American Culture

Generation gap or civility gap?

by JS O’Brien

Devraj Kori set off a firestorm near our nation’s seat of gross incompetence last Thursday when he called a Fairfax County, Virginia public schools’ administrator, Dean Tistadt, to complain about not getting a snow day off. We don’t know exactly what Kori said in his message, but we do know what Tistadt’s wife, Candy had to say in her voice reply, because Kori published it on YouTube.

It wasn’t pretty. Candy kinda lost it, reading Kori the riot act in a voice that could strip paint (you really have to listen to this voice to believe it) while explaining that her husband hadn’t retured Kori’s previous calls to his office because he had been out almost every night that week in meetings for “snotty-nosed little brats.” Candy then told Kori, who says he has a 3.977 GPA, to “get an education.”

Kori, apparently, has said that he called the Tistadt home as the result of a generation gap, in which kids expect to be contacted on cell phones at pretty much any time. Paul Regnier, Fairfax schools’ mouthpiece and fawning sycophant, PR guy, said it was the result of a “civility gap.”

Having been on the receiving end of school administration indifference and refusal to return phone calls, I can readily say that I have seriously considered calling administrators at home to get answers. The only reason I haven’t done it is because e-mails containing requests for administrators’ feedback on scathing letters to the editor about, well, THEM, usually does the trick. I usually get the old phone call on that one. I suppose that young Kori didn’t know that trick, so he tried the more direct approach, and ran smack into a screeching (really, you MUST hear this voice to believe it) harpy.

Some people will say (and have said, judging from YouTube comments) that Kori was out of line to call Tistadt at home. They have a point. A small and very minor one, but a point. It wouldhave been more polite to send Mr. Tistadt an e-mail like the ones I send. And it would probably have been more effective. But it raises a larger question, doesn’t it? Just what the hell are we supposed to do about public officials, who are paid by public funds raised from tax revenue WE pay, when they don’t deign to return our phone calls? Tistadt’s wife got a phone call at home because hubby doesn’t think it’s part of his job to return phone calls from the very constituency he is paid to serve. Had he answered his damn phone, or returned even one of Kori’s calls, Candy-of-the-obnoxious-accent would not now be the subject of YouTube ridicule, would she?

Here’s the way I figure it. If you’re a public official, and you don’t return phone calls to your employerspromptly, we, the employers, should set up 1500 gigawatts of amps outside your home and blast old Sonny and Cher tunes at you (while omitting Cher’s voice) until you return our …. damn … phone … calls!!!!!!

As for Candy’s comment that her husband was too busy serving snotty-nosed brats to return phone calls, I think she should be forced to go to the blackboard and write 10,000 times, “Parents of those snotty-nosed brats help pay my mortgage.”

18 replies »

  1. I cannot fathom or imagine *ANY* responsible adult speaking that way to a student when I was growing up in the 1980s. This woman was hysterically and absurdly unprofessional. There is no excuse for her behavior. This young man called the super at home because it was early in the morning and school had not started yet, obviously. Maybe it was inappropriate, or maybe not. He had a point. He thought it was too dangerous to go to school. So why not call the guy at home and see if he can change his mind? Maybe too bold, but by no stretch of the imagination does it warrant this hysterical response.

    What amazes me is so many people are so blindly supportive of anyone in “authority” they will exercise the kind of twisted judgment that blames the kid instead of the out of line adult. If it were a parent, would they still support this raging lunatic? Somehow, I doubt it.

  2. The boy was not taught manners and have been allowed by his parents to indulge in misbehavior. With his grades, it is no stretch of imagination ot know that a phone call to a private residence is a gross intrusion or harassment especially for a minor inconvenience. Having a cellphone is no licence to indulge in harrassment of the family of a public official. Meredith should take note that the spouse of a public official is not necessarily a trained and paid publid servant who has to answer civilly to snot nosed misbehaving brat like Kori who crossed the boundary. I think the wife is civil enough and did the right thing to protect her family from harrasment. Somebody should publish Kori’s own home phone number so that all and sundry can call his parents, at all sorts of hours, to ask them what type of manners they are teaching their snot nosed kid and see if his parents will continue to answer civilly. Sauce for the goose …

  3. I lack enough details to speak intelligently on this, I suspect, but as someone who has dealt with this generation of students and their parents, I’d be willing to bet that the screeching harpy in question was venting something collective, not individual. That is, it wasn’t Kori, it was that Kori was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Doesn’t make her right, of course, but we’re dealing with the most entitled generation in history (and the parents who made them that way), so until I know more I’m going to be hard pressed to extinguish my suspicion that the administrator’s wife may have been reacting to some legitimate issues.

