Game Over: Ready Player One

Caveat: I am not squarely a member of the “the book is always better than the movie” camp. I was a huge fan of Cloud Atlas, but there was something incredibly compelling about the film that really spoke to me. I have seen more than a few films that I think are either competitive with their books or had an entire different flavor that still made the film highly effective.

Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash was arguably one more the most prescient works of our era, predicting in some specifically-functional ways the interface and interrelationship between a meaningful and immersive virtual environment and a consequential and experiential physical consensus reality.

Note now a philosophic phenomenon you’ll need to understand throughout this blog: there are two worlds: First Life, or the physical consensus reality in which we live as fleshy, potassium-and-sodium-neurology humans, and Second Life, or the electronic consensus reality in which we live as digital, bit-neurology avatars. The two are irrevocably linked, but you will not hear me use the term “real life” in this blog, because both are real.

If you cannot accept that experiences that do not occur in the physical are “real,” then you must reject every television show, every podcast, every movie, every book, every story you’ve ever been told, as fallacious, inexperiential, unsubstantive, and false. I don’t believe you do, because you’re reading this, so let’s agree to ignore the false divide of “real” between these two worlds.

Ready Player One as a novel continues the tradition of Snow Crash, and both speak most profoundly to those of us who have lived in the virtual. Whether we are World of Warcraft players immersed in story-driven worlds (I was an EverQuest II guild leader for almost eight years, for the record), FPS players of the top-title Overwatch, or residents of Second Life (the most expansive virtual world in history), we were deeply affected by the book Ready Player One. Ernest Cline is a consummate geek, and especially for those of us who have a cultural touchstone around the 1980s – I am an unapologetic Xennial, having been home sick in first grade and watching the Challenger accident live from my bed at home as a child old enough to know what happened and young enough that I shouldn’t have had to – he hit on many cylinders, arousing fond nostalgia around the Atari 2600, CRT displays, Rush albums, and the fanboy-squealing-worthiness of the DeLorean DMC-12.

Consequently, I went to see this movie with such enthusiasm that I bought my seat – back row, center – and the two seats on either side, to make sure nobody touched me, disturbed me, bothered me, talked to me, interrupted me, or otherwise lessened my ability to focus completely on this film. I expected to be spoken to.

I wasn’t.

Now, let me be clear: the novel isn’t Tolkien, for crying out loud. Ernest Cline’s near-Dickensian obsession with detail is fun at times, but his expository passages can descend into the mind-numbing. Additionally, there are moments of narrative inconsistency that can be pretty jarring, and better editing would have helped that. The writing is, at times, very clunky and ineffective, and at times sounds like the worst of Star Trek’s “technobabble” phenomenon, even if those of us with a pretty functional 1980s pop culture reference mental database catch a good portion of the references. It is, in that way, not always an inviting work, shutting out those who (through no fault of their own, and likely due to a healthy dose of having learned other far more useful things, LOL) may not know what the hell Cline is raving about at times.

But all in all, the book was both fun and meaningful. It took the time to tell a powerful story powerfully, and created characters that showed the very best in kids, teenagers, and young adults, and made them the heroes who ultimately defeated “the machine.” They were genuine characters who we rooted for loud and hard all through RP1 when reading it. But yes, the book has some issues and I understand if people don’t love the thing. For me, personally, I was energized and engaged by its ability to help readers see the beauty of the virtual, and invited them inside if they weren’t residents of a virtual world like I’ve been for so long.

My lament isn’t really about the film’s style. It’s about some serious departures of substance that, I believe, really failed to tell the story appropriately.

I fundamentally disagree with the headline of The Verge review of RP1: the film does not improve upon the book. That review rightly points out that some of the book’s flaws carry over. Indeed the book is rife with instances of Wade having just so happened, ever-so-conveniently, to be a master of any given challenge, leading one to exclaim, “oh, of COURSE you did, Wade” with some regularity. But the effective translation of the pop culture and visual references to the big screen doesn’t constitute an improvement of the story, which was not simmered down and concentrated, but chopped into shards of itself and glued together awkwardly and ineffectively, which is why I think a huge part of the problem is the selection of a single film to tell a big, big tale.

