Generation Z and the Millennials: They Aren’t a Band
As an educator, my life has been devoted to educating our youth. Since I was five, I have either been a students or teacher (with the exception for a one year break when I was 23…I got married). As a student I evolved from a classic, distracted underachiever to a doctoral student with a 3.97. As a teacher I have taught everything from English as a Second Language in a native school in the Republic of the Marshall Islands to Career Research to Advanced Placement Language and Composition. As a faculty member at two different universities I have taught students from anywhere from their first year to teacher certification classes to graduate curriculum classes to doctoral classes on learning theory. Over the course of my career, I have learned one thing. Students are amazing.
There is much public consternation over the youngest generations—Generation Z and the Millennials. Both of these generations have been characterized as being needy, entitled, having short attention spans, and without focus. Well, that is the media argument. That is an excuse.
The Millennials, perhaps the most criticized generation by the media is been maligned for seeming indifference and entitlement. But, where does the fault lie? This generation grew up during a time of great prosperity. There was lots of money. Technology was exploding. America was on top. The Soviet Union fell. They grew up with many advantages. Yet, now we blame them for having high expectations. But, this generation now has their own children and see this world as needing change. Their children are in our schools. They are now settled into life. They have the ability to multi-task, are tech-savvy, are creative problem-solvers, are driven, and are socially conscious.
Generation Z, those born from 1995 on, are independent, have only lived with technology, are adaptable, and are global citizens. In addition, based on my experience, they are socially conscious and are incredibly open in celebrating all people. There are few preconceived notions about people and want to get to know people for who they are, not how they are labeled.
So, what is the point? Why focus on these groups?
On March 24, I attended the CSRA March for Our Lives march and rally. This was organized by four young women, high school students, as their way of saying, “This is enough!” This does not seem like a disenfranchised generation. This does not seem to be a group that is needy. This does not seem like a group with a short attention span. In fact, it is just the opposite. This protest, organized by Generation Z and attended by both, shows the power that these groups have. They are tired of the world they were given and are screaming out for change.
In Changes, David Bowie sang, “And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they are going through.” These young people, Generation Z and the Millennials, are quite aware of what they are going through. They see the cynicism, the conflict, the intolerance, the violence, the broken government, the fracturing American psyche. However, the country is ripe for change and these are the changers. No longer will they rely on older generations to do things for them. They are going to take control of their future and make a change for the better.
And they are voters. And they will vote.
So, Generation Z and Millennials, you have a chance to make a difference. Go out in droves and vote. Don’t let apathy and indifference be the status quo.
You will make a difference.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am an candidate for the School Board of Columbia County, District 3.
On February 15, 2008, I sat down with my then 8-year-old daughter. She asked what was going on? She wanted to know what everyone was talking about. She had heard bad things. What I realized was that she was asking, “Are we safe?”
That is because on February 14, 2008, at 3:05pm, Steven Kazmierczak walked into Cole Hall at Northern Illinois University (where I was faculty) and opened fire into a lecture hall with a shotgun and three pistols (a Glock 19, and SIG Sauer P232, and an ACP Hi-Point CF380). He had eight full magazines.
Over the next few minutes, he shot 23 people of which six died.
At 3:03pm, I was sitting in my office in Gabel Hall, about 300 yards away. I was lucky. As the shooting started, I was leaving my office and walking out to my car the opposite direction. As I left the parking lot, all I saw were police, helicopters, fire rescue, and ambulances. It was a swarm. I thought, “What is going on?’ I quickly switched on the radio to local news and heard.
I called my wife and told her to turn on the news.
As a parent, you know that there are difficult conversations that you are going to have to have. There is, “The Talk.” You will have to talk about loved ones dying. There are breakups. There are lost friendships. But, nowhere in the parenting manual is there a chapter on, “Are we safe?” Nowhere in the rules for being a parent does it tell you that you need to worry about your child being shot at school.
Today, I spent my morning and early afternoon at a remarkable event. A group of students organized a March For Our Lives event in Columbia County, Georgia. The turnout was amazing. There was a march, a rally, chants… There were impassioned speeches from students. There were people of many races, religions, persuasions, and ages. It was truly moving.
People often criticize millennials. But, what I saw today gives me hope for the future.
Young people can make a difference.
We need to support these children in their endeavors. In this area, during the March 14 walkout, many schools were giving three day In-school Suspensions for walking out. I argue that we should march with the students. We should support them. We should make sure they are safe. The schools, the teachers, the administrations should all help our students become members of our democracy.
These are our children and our future.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
Over the course of the last few months, I have written and spoken endlessly about the desperate need for critical and creative thinking in our schools. I haven’t given many details about how we can do that, so I am going to give you an example. Let me preface this by saying that this is not the only way to do this, but something I have done.