    As always, this doesn’t have to be an either/or. Both parties might deserve a good flogging….

  4. Calvin:

    And, may I ask, how impolite is it not to return phone calls made to you at work from your constituency?

    Given our history, one problem Americans should not have but DO in spades is a tendency to lick the boots of “public servants” or anyone else “in authority.” If you think that our public servants have no obligation to return phone calls then help yourself.

    I don’t think that way.

  5. So, when did Kori place the first phone call – the one to the administrator’s office? Was it the morning of the “non-snow” day? If so, and Tistadt was in fact at work attempting to decide whether or not to declare a snow day, he was on the phone with weather forecasters, school board members, other principals… trying to make a decision which affected an entire school district, not just one student. I can certainly understand why he may not have been able to drop everything and return Kori’s call at once. Here we watch the news to find out when school is canceled; we don’t expect individual notification or explanation. Kori expressed his opinion with the first message, I’m sure – had he or his parents then decided it was truly dangerous, he could have stayed home. A kid with a 3.9 GPA is not going to be penalized for missing a day with parental permission.

    Of course, Tistadt could have returned Kori’s call later in the day – wait, it was a school day. So Kori would have been… in class. With a cell phone. I have no idea what this district’s policy on cell phone usage and possession is, but I have a strong feeling that students are not encouraged to receive calls in class. I understand that he and his friends are accustomed to being “always available;” he needs to understand that the world does not revolve around his schedule, his wishes, or his convenience.

    I am all for accountability and remembering for whom educators work. I also know that part of our job, in a world where parents increasingly fail to do theirs, is to help students understand the workings of the real world and the most effective ways to function in it. The kid was an ass. The wife lost it. He’s not a grownup. She’s not an educator. Neither is innocent, but neither did anything truly awful… it’s probably a salutary lesson for them both.

    And from a purely practical standpoint, if you don’t want people calling your house, don’t list your number. Jeez.

  6. Thanks for responding, Grace.

    The exact timing of things is unclear, though I’ve read dozens of articles at this point. Some of the articles make it sound as if the orginal phone calls to Kori’s office were the previous day, but others make it sound as if they were that morning.

    I doubt Tistadt was on the phone deciding whether or not to have a snow day, since Kori appears to have called after that decision was made. At least, all the accounts I’ve read suggest that Kori was calling for an explanation about a fait accompli. As for returning Kori’s call during a school day, I think I’ve read somewhere about this newfangled thang called “voice mail,” but maybe I just dreamed it.

    To me, it boils down to “what are you being paid for?” I was up at 2 a.m. this morning on an IM with a client. During my career, I have had many, many, many early-morning and/or late-night phone calls, from home, with clients, who just happened to be my customers. I work for them. I was on salary, not on a clock. Apparently, my clients thought it was appropriate for me to work anywhere, any time. That was generally the way they worked. I wasn’t surprised that they demanded the same from me.

    As I understand it, Tistadt is the COO of the Fairfax County Schools. I suspect he’s paid pretty well. I expect it’s a salaried job. He probably doesn’t punch a clock.

    My question to anyone in the Fairfax County Schools, at this point, would be, “Do you work only 8 to 5 for what the taxpayers are paying you? If so, why? Most of the rest of us are working much longer than that for our customers. Why aren’t you?”

    And Grace, I believe you were a teacher, and I’m sure you were a good one. But I have to tell you that I’m pretty darn tired of hearing teachers complain about what long hours they work, doing lesson plans, grading papers, and the like. I mean, who the hell doesn’t work long hours these days? In what sort of dream world do salaried professionals get 35- or 40-hour work weeks?

