s youth is significantly more likely to struggle with a mental health issue. In 2016, a study showed that 16.5% of children aged 6-17 experienced a mental illness, equating almost 7.7 million individuals¹. Given the major events that have happened in America between now and then, it’s not unreasonable to assume that these numbers have since increased.

   Gen Z faces new challenges unique to their time period. With advancements in technology, students are now expected to be contactable 24/7, and are given assignments due on their days off. While a snow day might have been more exciting for previous generations, kids today learn that their teachers will most likely give them an assignment to complete remotely. School now relies so heavily on connection to the internet that students are less able to escape from the pressure.

   With COVID-19 restrictions, many schools have gone virtual as a safer alternative to being in person. While reducing the risk, most students struggle to do as well in online school compared to face to face learning. Grades have suffered as a result, in addition to students’ mental wellbeing. 

   Given everything Gen Z has had to deal with so far, it only seems right to cut them some slack. While there are many ways in which school is less strict compared to before, these changes don’t hurt students. Instead, they’re offered more compassion, and are more capable than ever before.

¹https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2724377?guestAccessKey=f689aa19-31f1-481d-878a-6bf83844536a