Bernie and His Millennials


I know these Millennials screaming Bernie’s name. I’ve taught them. And at the risk of being forever blackballed from academia, I have to say they function from a motif of hate and inertia. Bernie Sanders has knowingly promoted both of those red flags of danger.

ccpa-fqxiaa8sjpThey hate reading. The first week of class, their disavowal of this basic act of learning comes through loud and clear. One after another, they declare their antipathy, each reinforcing another in giddy delight. They do not read books. They do not read newspapers or magazines. For them, reading consists of their Twitter feed and Facebook posts.

The curriculum department tries hard to overcome this. It designs courses with lots of videos, interactive lessons, three-minute audio podcasts, live tutors to take their hands and walk them through the intricacies of a thesis statement. None of it helps.

They hate research because of course, that requires reading. It demands they attend to the ideas of another, use their intelligence to gather, compare, contrast, distinguish fact from opinion.

Their hatred of research does not extend to sourcing out an essay factory, however. These students are quite capable of locating these, paying their $50 and submitting someone’s fairly well-constructed persuasive essay as their own creation. Again and again, term after term, this happens. I don’t need Turnitin to recognize the fabrication, though it is required to submit a plagiarism charge.

They hate authority. This is not simply an act of defiance as they undergo a maturation process. No, their antipathy to that “power” is a stubborn, spoiled brattiness that seeps over into entitlement. It is an egocentric denial of other. Other in this case equates to an instructor who is outside their age range, experiential knowledge, educational achievement. Their hatred is rooted in the knowledge that a college instructor has the “power” to tell them what’s required for success or failure in a course. This abhorrence peaked when a student called me a “Nazi” for daring to control her disruptive outbursts – but it happened even before that moment. I became a Nazi to her the second week of the course when I challenged her to push her opinionated comments into the realm of fact.

I’ve met with these groups for seven years now. Each term, their resistance becomes stronger. Each term, I wonder how much longer I can continue the facade of educator.

So when I see the thousands of college students flocking to Bernie Sanders and chanting his name in a delirious chorus, I see those students who pass in and out of my classes with their hate-filled visions and their disdain for work.

When I hear Bernie and the simplistic declarations of his own hate, I understand exactly why he is attractive to this group. He demands no intelligent analysis. He demands no convoluted thought. Rather than call on them to do the hard work of change, Bernie tells them to DEMAND it. He offers them repetition – the same lines without variance. We in education know how this works. Repeat the same thing six times, and voila, a connection.

Bernie projects his own victimhood onto these minds, and it dovetails with their disgruntlement, their demand for reparations, their need for entitled status. When he says the process is corrupt, they cheer. Of course, it is corrupt, they think, recalling the professor who flunked them for plagiarism; the employer who fired them for insubordination; the mother who kicked them out of the house; the girlfriend who left them, the bully who punched them in second grade.

Bernie doesn’t ask that they discriminate. No, he promotes hatred as a mantra and a Demand as the answer. So it is no surprise that the Bernies threw a fit in Nevada. The “corrupt system” is the Democratic party itself. And again, they are the victims. Their demands were met with failure. So they screamed vulgarities, jumped up and down, swung chairs in the air, stampeded the dais. Now “Nazi” is replaced with “cunt.” Now disturbing a classroom elevates into death threats.

But mostly, Bernie tells them they are special; they are the revolution; they will rid the planet of all the nasty people, i.e. The Establishment. They eat it up. Because in their heart of hearts (but not in their cognitive realm) they know The Establishment is a big, mean, ugly monster that must be put down. They have absolutely no concept of what replaces the Monster. They’ll let Bernie figure it out.

Bernie encourages that hate. He has mobilized inertia into a state of obscene hostility. And for this, he is the monster.