    By the way, I think we already have my answer to the question, above. Paul Regnier, PR flack for the school district, is quoted by the AP as saying, “Any call to a public servant’s house is harassment.” Translation: “We don’t return your phone calls from 8 to 5, and we sure as HELL won’t at any other time.”

  7. JSO: I think I’m missing something. Set aside your response to the woman’s shrieking tirade – that, I think, is its own issue. But you seem to be saying that an executive has a responsibility to pick up the phone or return the call when ANYBODY who might be construed as a customer calls. You can’t POSSIBLY mean that, I don’t think, so I’m failing to get the underlying point/assumption.

    If you were saying that, it would mean that the new CEO of Qwest has an obligation to call me back if I have an issue about my new DSL set-up. On the gummit side, and taken to an extreme, it would suggest that Dubya needs to get back to me when I have an issue about his Iraq policy.

    Clearly organizations have channels, and for good reason. Any structure that makes the COO of a large enterprise the point-of-contact for thousands of people is in trouble.

    This still strikes me as a kid making an inappropriate call, and if the response was inappropriate that’s a separate issue. So what is it that I’m not getting here?

  8. Doc:

    When I worked for Airborne Express, it was a Fortune 500 company. We must have had several million customers. Anyone who called the switchboard at the general office and asked for Bob Cline, the Chairman and CEO, was put through immediately. Airborne, despite having less financial muscle than any of its competitors, survived, thrived, and was eventually sold to shareholders’ great advantage.

    A few years after I left Airborne, I had a problem with a shipment I had made with Federal Express. I got not satisfaction from their customer service, so I called the Memphis HQ and asked for Fred Smith, the famous founder of that company. I didn’t get through. I got his assistant. And she solved the problem, immediately.

    The point is, Doc, no one calls the CEO if he/she can get help elsewhere. People call the CEO if they are NOT getting helped. Were I the CEO of Qwest, you can bet that I would set up a system for customers to get through to me if they weren’t getting their problems solved, and you can bet that I would have a staff that would solve those problems immediately, analyze what resources were needed to avoid similar problems, and discipline and/or fire anyone who deserved it.

    Let’s see. Who’s not doing that? Oh yeah. Dell. Have you read any of the websites devoted to hating Dell, lately? What’s Dell’s response? ADVERTISING!!! They’re going to appeal to Mac users! Yeah. That’s the ticket!

    Should public servants return phone calls from their constituents? I’d say that, if they can’t, they’d best have a staff that can, and can do so very efficiently and very, very well. As a voter and taxpayer, I strongly believe that their jobs should depend on it.

  9. Okay, JSO. You’re an org consultant, and a good one. Would you, then, advocate to your clients that they post the home phone numbers of C-level execs on the Web site and encourage customers to call when they felt like it?

  10. Also, two other notes.

    1: You don’t really address my question about Dubya. Does he have an obligation to answer my calls? If not, then there’s an inconsistency in your argument.

    2: You also seem to be saying that an elected official or public servant forfeits his/her right to a private life. There’s an office and an office phone, and that has been assumed to be the locus of the person “at work.” Your new standard seems to eliminate the concept of “not at work.” A public servant is on call 24/7/4ever.

    This seems untenable, at best.

  11. Thanks Doc. You’re using reductio ad absurdum, and I respect that. I find it a very useful tool, myself.

    Let’s take your first question. Would I recommend that C-suite execs publish their home phone numbers? Here’s another story and, oddly, I’m back to my youth as a young pup at Airborne again.

    Before I got there, the CEO was a guy named Holt Webster. The President and COO was Bob Brazier. Airborne was having a serious problem with on-time delivery, so Bob Brazier began (on his own volition, I heard) an ad campaign in which he published his phone number, telling customers that if they didn’t get satisfaction, they should call him at home. AMAZINGLY, Airborne’s service levels and customer service improved dramatically. It seems that most of the people in that company had no desire to have Bob Brazier, the COO, give them a call and have them explain why in the hell he got a phone call from an irate customer at his home when it should have been handled by the local station.