Thus, I begin with:

Format

Ready Player One should have been a trilogy. It should have begun with Ready Player One: The Copper Key, outlining the world in which Wade Watts lived, and helping us to immerse in the world of 2045 America. The tense, long march through the virtual world was nearly total, with very little initial time spent in the physical world. The amazing journey of Parzival, our protagonist’s virtual avatar, from poor kid eking out a life in the physical while doing incredible things as a virtual pioneer and adventurer – a “Gunter” as they’re called in the world of RP1 – would have been better spent as a slow burn, raising the psychoemotional stakes and deepening the tragedy of the world in which the characters find themselves: Corporations run the world, the environmental tragedies in which we find ourselves today are spun out to terrible logical conclusions, and the suffering of the average Earth-bound human is growing in leaps and bounds while the criticality of escapism has become one of the most profoundly important phenomena of humankind. The filmmakers should have understood this.

Ready Player One: The Copper Key

Ready Player One: Level Up or Ready Player One: The Jade Gate

Ready Player One: Game Over or Ready Player One: The Last Castle

These are such obvious mechanisms, built around the narrative Cline wrote, that I have to assume that the writers either didn’t understand the work well enough to build a proper story out of it, or didn’t care enough to make a full story-arc out of the work they were given to work with.

But more than the broad complaint I have about the hurried form factor and the lack of depth, I have specific laments against the Spielbergization of the Cline novel. The hurried format led to a nasty, hurried, silly, and reductive reduction of the story to a mere shadow of its original self.

Now that we’ve tackled format, I need to address a few specific, significant, and (in my humble opinion) rather unforgivable failures of the film to tell the story that Cline wrote, and I CANNOT fail to go directly to the most egregious change of all:

They turned a female bad-ass into a damsel in distress.

Art3mis

Art3mis was an independent cybergenius with a formidable skill set and a remarkable, sophisticated understanding of privacy and identity. She was keenly aware that she was independent in her social interactions, between her human and avatar forms, and that was most exemplified by her port-wine facial birthmark. To Art3mis, her birthmark was a source of tremendous personal anguish and consternation, having been likely brutalized socially by children and adults alike, and was an impetus for her independence and disengagement from relationships. It not only gave her a reason to be strong but gave her a reason to keep apart from others. I have a great deal of empathy on this front, as I have a noticeable facial deformity from birth, and suffered at the hands of child peers growing up, and became isolated and independent as a result. However, that independence and isolation became an impetus to develop personal resilience and strength. While I’ve worked to temper the more extreme characteristics of these hurt-based independences, and have striven to create positive pro-social situations as an adult, I think the writers have no experience with this kind of personal pain.

Art3mis was a fierce woman who needed no saving. She was strong by virtue of necessity, and had all of the suspicion and ferocity that would accompany someone who was forced into such circumstances. However, in the film, she was reduced to a capitulating damsel-in-distress, who had none of the fierce insistence upon privacy, distance, secrecy, and individualism that she should have desired based on her circumstances. She had none of the firebrand independence once we shifted into the physical world; her avatar was fierce, but it didn’t mirror her fierce self as it did in the book. I’m so disappointed that her suspicious nature and her individual power were discarded in favor of creating a pawn for Wade to play with in his quest. Imprisoning her at IOI was stupid, and really failed to acknowledge, understand, and honor the fierce, independent, capable character that was Art3mis. Whereas Ready Player One as a book was comfortable with a heterosexual relationship in a largely sexually-liberated and sexually-independent world, the movie screwed any feminist or independent tropes in favor of a blasé schmaltz relationship of ingenue-and-unexpected-hero. I was deeply disappointed.

I will give credit to the art directors for intentionally adding the pixelated incarnation of Art3mis’s port-wine-stain birthmark onto her avatar in the later part of the film. That’s something Cline could have and should have written, as Art3mis accepted her “fused self” (First Life-and-Second Life together) as her “real self” (they are distinct but related; they are unique in their style, incarnation, and zeitgeist though they stem from the same non-corporeal intellect), as this was her story arc: While it’s not necessarily antecedent-consequent, it is true that many who live genuinely in both lives, grow in both lives, and find power in and acceptance within – if not in spite of and/or through – their true, central selves.

However, this one artistic does not, in my view, undo the damage they did to Art3mis by reducing her to a plot element instead of the fierce character Cline wrote.

Aech

Caveat: Lena Waithe is awesome, and she rocked in RP1 as a film, and I don’t take one damn thing away from her about her performance, which was probably the most authentic and electric on screen.