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33 thoughts on “Bernie and His Millennials

  1. Having just come off the Bernie glow of his presentation in Santa Fe, yesterday, this article seems a little harsh to me. However, I find it thought provoking. I will, in a while, read this again and probably think about it all day. I want to tease out your frustration in teaching ( having been in eduction part of my career, I understand your consens) but lumping an entire generation into one set of behaviors is always a red- flag for me. The undertone of “ageism” is also palitable, though, on the other hand I did laugh when a friend of mine compared the “rally” to a Greatful Dead concert ( imbed what meaning you like there ). My truths are, this morning, that none of these candidates present as a viable option for me. Neither am I looking forward to being aged and infirm with millennials at the helm. But I do believe Bernie speaks a truth that has to be heard.

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    • Donna, I do hope you will read my post again. I think you’ll discover that I was not generalizing but writing from my experience with students known as Millennials. It’s hard to dispute someone’s experience. As far as “ageism”, I’m not sure what you mean. I am talking about a generation, the same generation that is identified as primary supporters of Bernie. Every generation has its peculiarities.

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  2. As a millennial & Hillary Clinton supporter who values facts, I take great issue with this essay. To argue that all millennials are non-thinking, entitled brats is just wrong. You don’t generalize an entire group of people based on the bad behaviors of a portion. This is Trump supporter logic. And quite frankly, I know a lot of ignorant, racist, sexist baby boomers who completely disregard facts and have zero critical thinking skills. Oh, and look, I can find articles that I, A BRAINLESS MILLENNIAL, actually read!

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    • Dakota, thanks for your comment. In looking over your Twitter timeline, I have to question your statement that you are a “Hillary Clinton supporter.” In fact, your TL reveals much about you. I won’t go into detail except to say that I don’t see any thoughtful references to the Washington Post.

      Your links have been removed. Please follow the instructions when posting. 😉

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  3. Grace, this is an excellent article. I taught college English until 1999 and I saw this growing year by year. I would have students who could barely read and write who were somehow rewarded for this in high school telling me, ‘Professor, you don’t understand, I’m an A student!’, waving their C paper like it was an affront to their dignity. They often didn’t want to learn how to write the A paper, but just wanted to be given one. They saw college as little more than vocational ed, not as a place of higher learning. Back when I was teaching, we didn’t have twitter and facebook and Instagram so I can just imagine how it is now. I always had a compliment of students who did appreciate my effort and did learn and grow and that kept me going. But I also had the college athlete who left death threats on my answering machine because I gave him an F and he lost his athletic scholarship. That was my fault, you see, even though he only came to class once and never turned in any work at all. His coach tried to persuade me to change the grade, as though I could somehow give a higher grade to someone who had not done any work, nor attended class. So I feel your pain and I think this was a brave and accurate article and should be mandatory reading for everyone with a child of any age. You can’t wait until college to teach children critical thinking; it has to be modeled in the home. And early.

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    • Thank you for sharing your own experience as a teacher. You mentioned that there was always a group of students who responded to learning, and I want to add my agreement with that. My courses are always populated with a number of veterans, and I can count on these fine folks to follow through with any assignment, ask questions when they are puzzled, and in every way commit themselves to their education. They understand self-discipline, and this is the defining character trait for success. The second group of hard-working and committed students are the New Americans – students who have come to the US as refugees or asylees. When I consider that their native language is not English, I am always amazed. I put myself in their shoes: if I was 18 or 20 and fled to another country, say France or Spain, and had to learn a new language in order to earn a college degree, I know it would be a tremendous struggle.

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    • Saundra, my how things have changed. I must have had a very brave and visionary Freshman English teacher when I started college back in 1975. I will never forget the first paper we wrote. Out of a class of 30 or so the grades were 29 Fs and 1C. The second paper was about half Cs and the rest Fs again. She gave us the option to come to her office for personal tutoring to lift our grades. You should have heard the gnashing of teeth and wild complaining about how it would ruin their GPA and might cause them to have to drop the class or be booted from the University. I was among the few students who completed the class (with a B if I remember correctly) and went to see her in her office many times. I really don’t think any teacher would be allowed to do this today. Back in those days the students did not do critiques on their professors. This is just one of the many reasons why we can no longer compete in the world. Our young people cannot communicate effectively, cannot do higher level math, and are basically, except for a few individuals, inept.

