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Understanding the Tethered Generation: Net Gens Come to Law School

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1 Understanding the Tethered Generation: Net Gens Come to Law School
Mary Ann Becker Associate Director of Writing Programs and Academic Support Loyola University Chicago College of Law

2 “Young Americans are no less intelligent, motivated, ambitious, and sensitive than they ever were, and they are no less adolescent and fun-loving either. It’s not the under-30-year-olds who have changed. What has changed is the threshold into adulthood, the rituals minors undergo to become responsible citizens, the knowledge and skill activities that bring maturity and understanding.” Mark Bauerlein, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone under 30) 160 (2008).

3 Peer Personality Every generation has one
Reflects the common events and occurrences of that generation Though, not every member of that generation possesses all of that generation’s attributes

4 Millennial Cycle “[H]as been a cycle of relative peace and affluence, mixed with growing individualism, cultural fragmentation, moral zealotry, and a sense of political drift and institutional failure.” Baby Boomers ( ) – Idealist Generation Gen Xers ( ) – Reactive Generation Millennials (1981- late 1990s)– Civic Generation Net Gens (approximately late 1990s-late 2010s)*– Adaptive Generation *Some studies predict that it could have started as early as 1994

5 Idealist Generation Grows up as increasing indulged youths after a secular crisis Comes of age inspiring a spiritual awakening Fragments into narcissistic rising adults Cultivates principles as moralistic mid-lifers Emerges as visionary elders guiding the next secular crisis Baby Boomers Boomers “resisted permanent linkages to mates, children, corporations, and professions” and instead focused on their own self-identity.

6 Reactive Generation Grows up as under-protected and criticized youths during a spiritual awakening Matures into risk-taking alienated rising adults Mellows into pragmatic midlife Leaders during a secular crisis Maintains respect (but less influence) as reclusive elders Gen-X "It's no wonder Xers are angst-ridden and rudderless. They feel America's greatness has passed. They got to the cocktail party twenty minutes too late, and all that's left are those little wieners and a half-empty bottle of Zima.” Tracey McGaugh, Gen X in Law School, the Dawn of the Light or the Dawn of New Day?, 9 J. Legal Writ. 119, (2002) (quoting the comedian Dennis Miller).

7 Civic Generation Grows up as increasingly protected youths after a spiritual awakening Comes of age overcoming a secular crisis Unites into a heroic and achieving cadre of rising adults Sustains that image while building institutions as power mid-lifers Emerges as busy elders attacked by the next spiritual awakening Millennials Typically, civic children grow up with idealist parents who “look upon these children as special, an instrument through which their inner visions can be achieved or defended.” Further, “[t]he child environment, now perceived to be dangerous, is pushed back toward greater protection and structure.”

8 Adaptive Generation Grows up as overprotected and suffocated youths during a secular crisis Matures into risk averse, conformist rising adults Produces indecisive midlife arbitrator-leaders during a spiritual awakening Maintains influence (but less respect) as sensitive elders Net Gens They are the children of a more dominant generation, meaning they are raised in an “intensively protective, even suffocating style of nurture. Children are expected to stay out of the way of harm—and of busy adults. And though assured of their collective worth, they are told their individual needs take a low priority as long as the community is struggling for survival.”

9 Net Gens and Their Unique Cultural Viewpoint
(1) Education reform through No Child Left Behind (2) Different standard for cheating (3) Higher education as a commodity (4) “Horizontal peer groups” created online

10 Testing Instead of Critical Thinking Through Writing
First generation educated by No Child Left Behind --Teachers and Administrators concerned about “teaching to the test” --Students told what to learn and how to learn it to do well on the test --50% of students say their school work requires writing every day; 35% write several times a week. Of the students writing in high school, 82% report that their typical writing assignment is only one paragraph to one page long RESULT: college and, eventually, law students have little experience writing, researching, and learning on their own.

11 Cheating is Not Cheating Anymore
32% of undergraduates thought that “working with others on an assignment when asked for individual work” was a serious offense though 82% of the faculty thought it was. 56% of MBA students had cheated and 47% of students in non-business programs admitted to cheating, while another 25% of graduate students admitted to unauthorized collaboration, “cut and paste plagiarism,” and fabricating or falsifying a bibliography.

12 Net Gens are Mimicking Culturally Acceptable Cheating
“Ethics is defined as an individual’s personal beliefs about whether a behavior, action, or decision is right or wrong. Ethical behavior is defined as behavior that conforms to generally-accepted social norms.” -Daniel Owunwanne et al., Students’ Perceptions of Cheating and Plagiarism in Higher Institutions, 7 J. C. Teaching & Learning 59, 59 (2010). Net Gens are Mimicking Culturally Acceptable Cheating (1) Competitive marketplace (2) Big payoffs (3) Temptation (4) Trickle-down effect Further, cheating may also result from the continual positive reinforcement Net Gens’ have experienced.

13 For instance To give every child an award:
The Most Valuable Player Award is switched to different children every year to give everyone a chance, even though “everyone knew” who the MVP was. The Coaches’ Award goes to “the kids who were picking daisies, and the only thing we could think to say about them is that they showed up on time. What would that be, the Most Prompt Award? That seemed lame.” The Spirit Award went to “the troublemaker who always talks and doesn’t pay attention, so we spun it into his being very ‘spirited.’” Not keeping score so that not one of the kids “feel bad” by losing a game. -Lori Gottleib, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy, The Atlantic Monthly (June 7, 2011)

14 Education as Commodity
College tuition doubled since 1970 Students see grades as part of an economic exchange; relatable to anonymous faculty evaluations Universities also treat students as consumers to generate tuition dollars 90% of four year colleges show an increased frequency of parental involvement since 2001.

15 Social Media Friends are the New Advisors
Millennials and Net Gens - 72 hours/week or 10 hours/day using online media Essentially non-stop connection to peer group = A uniquely, solely peer-focused horizontal group with no vertical modeling

16 Where now? Because the reality of the expectations that they must meet at law school can be shocking and completely unexpected . . . As law professors and educators, we have unique opportunity to work with students in fully explaining what older generations will expect from them in the practice of law and to prepare them to meet those expectations and succeed as a lawyer.

17 Thank you! Mary Ann Becker, Understanding the Tethered Generation: Net Gens Come to Law School, 53 Duq. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2014), available at

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