Professor addresses issues with “iGen” youth
Although University students taking the class Expository Writing have generally unfavorable opinions of the course, so-called “Expos” gives them the opportunity to analyze the cultural challenges facing them on a daily basis.
Jean Twenge addresses these challenges in her piece “Generation Me” that is featured in the infamous “The New Humanities Major,” the textbook required for students taking Expository Writing.
She spoke at the Rutgers University Programing Association’s forum last night at the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus, discussing one of today’s cultural challenges — narcissism.
Twenge believes that narcissism is a characteristic hindering what is known as the millennial generation, or as she put it, “iGen.” She explores this idea in her book, where she statistically analyzes generational attitude shifts that relate to issues such as gender, selfishness and materialism.
“If society changed, then people have changed. ... The only reason you don’t know that society has changed is because you’re a fish in water. You don’t realize until someone points it out to you,” Twenge said.
The trait of narcissism is a cultural phenomenon facing the generation most University students identify with. It is directly related to a strong sense of individualism, she said.
“Narcissism doesn’t actually predict success,” she said.
Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, wrote “Generation Me” as she taught undergraduates and incorporated the personal stories of her students into her account.
When publishing her book, one of the biggest challenges was incorporating the mass of information used to relate her argument to undergraduate students. This includes everything that molds the minds of the youth, such as pop culture and events such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2008 recession.
Although Twenge noted the disparity caused by the recession, she also pointed out its societal significance specific to the millennial generation.
“The recession had at least one good effect: It brought people back to the idea of concern for others,” she said.
Twenge said growing up in a narcissistic world creates a lack of concern among individuals for their community.
When one student in the audience asked about the root causes of such a phenomena, she cited the influence many programs have on whole generations.
“Self-esteem programs within parenting, the internet and finally easy credit. ... It always makes you to look better off than you actually are,” Twenge said.
Although Twenge emphasized the cultural ills “iGen” faces, she did provide a simple conceptual solution.
“Find a balance in our culture between individualism and collectivism,” she said. “If we could borrow some aspects of [collectivism] while still keeping the good aspects of individualism —that would be a culture I would want to live in.”
In regard to the this balance of collective concern and individual priority, Afi Mizan, a School of Environment and Biological Sciences sophomore, said she could relate.
“Because I am Asian, I have been living in a collective culture,” she said. “So when I came to the U.S., I could see the individualism that appears in this culture. [It] probably depends on people too, how they are raised and stuff.”
Graduate Student Alicia Williams took Twenge’s advice to heart and feels as if she has benefited from it.
“It makes us see things that are self-evident,” she said. “Personally, I’m much more self-aware and self-conscious about giving advice to others.”
Murtaza Ahmad, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, currently takes Expository Writing and read Twenge’s excerpt for an assignment.
“’Expos’ is just a course individuals just don’t like in general, no one really likes writing,” he said. “It is deep reading and deep writing. It is a skill everyone should have. ... They could open up ideas for future generations.”
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