However…

Aech is a loud, big-smiling fat Black lesbian mechanical genius, and if you can’t deal with that, you have entirely missed the point of not only the novel but the values of the virtual. The character of Aech transcends and subverts so many of the most important social barriers in our world today and in the world of 2045 Columbus. The filmmakers missed a huge opportunity to address body image and issues, body shaming, racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and bias against kinesthetically-inclined people, and they abandoned all of that.

Aech as a character in-world was bigger, more orc-like, more mechanical, and more obviously voice-shifted than I had in my head, but I really liked the movie version of the avatar. Aech in-world was appropriately strong and badass, and I appreciate that.

But while Waithe’s performance was excellent, her character in the film in the physical world served as an erasure of Aech’s queerness and obesity. Why can’t a fat chick be an ass-kicker? No reason at all. Weight is entirely independent of capability in so many ways in the physical, but it is independent of capability in every way in the virtual. And queerness is as invisible in the physical as it is in the virtual: one’s sex, one’s gender expression, one’s gender identity all of these are independent variables, and we are not ghettoized in the virtual as we so often – too often – are in the physical.

Again, while I think Lena Waithe is awesome and did such a good job once cast, I was disappointed that Aech wasn’t portrayed by Gabourey Sidibe or another actress who would have helped more big girls feel that they could bring down corporations and level entire societies and repair a motorcycle in record time. And I really, really wish they had written Aech as the queer woman that she is in the novel.

Aech was kicked out of her home, and disowned, because she’s gay. That’s a story that needs to be told because it’s real, and a story that we could have shown can be overcome in the virtual. Our sex of birth, our physical appearance, the social normativity of a community… these are all just bits and bytes in the virtual, and we can transcend, overcome, usurp, and use these phenomena in the virtual in a way we sometimes cannot in the physical.

Sorrento

One of the most egregious failures of Ready Player One was writing the villain – the corporatocratic oligarch of Nolan Sorrento – as a technologically-inept older dude who had someone else do his dirty work, specifically the conjured-out-of-nowhere-for-no-reason “F’Nale.” (Though F’Nale reminded me a little of Overwatch’s Sombra, who I adore, but that’s not enough to keep me happy with this unnecessary character.) i-R0k was also unnecessarily involved in the storyline. The faceless throngs that Sorrento hurled at the Easter Egg hunt were nameless victims of his socioeconomic terrorism, and that was a huge part of what made his character in the book so terrifying. He was cold, calculating, and absolutely willing to murder and cheat his way to victory, no matter what. He was a social terrorist. He was a corporate terrorist. Making him a punch-line by leaving his password so obviously stuck on a physical Post-It was a huge failure. That’s not Sorrento. That’s whatever idiot thought rewriting some of these major plot points was a good idea: A corporate hack who will never truly understand the Oasis. He would have murdered – and in the book, did murder – anyone he wanted, without hesitation of moral compunction.

Ben Mendelsohn is a talented actor who is fully capable of menacing. His Krennic in Rogue One was far more like Sorrento than his actual Sorrento, and that’s due to the fluffy writing, not his performance. Shying away from firearms until the end, cringing his way through being fed lines trying to play it cool, and weasling his way around makes little sense. Even his inflated avatar seems inconsistent with the way Sorrento would portray himself in the virtual, making a mockery of him as egomaniacal – which the novel character certainly was – instead of channeling that ego and sinister immorality into the monster he really was, willing to murder children to make his fortune.

Nolan Sorrento is IOI, and that was not the way the film worked, and it made him a used car salesman, not a corporate terrorist.

The Lack of Subversion and Revolution

Writing Art3mis as being captured and getting inside IOI, saved by Parzival – vomit – eliminated the fright and time dilation effect of the book having Parzival voluntarily go underground inside IOI. That daring act of infiltration and revolution forced Parzival to face his shadow-self, alongside his self-imposed exile within his lair. His hacking and circumvention of normal safeguards, his need to create serious physical protection for himself, and his eventual decision to go into IOI by using their indenture systems against IOI itself were all acts of subversion that were wholly left out of the film. Parzival’s use of his outsider status as an attribute mirrors the circumstances of so many of us in the virtual world, where we are able to do things and exist in places and participate in activities that we might not normally be able to, as we use our outsider natures to find inclusion and ability.