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  4. Coming from a millennial who enjoys to read and do research, I say you’re spot on. I’ll start by being honest and I will say that I have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and I’ve been in treatment for it for many years now. I’m glad I am aware of it and I have control over it. There are still people who I disrespect and annoy simply for the fun of it, but those people aren’t analytical thinkers like Hillary Clinton who tell us to be reasonable and mature. I like maturity and I value intellect, and I like that her platforms do require a lot of reading and thinking. However, I would be Bernie’s worst nightmare because I don’t take the guy seriously at all. Why? Because of everything you just said. And these kids? They wouldn’t be my friends.

    If any of these kids have actual issues, they might be my friends. The rest are whiny kids complaining about our system while carrying iPhones and the nice laptops their mommies and daddies bought them. Look at them bitching about Capitalism while carrying those accessories. Look at them whine about everything without taking responsibility to change it for themselves. Incase you haven’t noticed, I don’t like ungrateful people who think that demanding things is going to get them things. You know what you do to get these people to do what you want them to do? You actually approach them and talk to them like an adult. You find common ground with them and with enough time, you get them to respect you. Then, if you must, you make negotiations. That’s when things change. If all you do to them is demand, they won’t listen. If an authority figure demands me to do something, I certainly won’t do it and I’ll definitely pester them for my own pleasure.

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    • Laura, thank you for your insight. I think this sentence is spot on:

      I don’t like ungrateful people who think that demanding things is going to get them things.

      Also, I understand that communication is the key. I have ten weeks to work with a class of 25-30 students, and it’s a challenge. There are some who enter the classroom with walls up and depending on their age, may have very negative residual experiences from high school or another university. Sometimes we reach accord, and sometimes not. But if you can imagine, a college professor’s job becomes increasingly difficult when we are expected to work with our student’s emotional issues in addition to our primary task of guiding them through new learning.

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  5. This is a great essay but it would be stronger if you spelled millennial correctly (two Ns). Feel free to delete this comment after making the correction.

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  6. Holy Smokes! The most powerful and spot-on piece I’ve read this entire election season.

    Shared widely.

    Some of these kids undoubtedly have unrecognized or poorly managed neurocognitive conditions—brain-based challenges with attention, complex thought, and delayed gratification.

    Others, however, have been weaned on an unremitting diet of “dopamine overload” via electronic devices to which they are unnaturally attached and attuned. Anyone who dismisses the effect on their brain of these devices dismisses brain science.

    Excellent piece. Thank you!

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  7. Millennials is spelled with two “n”s. Like Annual. I only mention it to be helpful, not to be the spelling police.

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  8. Great insight!

    To me, Sanders is someone that we’ve all come across at some point in our lives. A fool with a cause. My grandmother, would have probably called him a scatabout, or something similar. Always mad about something that if they could get attention for awhile, that would do. You see them on college campuses, on soap boxes. They’re in it for the attention, little more. When one on one relationships lose their zing, the relationship fizzles and they’re on to the next high. Usually a cause lasts longer than a one on one relationship, because it provides more adrenaline because it has more people to feed it. People will feed it to the detriment of other areas of their lives, evolving into possible a mob personality. Sort of like Woodstock. It was a concert. People have great memories from it. There are those however, who live it for longer, and it becomes their way of life.
    Here are two of the posts I’ve written about him. With every day that goes on with some news, about throwing money, throwing chairs, confirms my thoughts. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ http://www.sadiesgathering.com/2016/02/what-i-dont-get-what-i-do.html
    http://www.sadiesgathering.com/2016/04/he-just-doesnt-care.html

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    • Right on, Sadie!

      I do believe (and his archived writing proves) that he is locked into a persona that is frozen in time. I also have strong beliefs about his trumped-up revolution vs a true revolution. One of these is that he will crash when he finally suspends his campaign (adrenaline drop), and that his revolution will also wither away. The fact that the revolution is directly connected to a public figure and a public event means that it is fabricated. A true revolutionary works when the spotlight has dimmed and there are no media around. They work tirelessly, without recognition, for years. And a “political revolution” occurs outside the status quo, not within it and as a functioning part of the status quo.

