I must get this off my chest. I have failed miserably in helping my students in my writing courses at the community college learn what I intended to teach them, how to engage in meaningful and productive discourse to learn how to communicate in powerful ways using the tool of writing. The conversation needed to teach to such goals never really got started. I tried at first to find topics for them and could hardly find any most were interested in or would come to be interested in and I asked them many a time about what it was that they were interested in. Neither tactic worked.
They insisted they were not very interested in much, this a topic I tried to use to generate conversation but without much effect. My students, I came to realize through the conversation we did have where they spoke some, were not used to conversing or thinking deeply enough about things there were to think about to have what they considered something to say. Two years of isolation, no environmental conditions to warrant they think about their thoughts and find reason to find words and phrases to convey their thoughts to others had, indeed, had an effect. Maybe worse than their COVID related problems was an attitude I came to understand as reasonable. They told me that they were used to people not listening to them, the people who counted having already made up their minds, not only about issues, but also about who was smart and who was not.
The boomers, they said, ran the world—and had ruined the world—most ever part of it. And the boomers, their teachers, politicians, bosses, etc., believe themselves to be so smart that those who were not boomers need not be heard. So why try? They told me that they were waiting for their time to come–when the boomers were gone. Meanwhile, they would talk among themselves but didn’t see much reason to argue with those who would not listen to them anyhow.
I, of course, am one of those they consider a boomer. Yes, I could have done more, done better, but I really wasn’t ready for what I encountered. I misread a generation or maybe two because, probably, my boomer mentality got in the way. And, too, I had not the faintest idea of what the effects of COVID had been or of the attitudes spawned by the conditions of the world most directly affecting them, the seemingly insurmountable problems of global warming and an economy that would, they believed, never allow them to achieve levels of prosperity equal to that of former generations.
They saw the job market boomers had left them uninviting and the prospect for living well rather dim. I needed to feel the malaise rather than study it if I was going to connect and I could not do that. I had the advantage of boomer credentials and, even though I did not use them as many of my cohort had to enrich myself, I still felt degrees of freedom of choice that they do not feel, probably because of what they have been taught about how done a deal their futures are no matter how hard they may try to change it.