We who have been virtual world residents are able to project outwardly – and perhaps even more importantly, exist within the psychoemotional condition of being – a more authentic version of ourselves, to explore elements and attributes of ourselves, even our idealized selves, which can equip us with power that is normally reserved for the elite.

In physical consensus reality, the privileged can. Writers and actors can, if it’s part of what they do. The rich certainly have the ability to explore these aspects of self: they can literally purchase inclusion. But in the virtual, we, too, claim this power: we can garner inclusion democratically, even anarchistically, independent of the impositions of society and economy and family and institution.

Why does this matter? Why is outsider-versus-insider so important a trope in the book, Ready Player One? Why does subverting institution and revolting against corporatocracy and corruption matter so much, making me so angry at its erasure in the film?

Because authenticity is everything.

To be one’s authentic, unmolested, uncompromised self is the very zenith of the human experience. To self-actualize, reach one’s potential, and become the best self, fully voiced, with full agency, is a distant dream for so many people, but one that can be more in reach thanks to the virtual. It seemed to me when Ernest Cline wrote this, that he understood that. He seemed to put in James Halliday a complicated journey for a person who knew how hard it was to be an outsider, and wanted to create a level playing field and all the necessary building blocks for everyone to be able to expand beyond the confines of their birth circumstances or whereabouts or appearance or boundaries in the physical world.

In the virtual, we are consistently empowered with choice, and control over ourselves. We are able to choose: choose expression, choose association, choose location… We have ontological agency in ways many of us don’t have elsewhere, are unable to have in the physical.

To eliminate the willingness of true revolutionaries to safeguard that right, and to eradicate the story elements that helped us understand how important these things are, really hurt the story and reduced it to a popcorn flick.

The Ending

The ending of Ready Player One as a film stunk.

I disagree fundamentally with DenOfGeek’s take that the movie improved upon the finale. Yes, the little “don’t sign the contract” moment was a nice twist, but a waste of creative energies. The idea that shutting down the Oasis on Tuesdays and Thursdays will someone help people by forcing them into the “real world” is economically infeasible in a society that depends on the Oasis for a huge portion of its economy, is damningly obvious as a bone-toss to the angry Luddite moms who think blue light is rotting their kids’ brains so they’ll be a little less pissed off after watching this movie, and a slap in the face to the entire concept of being able to transcend the boundaries of the physical in favor of the virtual.

As an IOI employee states in the film, “The Oasis is the world’s most important economic resource.” Shutting it down 48 hours a week has the potential to massively harm an already precarious global economic situation. This concept wasn’t thought through, and was done merely as a gift to people who hate the very technology this film is supposed to be about.

That writing was not only shoddy, but showed a profound misunderstanding of virtual environments at their best. If Cline signed off on this change, he betrayed the world he created, and if he didn’t he failed to maintain the purity of his creative endeavor by ceding control to meddlers.

RP1 as a film betrayed this, the core principle and the most important attribute of augmented reality and virtual worlds: That it has the potential to be a profoundly powerful force for good, and is not something to be feared, reviled, limited, or shut down capriciously. Halliday put ONE big red button in place, and it was PERMANENT. It’s a world-destroyer, and it was obvious to readers that the button existed only to destroy the Oasis if it were corrupted. It was not to force young whippersnappers outside to play “like we used to back in my day,” shaking the proverbial cane.

No honest-to-gods Rush-blasting l33t gamer hacker is going to think it’s a great idea to shut down the entire system two days a week. It’s foolish.

I just came here to escape, but I found something much bigger than myself. I found my friends. I found love!” says Parzival.

“Except on Tuesdays.” Really? C’mon.

The book also had to have all three of the trio work together, and that, again, was altered for no apparent reason. Instead of “Kirk-Spock-and-Bones,” we just got the protagonist, but that was never the intent of the way Cline wrote the book. There was always a return to collectivism and teamwork, even in the end when Parzival gives his friends equal shares and rights in the ownership and management of the Oasis.

Overall, the ending really failed to capture the power of the original story, even if the battle scene was cool.

Summary

I’m deeply disappointed, and no quantity of pop culture references or shots of a DeLorean DMC-12 will fix that Ernest Cline sold his vision to become eerily reminiscent of the very corporatocrats that created the dystopian enviro-disaster trash-scape in which RP1 is set.