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      • We are about to elect our first woman POTUS after over 200 years of women being excluded from the most powerful position in the world.
        It’s the real revolution.
        I think she’s going to be one of our greatest ever and a lot of people are going to regret being on the wrong side of history.

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  9. I work and go to college and have a great GPA. The things Sanders and supporters like me want is what was promised to us. Affordable education, affordable housing and a higher standard of living than our parents that’s the American Dream. My generation is on track for living worse off not because of our own fault. Walmart is the biggest employer in the U.S. Is that our fault that the only jobs politicians decidied to keep were low paying and requires welfare to life healthily? You people are a joke and are lying and smearing to get your first woman candidate. My 90 year old grandmother said, “It would be nice to get a woman in the white house just not Hillary, she’s not honest” This woman welded ships for the war and made the explosive primer for the bullets they used. My grandmother is a perfectly sane and a saint of a woman and she knows what is going on, reads two newspapers front and back everyday. Please stop spreading more lies and hurting yourself. I will be at the convention and so will thousands of others to PEACEFULLY protest and show how democracy actually gets things done and stops corrupt people like Hillary from entering into the White House.

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    • That was a sad commentary on what millennials expect. Those of us that came before you were not promised affordable education, affordable housing, nor a higher standard of living. Who promised you these things? We struggled, incurred school loans, lived within our means, and worked at how ever many jobs we had to. After years, even decades, of sacrifice and debt, we started to see more prosperity because of our determination and work ethic. No one promised us what you think you are entitled to. Good for you with a great GPA. But that only entitles you to be qualified to get into graduate school. It doesn’t mean you win the lottery.
      You were promised impossible dreams by Sanders. And you bought into his hogwash that the government owes you life on easy street. He lied to all of you. And you believed his overstated promises. There will always be millionaires and billionaires. But there are many more who worked hard to achieve success and acquire wealth. We are not now ready to be taxed so much more to make your life instantly better. And I speak for the majority of people over 45. Does that make us corrupt?
      God bless your grandmother for her service to our country. But buying into this smear job about Hillary Clinton from print journalism, MSM, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and the entire GOP is very sad. For decades, Hillary Clinton has been consistently chosen as the most admired woman in the world. Her honesty and integrity has been harpooned by the far left and far right of this country because she is a threat to the male-dominated country we live in. Women aren’t voting for her because she’s a woman. It’s because she is extremely intelligent, pragmatic, well-versed in foreign policy. In essence, the most qualified to be president.
      Your “Bern The Convention 2016” attitude and actions aren’t cool. In fact, they will make you and the other Berners look like Anarchists and fools. If you disrupt our Democratic Convention, you will hurt our chance to win the presidency and at least the Senate. You will not be teaching us a lesson. You and your precious Bernie will forever be ostracized and looked upon like children throwing a tantrum. Your protest will not show how democracy gets done, as you say. It will bring more embarrassment to a group of sore Bernie losers. Enough!

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      • I agree with everything you said. Who promised these kids anything? My parents worked like hell and started after WWII. The worked their way up. I did the same thing. Now it’s this generations turn. Go out there, get a job, and work to achieve your goals. Life is not easy. This feeling of entitlement is for those who have not entered Kindergarten yet. Five year olds know that you do not always get your way. Grow up Millenials…GROW UP!!!!

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    • “The things Sanders and supporters like me want is what was promised to us. Affordable education, affordable housing and a higher standard of living than our parents that’s the American Dream. ”

      You’ve just illustrated the problem. You feel you were promised these things. Shame on your parents for filling your heads with gobbly-gook promises about what you’re owed. You aren’t owed a thing. I understand that things aren’t great for your generation thanks to a myriad of reasons, but none of that is going to be solved by Sanders’s ridiculous promises that he has no hope of ever fulfilling. Shame on him for making those promises.

      Even if the primaries had gone his way, none of those promises would ever have come to fruition. He hasn’t done a single thing to help secure a liberal congress and without a complete overhaul of the legislative branch, nothing will be accomplished without compromise. If Sanders’s long career in politics has proven anything, it’s that he is incapable of compromise. His political purity comes along with a record of accomplishing nothing.