    Airborne went on to have the best (well, tied for the best with FedEx) service levels in the industry (I saw the mystery shipper results a few years later), even though employees at Emery Air Freight started wearing “Calll Bob” T-shirts with Brazier’s phone number on the back (and may I just say that Emery, with twice the revenues of Airborne at the time, didn’t make it?)

    So, if your question meant “would it be a good idea for execs to give out their home phone numbers for irate customers to call,” I’d say “Yes, in most cases.” If you were asking if I would like to get fired for suggesting such a thing, the answer would be, “What, are you crazy?” You know as well as I that many CEOs are among the most fucked up human beings on the face of the earth. To even suggest that they are not God’s gift to mankind is, usually, to be fired.

    Now, on to Dubya. I think I did answer your question when I said this:

    Should public servants return phone calls from their constituents? I’d say that, if they can’t, they’d best have a staff that can, and can do so very efficiently and very, very well.

    I thought I was implying that bureacracy (in its original sense) has its place if used appropriately, but I realize that I was being a bit obtuse.

    I recognize that span of control can be so large that it’s not possible to return all phone calls to constituents (and I would strongly submit that COO of a school district is far from meeting that standard, but we’re dealing with reductio ad absurdum here so that’s beside the abstract point). But if I were a political consultant to a President of the US, I would advise him (or maybe her) to set up a customer service operation to investigate citizen complaints about poor customer service on the behalf of civil servants in the executive branch. And if anyone in that customer service branch needed to come to the POTUS so that he (or maybe she) needed to call and fix it him/herself, so much the better. What better publicity could the POTUS have?

    So, to answer your direct question, the POTUS has an obligation, as a public servant who is paid with your tax dollars, to ensure that you get satisfaction from your employees (which the POTUS is and which everyone who works for him is). That means setting up a system by which you get at least the satisfaction of an answer.

    As to your second question, I’m not suggesting that a public servant has no right to a private life. You put words in my mouth when you used the term “24/7.” What I am saying is that public servants should not be treated any differently from those in the private sector. One would not call an hourly lineman from the phone company at home over a work matter. But one might call a white-collar manager. I have done so, and have had those same people call me. It’s part of getting the job done.

    Calling a public servant at 2 AM at home, without her consent, is harrassment. But, IMO, calling a public servant at 7 PM at home is not. Happens to me all the time. Happens to my wife.

    So, let me send a question your way. Are you suggesting that public servants should be treated better than those in the private sector? If so, why?

    I see no reason why someone paid by tax dollars should be immune to what the rest of us face on a daily basis. For instance, as I was typing this, I got a phone call from a client just two paragraphs ago, and talked for 45 minutes. I’m on a flat rate for the project, so it’s just part of customer service. The client is employing me, and that means something to me.

  12. Whether or not he’s a member of the entitled generation, I’ve got to hand it to a kid who has the balls to call a school administrator at home. Most of them need to be brought down a peg or two anyway.

    What looks like entitlement to some looks like standing up for yourself to others of us.

  13. Maybe. But let me also add a few comments that emerged from a focus groups my partner recently ran with MIlls. These comments are FROM Millennials, by the way, and they represent just a few of the things the participants said about themselves and their cohort:

    Culture: Students were asked about their unique generational culture and how they would describe it. They responded as follows: (all are direct quotes) We have a sense of entitlement Needs: Students were asked what they need. They responded as follows: Instant gratification Marketing: Students were asked how they should be marketed to. They responded as follows: We want to spend and we want to spend immediately. We want immediate pleasure.
    We deserve more; give us more (gift with purchase, etc)
    Debt is our friend, we embrace it
    We are entitled to high quality products
    We are lazy: you have to put it right in front of us
    We don’t want to think or analyze when buying
    We have so much but we are miserable; deep down we are lonely Products: Students were asked what they want in a product. They responded as follows: (all are direct quotes) A catchy phrase is important for a product
    Things have to be sexy
    Looking cool is important to us; so your product should look cool
    We buy with the intention of visible consumption! You clearly have a set of values surrounding what is appropriate behavior for children, and there’s no doubt that our disagreement on this point is probably shaped by the fact that you’re the parent of Millennial children and I’m not. We know that Boomer parents love their Millennial kids, that the kids love them back, and that by and large there’s a reason that we hear over and over again from everybody who deals with them that these are “good kids.”

