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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • The Participation Trophy Generation

  • The gym ropes are down. There aren’t opportunities for young people to find work and experience the difficulty of climbing the gym rope. We start our careers in unpaid internships doing the work of people who make more money than ever. We have to find a ladder and hook the rope to the top of the gym before we are even given the chance to climb.
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  • Adam Carolla is the host of one of the most popular podcasts in the United States right now. A few months ago he had a bit of a rant about the “participation trophy generation.”
    His argument was that kids these days – the twenty year olds and younger – have been given everything they wanted and told that they are special and now that they are in the real world they are expecting to be treated special. Carolla argues that this has lead to a generation of entitled and pompous individuals who are unwilling to work to get ahead.
    I think it’s pretty typical for older generations to pick on the younger generations for being lazy and feeling entitled. I know Carolla would like to think that this is an original and groundbreaking idea, but I am certain every generation looks down at the proceeding generation.
    I am Generation Y, since I was born in the 1980s. I’m technically not in that millenium generation that Carolla targeted in his rant, but I’d like to stand up for that generation for a moment. And, you should too – because you probably helped to raise that generation.
    Making sweeping generalizations about a group of people is never a good idea. There will always be exceptions to what you state outright as fact, so your arguments become basically void.
    The issue that younger generations are facing today isn’t that we don’t want to work our way up, or that we feel entitled to have the best job and make the most money. Those of us who are the “participation trophy generation” don’t look at the wealthy with envy and wish the government would give us handouts. Sure there may be some bad apples, but I’d say a majority of us are willing to work for our wage.
    The issue with the younger generations is that we pay $40,000 for an education and are allowed six months to find a job that can pay back that debt. We don’t have much starting out, but no generation ever did. Our problem is that it is much more difficult to dig out of that debt.We can’t afford to invest in a home, to purchase a car that runs well or take any entrepreneurial risks. We can only afford to make monthly payments on our loans and eat two meals a day.
    I’m not complaining. I just think it’s harsh to say that every person younger than twenty feels entitled to be the best without working for it – that we feel we deserve “participation trophies” because we tried our best.
    “About the time we took down the gym ropes is about the time all this stuff started happening, because it used to be every kid had to climb the gym rope, but more importantly every kid at least had to try,” says Carolla. “We took down the gym ropes, but life is still full of gym ropes.”
    Page 2 of 2 - His metaphor is correct, but not in the way in which he intended. The gym ropes are down. There aren’t opportunities for young people to find work and experience the difficulty of climbing the gym rope. We start our careers in unpaid internships doing the work of people who make more money than ever. We have to find a ladder and hook the rope to the top of the gym before we are even given the chance to climb.
    Jobs need to be available for well-educated Americans to work their way up. The occupation movement – which is what a majority of Carolla’s rant was about – isn’t about envying the rich. It’s about providing the same opportunity for everyone to prove that they are worthy of success.
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