      My suggestion to you is to stop assuming the world owes you anything and start looking at the world you’ve been handed. It’s not sugar-coated with promises, but it’s the clay we have to work with. We can shape a better country, but it isn’t going to appear just because a zealot says it will.

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    • Nathan, I have news for you, NOTHING is promised to you just for you being alive. The world does not owe you anything. Once you finally understand that you might be able to consider yourself mature. I am sure your Grandmother is a saint, but even saints can be misled, can take opinion as fact, and have a mistaken notion about some people.

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  10. You nailed it! Great insight into a generation of entitled and spoiled-acting brats. Coming from a psychological perspective, Their frontal lobes aren’t fully developed until they’re in their late 20s, marking the cognitive maturity associated with adulthood. This part of the brain is responsible for reasoning and problem solving – common sense. The frontal lobes help put the brakes on a desire for thrills and taking risks. So Bernie has captivated a crowd ruled by their neurobiology, not just those pesky raging hormones, who can’t discern for themselves a reasoned response to say no to his political revolution or to think through the call to arms for themselves. It’s a perfect storm for a cult leader to corral them for his own agenda. Well played, Bernie Sanders.

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    • Thank you so much for framing this in a grounded anatomical/psychological basis. It explains so much, and it also causes me to feel differently about these young bernies. But there’s also something called Frontal Dementia, and no doubt you know about this. I wonder if this is affecting Bernie Sanders. If so, it would explain his behavior somewhat – and his ability to relate to this group of young people. Essentially, he’s talking to himself. What do you think?

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      • Acronym is FTD – Frontotemporal Dementia. Symptoms fit Bernie to a Tee. This Frontal lobe dementia often occurs in the elderly, means brain cells deteriorate. Specifically, in Bernie’s case, he displays the BvFTD variety. That means Behavioral variant Frontotemporal Dementia, characterized by changes in social behavior/conduct, with loss of social awareness and poor impulse control. I think the “establishment” Democrats who think they know Sanders and are convinced he will support Hillary in the end, may be in for a shock! He’s not the same old Bernie that VP Biden believes will pivot. In many ways, he’s more like his immature millennials than anyone knows!

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    • Good point. But he’s also captured a crowd that’s been weaned on “dopamine flooding” from electronics and the ensuant down-regulation in the brain.

      For those who had baseline neurogenetic challenges in this area, it’s only made things worse.

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    • Taught high school for 32 years and am in total agreement with your insightful analysis. I have the awful feeling that I am a high school pep rally, instead of thoughtful voters.

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  11. Ohmigod, yes. I’m running this bold, brilliant piece up the flag pole today. Thank you, Grace, for sharing your experience and analysis. It defines the violent, puerile disruption Sanders indulges. He knows how to exploit a lazy bunch of entitled brats.

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    • He’s been very successful. I wonder whether it was just coincidence, synchronicity or willfully done? Well, that doesn’t really matter.

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      • Did you read his “essays”? Particularly the passage where he excoriates the “old bitch of a teacher” for making the young boy sit in the classroom and learn — when he could be free? Due to this repressive coercion, the boy later gets cancer.

        I had to wonder how self-revelatory he was being.

        Children (as well as adults) with brain-based deficits in learning, learning, paying attention, etc. typically have low self-observation as well. Bottom line: They don’t know they have a problem; they think that everyone around them is the problem.

        BS was never a student. He still shows a profound difficulty in parsing complexity, in having the mental stamina to wade through details (such as with public policy).

        I think like is appealing to like here. In a YUUUUUUUGE way.

        It’s left me very unsettled, for months. Especially that so many people haven’t seen the profound dysfunction.

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      • Gina, I just saw his essay (here). I also read portions of his autobiography where he admitted that he was a poor student. His outlook is anti-intellectual and it seems based on his own learning challenges from 50 or more years ago. I’d wager that his defiance and his reliance on jingoistic claims is because of his “profound difficulty in parsing complexity, in having the mental stamina to wade through details,” as you said.

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