Education

GENERATIONAL DIVIDES IN HIGHER EDUCATION: WHEN THE FACULTY IS THE SAME AGE AS THE STUDENTS

There won’t likely be a low hand in the house if you ask a group of college educated, young professionals, to raise their hands if they feel compelled to seek graduate-level degrees in order to climb the ladder of their work institution.  Try it.  Gather us all together and take a synopsis of generational compositions (workplace respect, intelligence, skills, etc.).

Being that these are all challenges this group faces in the workforce, I guarantee that a significant percentage is headed to the whiteboard to figure out an outside hustle or circling Plan B to head back to school.  Or both.  As a result, you may find more young professionals with multiple degrees.  Many will digress the validation that they feel having three more letters behind their names.  Those letters serve as launching pads for numerous opportunities.  Hence, the rise of the adjunct professor – a highly debatable position in Higher Education.

Why not dualize your degree, educate the world and collect some extra coins? And, soak up the experience while one wait’s his or her turn for promotional activity to occur.  In turn, part-time faculty positions (including adjuncts, lecturers, or graduate assistantships) in most cases, require one to work an extra job anyway due to low wages.  Moreover, according to the American Association of University Professors, they do makeup 50% of faculty appointments in higher-ed.  The average age of these appointees is forty-eight years old, signifying that a percentage are younger than 48 and a percentage are over.

Older generations are staying put and riding this thing out the jaded way with the same education they collected decades prior.  Only some are interested in keeping up with technological advancements and completing continuing educations.  As rulers of the workforce, the demand isn’t there to prove themselves as it is young professionals.  In turn, a progressive nation of millennials is facing counterparts with years of experience and maybe a bachelor’s degree and unfortunately, ageism.  It cannot be ignored.  It’s a result of generational differences that clash with one’s capabilities to effectively and efficiently do his or her job.

Successful young professionals have countered ageism by garnering all of the resources that they need.  Educational advancement being one.  They’ve learned to play competitive poker with their counterparts and be in the pool tossing beach balls with their peers at the same time. The social gain of this helps them to serve as better communicators, understanding a vast array of topics and people.  Therefore, withstanding any generational barrier that may arise.

Many of the 22-35-year-old students that probe graduate school campuses each day are seeking sustainable careers by obtaining masters or doctoral degrees.  Upon graduation, some return to reciprocate their education and serve as esteemed faculty with grants and research unimaginable.  Most find their peers receptive to their teaching styles and inspired to embark on further paths of education as well.  Older students that they encounter seem to challenge them with status quos of laziness or incompetence.  Surviving academia can be a jarring feat from both ends of the age spectrum.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the percentage of those attaining a 4-year degree over 25 is growing every year.  It grew from 52,381 in 2005 to 71,900 in 2016.  Imagine how many of those students are obtaining masters degrees and doctoral degrees which are what most institutions require you to have in order to teach at an undergraduate level.  Community colleges may allow a bachelor’s degree.  Nevertheless, the number of educated individuals is growing.  Those teaching and those learning are growing.  New tactics for maintaining cutting edge teaching skills to entertain those students could be what young professors bring to the table.

As young faculty and staff in academia, many may be faced with a variety of challenges. There is this notion in the education sector that younger is inexperienced and less equip to teach. A 27-year-old Dunbar High School (America’s First African American high school) teacher, answers the inquiry of teaching those in close age proximity.  She started at Dunbar at the ripe age of 22.  She’s asked, “How do you cultivate them? How do you garner the respect that you need from them?”  She simply expects them to behave lateral to a well-respected adult.  She expects them to be able to teach each other or the next graduating class.  She ignores the generational divide that we might see in various work environments.  This technique is to be admired.

Perhaps our vision of what a teacher or professor looks like has been skewed through various movies providing the vividly elderly person as wise and having more to offer.

However, movies such as Matilda taught us that young Miss Honey knew just as well how to cultivate students.  Matilda, herself was the definition of a prodigy. Perhaps, if the movie had a sequel, she would graduate early and receive a position teaching her peers.

Younger generations are taking rank in the educational sector with a wealth of knowledge and new teaching techniques.  They aren’t into the generational stereotypes.  They’ve done the work, attained the degree(s), and are ready to educate a vast array of individuals, old and young.  They should be respected accordingly.  Whether on the learning or teaching side, the is something to be gained.  Age is nothing but a number.

 

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