    But like X and the Boom, it’s a gen with downsides as well as strengths (in their case, strong pro-social habits and great collaboration skills are at the top of the list), and in MY job I talk to a lot of people who manage Mills. It seems to me that you’re seeing a virtue in a tendency that their managers regard as a problem (and from my own experience as a professor teaching them, I have a certain measure of sympathy for their managers).

    I don’t blame the kids because it’s not their fault – it’s something that has been done to them by our culture. But we’re going to have to disagree on this one, I suspect. I’m not here to defend school administrators – sweet fancy Jesus, that’s the LAST thing you’ll ever catch me doing – but a kid calling an administrator at home to complain about a snow day decision?! Sorry, I can’t make myself see that as appropriate.

  14. Doc,

    How do you know the kid was calling to complain? He may have been calling simply to seek an explanation. I could see myself calling and saying something like, “We have three inches of snow on the ground. How do you make your decisions about when to declare a snow day? This decision seems inconsistent with ones you’ve made in the past. What were and are the criteria you use?” Would I not be entitled to answers to those questions?

    On the subject of Mills. First off, I can’t be sure from the research you cite, but it appears that some of the questions asked were not only useless, but if asked first, would have invalidated results from the rest of the session. IMHO, focus group research is among the most dimly understood, misused, and misinterpreted research available, and academics tend to do focus groups more poorly than the private sector (seems impossible, but true in my experience). For instance, asking respondents about their “unique culture” is like asking a fish about the water in which it swims. It’s asking them to step outside the framework of their existence and comment on it, something only a very, very few people do adequately. One might as well try to read copy tattooed on one’s back.

    Focus groups work best when one asks open-ended questions and then interprets the results based on top-of-head responses. It’s also useful to make the first question a control item, because focus groups inevitably drift into minutiae that play little or no part in everyday decisions. Asking about “culture” as a first question would cause the vast majority of focus group respondents to give answers based on what other people have said about them instead of deep thought of their own. Moreover, it would cause respondents to then focus on the stereotype, making them more likely to give stereotypical answers to follow-up questions. Or, at the very least, it would cause those interpreting the results to question the validity of the answers they get.

    This is why good focus group research is videotaped whenever possible, so that interpretation can be modified based on the dynamics of the way certain questions, the introduction of certain information, etc. influence responses. Otherwise, you’ve got mush.

    Now, it’s possible that the researcher asked the question about culture last. That would be OK. But if an ad agency that worked for me asked that question first, I would be quite likely to fire whoever designed the research.

    Doc, I spent a great deal of time answering your question, and you haven’t answered mine. Are you suggesting that public servants should be treated better than those in the private sector? If so, why?

    And let me add a question, if I may. I believe I’ve mentioned the Mill young lady who recently graduated from a local high school. She won the Intel International Science Fair. She was in the top 10 for the Junior Nobel Prize. She was one of the top cross-country runners in the state and was offered athletic scholarships at a number of Division 1 programs.

    I know that my Boomer high school record doesn’t match up very well with hers. How does yours match up?

  15. How do you know the kid was calling to complain? He may have been calling simply to seek an explanation.

    A kid engages in this kind of really inappropriate behavior and you’re going to assume the best of motives? Hunh. I’m not learning any more about the kid, obviously, but you’re teaching me some things about you. One thing that the Boomer authors of Millennials Rising note is the unprecedented degree to which Boomer parents seem to worship their own kids and their kids’ contemporaries.

    You’ve dealt with school administrators who needed a good caning, I have no doubt. So it seems like you see this story and sort of map it onto your own experience, which is what we ALL do. Can’t fault you for that. But if you can look at the details we have and your question to me is how do I know it wasn’t a heroic kid upbraiding a punk administrator, then what that really seems to demonstrate is that you don’t KNOW, either. But you’re fighting really hard for a theory that isn’t backed by much actual evidence. So why are you so invested in this theory?