This semester, at Augusta University, I have been teaching a First Year Experience class for first year students. The theme for the year was Heroes and Humans. We were able to create any course we wanted to around this theme. My course was titled, “Students as Heroes: Becoming and Activist.” The idea of this course was for groups of students to find a cause of concern, research it, write about it, create a social media presence, and design a webpage. Some of the obvious areas of study were research, writing, marketing, rhetoric and persuasion, history (of the cause), technology, and communications.
For the class, the students came up with the following causes that they wanted the greater university to become more aware of:
Preservation of Public Space and Environmental Awareness
Animal Rights and Sea World
For this project, they were to create flyers, sign up students to get more information, and start campus conversations about their topics. As the final project, all students in the First Year Experience classes campus-wide have an Expo to share what they did in class. There are presentation boards, laptop computers, projectors, and presentations. My class, to promote communication, did little in terms of “presentation,” but went person to person to talk about what they had studied. They had people sign petitions so they could get more information. The person that studied HIV Awareness handed out condoms (remember, this is a college class and it was her idea—in fact it was a condom with a mint…condomints).
So, as the students studied areas of interest and things that ignited their passions, they were able to think critically about issues and what they truly meant. They had to make decisions about how to convince others, market their ideas, and persuade their peers about their causes. They creatively reached out to the public through their websites, some groups created buttons, others created social media campaigns.
The idea behind the First Year Experience class is to teach inquiry. To ask questions. To seek out answers. To research. To learn. In my class, we did all of those things. In addition, hopefully, the students became more aware of the world around them and started thinking deeply about their community and the greater good.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am a candidate for the Columbia County, Georgia, School Board for District 3.
Attached are photos from the Expo where they shared their ideas.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
Over the last few weeks, a number of people have asked me why I am running for the school board. This question has tumbled around in my head bouncing from the specific to the abstract, from the idealistic to the practical. Over the last few days for some reason, it has started to become more clear and tangible.
I love my children. I want them to have a happy and healthy future. I want them to be successful in life and to be active members of society. I want them prepared for the complexities of living in this society.
Our schools aren’t doing that. Even schools that are considered excellent, like in Columbia County, are severely lacking when it comes to any kind of preparation for life. I know. We have “college and career readiness” programs and curriculum. That isn’t a preparation for life. That is a preparation for the workforce. Life is more than a job.
Life is about being able to consider various viewpoints and make a decision.
Life is about being able to take a stand.
Life is about being comfortable with who you are and be able to celebrate that.
Life is about finding creative solutions to problems.
Life is about finding what you love and pursuing it.
Life is about thinking critically about the world around you.
Life is about caring about your peers, neighbors, community, and world.
Life is about processing information to create new and innovative ideas.
Life is about discovering who you are, what you believe, and what is important.
Our schools aren’t doing that. We are so concerned with test scores, money, being right, and striving to be the best, that we have lost sight of childhood. We demand academic greatness, but at what cost?
Why am I running? Because we can do it better. We can take what we do well and expand it. We can create schools that not only achieve high marks on the measures that are given, but also create meaningful learning environments.
I know this is an odd reference, but in the movie Footloose (the Kevin Bacon one), Reverend Shaw (played by John Lithgow) says, “If we don't start trusting our children... how will they ever become trustworthy?” Well, the same is true about our schools. If we don’t let our children think, analyze, discover, and create….how will they ever be able to think, analyze, discover, and create?
Why am I running? I want my daughters, no, I want all children to not be so consumed with the content of school that they miss out on living. I want all children to be active members of their communities, of society, and of the country. I want all children to be able to think for themselves and be able to made decisions.
My name is Andrew Kemp. The reason I am running for the Columbia County, Georgia School Board for District 3 is to take what we do well, and move it forward so that all students can have the knowledge, skills, and background to live a successful and happy life.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
Well, it is official. Today around 10am I filled out the final paperwork for qualifying for the election. I gave the name as I wanted to see it on the ballot (I hope I didn’t misspell.). I sent out my financial disclosure forms. I formally created my campaign committee. I am an official candidate for Columbia County (Georgia) School Board, District 3. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would run for public office. But, times are such that I had to do something.
The reason that I am running for this office is to try to help change what we are doing in schools. Now, don’t get me wrong. The schools in Columbia County are great. But, our education system is so focused on right and wrong, black and white, yes and no, that we are missing the context of creativity and critique.
We need to rethink what we are doing. Now, I am a realist. I know that in this educational climate, testing and money go hand in hand. However, there are ways to teach, curricula that can be designed, and materials that can be used in which test scores stay high, but students also can think creatively. They can act critically. They can problem solve. They can discover. They can explore. They can grow.
That is my plan. Yes, I know that dealing with school issues, zoning, budgeting and other things is part of the position. But, it can be more than that.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I have qualified for the election as a candidate for Columbia County School Board, District 3. Please help me move forward.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.