The film betrayed women. It took a powerful, independent, skeptical, thoughtful, skilled woman in Art3mis and made her a damsel in distress, betraying the character, the archetype, and the story. It made a diversity of body types into a punchline. The plus-sized woman dancing on a pole early in the film: The avatar she is in the virtual could be her entire universe, her means of income, her lifelong dream: why is that supposed to be funny? Why not show the full range of people?

The film betrayed queer people by intentionally erasing Aech to a subtle inference, and failing to tell her story, a real story that so many people have found solace from through the virtual. Thriving queer communities in virtual spaces give voice, choice, agency, and safety to thousands of queer virtual citizens, and they had a chance to be seen, acknowledged, and shown to be the powerful voices and potential heroes they are, but that was, again, erased. Aech was wonderfully portrayed, but the character didn’t capture what Aech was really about in the novel.

The film betrayed outsiders and especially “the little guy.” In the book, Shoto’s murder has readers reeling as if the pages became fire. I think I literally dropped the book. It showed just how vicious IOI under Sorrento was – and how treacherous Sorrento himself was – and the impact that that murder had on Daito illustrated how close family relationships between genetically-unrelated people can be, how deep and diverse love can be between people in the virtual, and how vicious and unrepentant unfettered corporatocrats can be. Shoto wasn’t “a cute kid whose height is a punchline.” Shoto was a murder victim, assassinated by a capitalist enterprise hell-bent on domination, and the film erased him. “Sweet Mrs. Gilmore” was also a murder victim in the book, along with Alice and Rick and countless others who died in the stacks bombing. They, too, are dispassionately forgotten, Mrs. Gilmore left alive to snipe at Sorrento and Alice and Rick just forgotten in the narrative.

The film betrayed the poor especially. The world of 2045 that Cline wrote was on the brink of total collapse, between an environment gone completely to hell and a global socioeconomic situation that had people living in trash heaps and stacked towers of old trailers. Wastelands entirely overridden by lawlessness and chaotic crime sprawled across what used to be America, taking the dissolution of the Rust Belt we see today and expanding it to the whole of society. The plight of the poor, the collapse of our ecosystems, and the crushing of those who don’t pay to play, are all completely eradicated from the narrative, showing up only as passing inferences.

I’ll watch it again to enjoy the popcorn factor of all the 80s references, but Ready Player One fails as a film, to me, because it had such real potential in its storytelling, and didn’t deliver. It doesn’t matter how cool the opening race is, and it doesn’t matter that they left out Leopardon in favor of Gundam, and it doesn’t matter that we get a sneak shot of Tracer on the battlefield or that i-R0k was actually pretty funny or that they used the term haptic pretty well throughout. It doesn’t even matter that they totally didn’t use Van Halen or Rush music well enough or appropriately throughout the thing.

What really matters, in the end, is that RP1 could have been an expansive, engaging, human story that made Parzival, Aech, and Art3mis the power-trio they were, and instead they simmered all that incredible subversive social storytelling to a boy-saves-girl-with-best-friend cartoon.

I didn’t want to see that story. I wanted it to be authentic. It wasn’t.

Parkland, Protests, and Your Rights

In light of all 55 of West Virginia’s public school divisions being closed due to a collective protest action this past week, many of us with union and advocacy backgrounds are hearing common calls for such action in Virginia. Understandable as a reaction to the continued instances of mass shootings in American schools, the terrorizing of American school children by threats of violence, and a political apparatus attempting to insert weapons into classrooms, I empathize with the desire of Virginia’s teachers to act collectively.

While Virginia teachers can act collectively, they cannot strike. We in Virginia cannot “do what West Virginia did” without likely losing our jobs.

You need to know your rights and responsibilities around collective action during times of crisis. As many of the local teacher organizations – I can think of one in particular – have been deafeningly silent on this issue, which defies all reason, I’ve been asked by several people to speak up. As a former union leader, I was deeply involved in organizing collective action within the scope of Virginia law when we were fighting for fair pay and better working conditions about a decade ago, and am happy to revisit the big items.

Virginia is what’s called a “Right to Work” State. This ironically-named set of statutes prohibits the formation of collective bargaining units and unionizing, and is especially restrictive on public employees.