    Doc, I spent a great deal of time answering your question, and you haven’t answered mine. Are you suggesting that public servants should be treated better than those in the private sector? If so, why?

    I’ve never suggested anything of the sort. I thought my earlier comments made my position clear, but if not, let me say it this way. I think the situation we’re talking about constituted inappropriate behavior regardless. And I still don’t see where you addressed my question about your criteria – to wit, are you saying that all public officials should take calls 24/7? THIS guy clearly should, and if it’s not all of them I’m wondering how he differs from other officials.

    And let me add a question, if I may. I believe I’ve mentioned the Mill young lady who recently graduated from a local high school. She won the Intel International Science Fair. She was in the top 10 for the Junior Nobel Prize. She was one of the top cross-country runners in the state and was offered athletic scholarships at a number of Division 1 programs.

    I know that my Boomer high school record doesn’t match up very well with hers. How does yours match up?

    I know you to be a smart, accomplished master of the rhetorical, JSO, so I can only assume you’re offering up this non-question to test me. But I’ll play along. In short, the details of a particular case in no way address the issue of a generation’s collective character – there are such things as exceptions, you know. Further, she constitutes nothing special taken in context because I imagine they give those awards to outstanding students EVERY year. So she’s great, but so were last year’s winners and all the other years’ winners all the way back as long as they have given the awards. I can’t begin to imagine how you think that a Mill winning some awards is in any way an indictment of the Boomer or X generations. You think she’s more accomplished than all the Xers and Boomers were, and that her one instance disproves volumes of research about her generation?

    Clearly you’re funning with me.

  16. Doc, now really,

    All I said about the kid was, “How do you know the kid was calling to complain?” after you said, “but a kid calling an administrator at home to complain about a snow day decision?!” I was simply questioning your statement that implies that you know both what the kid said and the motive. I wasn’t assuming the best. I don’t know what the kid said or what his motive was. I was simply throwing out another alternative to your bald statement. Was I wrong to suggest that there might have been another alternative?

    Or were you speaking ex cathedra on that point?

    As for mapping to my own experience, of course I am. I know many scores of Mills, many of whom are way more focused, accomplished, and artistically skilled than I was at their ages. But you’re mapping too, Doc. You’ve been teaching at 5th rate universities, scattering pearls before 10th rate students, and then comparing them to the students you remember from your own undergrad experience at an elite university. That just HAS to be frustrating. But I know you well enough to know that you’re not the kind to let your frustration cloud your critical faculties. Yes, I know. I know. You’re quick to say, “Well, I wasn’t talking about ALL millenials,” but then you so often use Korzybskian allness terms when you speak of them. What are we to think?

    I’m just trying to point out those statements, Doc.

    OK, now let’s get to the personal part. You know that I’m a boomer and that I have kids. So, you go and say:

    I’m not learning any more about the kid, obviously, but you’re teaching me some things about you. One thing that the Boomer authors of Millennials Rising note is the unprecedented degree to which Boomer parents seem to worship their own kids and their kids’ contemporaries.

    Now, Doc, this is really not nice, and you know it. You are not attacking the argument, but the person. If I’m defending this kid, it can’t be because I’m rational and simply disagree with you, it must be because there’s something wrong with me. I’m “teaching you some things” about me, the implication being that you have lost respect for me. That I have somehow diminished in your eyes. And it’s because I’m one of those that “seem to worship their own kids and their kids’ contemporaries.”

    Now, would this sort of argument have worked on, say, your PhD committee? Do you think they might have pointed out the logical fallacy? Why would you expect this to work on me? Has your estimation of my mental faculties really fallen so far?

    I can assure you that I worship nothing. Absolutely nothing (well, OK, I admit that what I feel drinking a cold, cold beer on a blistering hot day after mowing the lawn comes pretty close, but I still wouldn’t call it “worship”). I have had specific problems with Mills in administrative roles not understanding that a change in one part of the process (like cancelling hotel rooms) means that one has to change other parts (like cancelling flights). I find that plain weird. My untested hypothesis is that they’ve learned problem solving from help menus. I have had other problems with Mills who have an attitude that getting it done just any old time will suffice. I also find that weird.

    But I’m not down on Mills. I know too many with stunning credentials.

    Look, Doc, you accuse me of “fighting really hard for a theory that isn’t backed by much actual evidence.” I agree. I thought I’d made it quite clear that I’m fighting for principle of having public servants, our employees, return our phone calls. But you’re going from just as little evidence, and fighting (from my perspective) a lot harder and a lot nastier.

    What’s your personal investment in all this?

    I think I have a good guess.

  17. All I said about the kid was, “How do you know the kid was calling to complain?” after you said, “but a kid calling an administrator at home to complain about a snow day decision?!” I was simply questioning your statement that implies that you know both what the kid said and the motive.

    If it’s your position that I can’t trust what the story you cite says, why did you post it?

    You’re quick to say, “Well, I wasn’t talking about ALL millenials,” but then you so often use Korzybskian allness terms when you speak of them. What are we to think?

    Well, if it’s thinking we’re after, then I’d say we pay attention to two things. First, the nature of conversations about collectives, and surely I don’t need to quote Dr. Johnson to you here. Second, I’d say you account for all the times when I have spoken about the positive qualities of the Millennial generation. Like here, for instance. And like in the development meetings for the last project you worked on with me (you weren’t in those meetings, I know, but the whole premise was built around the character of the Mills and structured to their obvious strengths).

    Now, Doc, this is really not nice, and you know it. You are not attacking the argument, but the person. If I’m defending this kid, it can’t be because I’m rational and simply disagree with you, it must be because there’s something wrong with me. I’m “teaching you some things” about me, the implication being that you have lost respect for me. That I have somehow diminished in your eyes. And it’s because I’m one of those that “seem to worship their own kids and their kids’ contemporaries.”

    See, that’s the crux of the problem here. I’m not ATTACKING ANYTHING OR ANYBODY. You especially. I’m observing the nature of the relationship between two generations, and am pointing out something that I first learned FROM YOUR CONTEMPORARIES. Further, I rarely find a Boomer who disagrees with the point. In fact, one of the most vocal proponents of this dynamic is our S&R colleague, Jim. If I’m wrong about motivations it isn’t because I disrespect you – that’s the single most amazing thing anybody has said to me all week – it’s because I see something happening that doesn’t make good sense to me based on the evidence I have, so I’m looking for possible factors that help me explain it. The fact that I have seen the very thing I’m talking about more times than I can count causes me to suspect that it might well be involved. May not be, but if we’re testing hypotheses, it’s an obvious starting point. That’s all.

    Look, Doc, you accuse me of “fighting really hard for a theory that isn’t backed by much actual evidence.” I agree. I thought I’d made it quite clear that I’m fighting for principle of having public servants, our employees, return our phone calls. But you’re going from just as little evidence, and fighting (from my perspective) a lot harder and a lot nastier.

    I’m sorry if you’ve perceived nastiness in anything I’ve said – I assure you none has been intended (toward you, anyway, although I might be guilty of being harsh on the kid who started it all). And I’m fine – as I’ve said two or three times – with the idea that officials are probably as bad as you think they are, and maybe worse. I say this as a guy who spent a lot of years in the university system as a student and professor, and my suspicion is that I harbor more ill will toward them as a group that even you do, although that’s not terribly relevant.

    But I have been suspicious of your apparent belief that they should have to take ALL our calls ALL the time. That strikes me as a recipe for disaster, and I’ve asked you three times to explain more about how this policy ought to work. You’re damned good when you get to examining a system, so I’m a little suprised that you don’t have some policy specifics for me to consider. In at least one or two cases you’ve been better at this than me ON MY OWN POLICIES (that last DS08 proposal, for instance).

    What’s your personal investment in all this?

    I think I have a good guess.

    Well, fill me in, then. I’ve felt like I was pretty obvious and transparent all along. I thought the kid was out of line (unless there are some missing pieces of info that change the story). A call from the kid’s parents wouldn’t have bothered me as much, probably, and yeah, I do have a hard time siding with the administrator, which is why I said in the first comment (and at least once since) that I don’t see thinking the kid was wrong as a necessary statement that the COO was right.

    If your suspicion is that I hate Millennials, I’ll invite you to observe the next time a project requires me to work directly with them so you can draw your own conclusions. We also have am mutual colleague who was in the room the last time it happened, and he can offer his views on the subject. I’m also in touch, from time to time, with former Mill students (at least two of who I know read and occasionally comment at S&R), and they might have insights.

    I’m periodically frustrated with them, of course, but if we can speak generally for a moment, I know that nothing I have ever done or said touches the scorn that your generation rained down on mine. We’re all slackers, seemed to be the narrative. But I understand where those feelings came from, and while they’re wrong (as the Boomer authors of 13th Gen explained), it’s not hard to see why Boomers thought what they did.

    In the end, the thing you hear people say over and over again about Millennials – to the point where it might as well be the motto for the whole generation – is that they’re “good kids.” And they are, at least generally. We can find bad examples, as we can in any group of 75-100 million, right? This has been my experience, as well. A lot of my students, despite their weaknesses, were good kids. Your daughter is a fantastic kid, from what I can tell. Booth’s kids are pig-headed as hell, but are great kids. The kids I worked with on that last project struck me as kids any parent would be proud of.

    However, they also bear the characteristics of their generation, and that means they come with bad news as well. My initial comment on the kid who started this all off was that “we’re dealing with the most entitled generation in history.” Okay, I haven’t dealt with all generations in history, so literally speaking that was hyperbole. However, they ARE an entitled group, and I’m not sure I can point to a single analysis on them that I’ve ever read that doesn’t make the point. Even the ones that celebrate them most uncritically say it. They say it about themselves. Their parents say it. And my own thousands of hours of research and direct observation and engagement validate the point.

    If you (or any other reader) took my remarks personally, that wasn’t the point and I’m sorry. I do stand by the basic facts, as they are agreed upon by every analyst I have encountered, and for the record, there’s plenty collectively wrong with MY generation, too.

  18. Hey Doc,

    Why are you quoting Johnson in a field that Korzybski and his successors took over long ago? Isn’t that a bit like quoting Newton on the behavior of mass at relativistic speeds? Newton was brilliant, but I’ll go with Einstein on that one.

    As for your assertion that you weren’t attacking anything or anybody, I don’t buy it and I have no reason to accept an apology, because the non-apology apology that was made is no apology at all. I can read. I know what you said, and I ‘m pretty darn sure I know what you meant.

    It was very, very clear.

    The funny thing is, though, I think you really still don’t get it. Let me try a Dr. Slammy-type statement to see if I can hit something that resonates.

    Pseudo-Dr Slammy:

    but as someone who has dealt with this race of people and their apologists, I’d be willing to bet that the screeching harpy in question was venting something collective, not individual. That is, it wasn’t Kori, it was that Kori was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Doesn’t make her right, of course, but we’re dealing with the most entitled race in history (and the enablers who made them that way), so until I know more I’m going to be hard pressed to extinguish my suspicion that the administrator’s wife may have been reacting to some legitimate issues.

    I changed exactly five words from your previous post.

    Do you see? You have used a generational stereotype to condemn an individual. It’s not that stereotypes don’t have some basis in fact. Of course they do. But the trap, and there is strong evidence that this trap is hard-wired into us human beings, is in applying broad stereotypes to individuals. When we do that, we do such things as send young African-American men to prison because, well, they’re part of a group of people that commits a lot of crimes, aren’t they? They must be guilty or, at the very least, we must have a strong prejudice, a lean, toward the fact that they are probably guillty.

    Marketers are like cops. They shoot for the center of mass. I give people a lot of leeway when they’re in marketing discussions and make broad, stereotypical comments about segmented groups because I understand that they’re looking for buying behavior among a group that falls near the regression line on a scatter chart.

    But I don’t extend that courtesy outside the realm of marketing, because that sort of generalization is a human failing that has caused much human suffering in the past.