Under Code of Virginia Title 40.1 (Labor and Employment), Chapter 4 (Labor Unions, Strikes, Etc.), specifically Section 40.1-55, any public employee in Virginia who organizes with two or more people to “obstruct, impede or suspend” any part of their job or the purpose of their employer, “strikes or willfully refuses to perform” their duties, shall “be deemed to have terminated his employment and shall thereafter be ineligible for employment in any position or capacity during the next twelve months by the Commonwealth, or any county, city, town or other political subdivision.”

Let’s go over that critical passage, ignoring the irritating lack of Oxford commas.

If you take protest action that…

  1. Involves even two other people doing the same thing
  2. In any way even slows down or makes it harder for the school to teach

…then you aren’t just in danger of being fired. Read the statue: you are deemed to be fired.

Yes, that may seem harsh, but that’s the key problem with “Right to Work” legislation: it doesn’t just guarantee that people that don’t want to be in unions don’t have to join (hence the name of this type of law), but it banishes unions and strikes in the ways they’ve historically worked. Unions in states that have them can organize their people to exercise the great lever of power of workers acting together in concert to affect political or organizational change. But that’s a topic for another day, because right now, the issue at hand is what you can do.

I love, admire, and have steadfastly fought for the rights of public school teachers of Virginia, having stood in the freezing rain on corners with signs with you, been elected by and battled institution for you, and I, too, desire collective action to enact positive change for our children. But we cannot walk out of schools during the instructional day like West Virginia did; our laws are different. We cannot strike; our laws prohibit it. We cannot participate in organizing our students to protest instead of instruct for a day. Those things are explicitly prohibited under §40.1-55.

BUT…

I was a union leader in Virginia. Yes, I say union, because the pedantic insistence upon calling them associations should be left to the purview of official governance documents and those who stand against collective action. And when I was a union leader, I used to say the following all the time:

A union is a union if it acts like it.

In fact, if one takes the time to read the Code of Virginia – and I do, because I’m an education law nerd and I need to know the landscape even as I bring in my proverbial steam shovel to reshape it – one will find that just a few sections later, §40.1-57.3 explicitly states that no part of the “Right to Work” laws prohibit teachers forming associations to promote their interests before their employer. This is why in Virginia, teacher unions are often referred to as “teacher associations,” and many people take umbrage at calling it a union. I, clearly, have no such linguistic compunction, because I find word trickery a tired effort to undermine teacher collectivism.

However, this section doesn’t address teacher protest action. All the law says is that we cannot impact the operation of our school, and so we cannot walk out or strike, or undermine or impede what is often termed in education law the “normal operation of the school.”

There is some fascinating case study around the issue of teacher free speech. One of the most baffling is what I sometimes call “Second Brown v. Board,” though it’s properly called Lincoln Brown v. Chicago Board of Education, which held that a teacher did not have free speech rights to engage in a teachable moment around a racial epithet because school board policy expressly banned all use of racial epithets. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the school board did have a right to discipline the teacher, even though the teacher was teaching, because their policy superseded the free speech rights of the teacher during the operation of the school.

To my reading, that infers that it is more likely that an appellate court would err on the side of school board policy when it comes into conflict with a teacher’s desire to exercise free speech, at least during the school day. This is one of the reasons during presidential campaign seasons, I used to very carefully instruct my teachers that they needed to exercise extraordinary caution, and never wear political shirts, campaign buttons, or place candidate stickers on their doors and such. (Though I gave that advice many years before the 2016 Lincoln Brown decision.)

Let’s broaden the scope.

In 1968, Pickering v. Board of Education was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that held, 8-1, a teacher does have the right to express opinions about the school for which that teacher works, including a negative opinion, when that speech is written, even published, and expressed outside of the operation of the school. The Supreme Court overturned an earlier court decision siding with the school board, which had fired Marvin Pickering for writing a letter to the editor excoriating his school district for what he thought was poor budget choices. So we do have precedent that teachers can speak out and act, about schools, outside of the school day.

Next, we must include the landmark 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court decision, that held that peaceful protests against the Vietnam War constituted Constitutionally-protected free speech. In his opinion, Justice Abe Fortas wrote, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this court for almost 50 years.”

Notice what he wrote in that decision: While the case was about student rights, he explicitly includes teachers in his opinion, which now forms a girder in American jurisprudence around free speech rights and the school. Indeed, Tinker is one of my most oft-cited cases when I have been called upon to discuss student and teacher rights over the years, and remains so for countless attorneys and judges in America.

This brings us to the final critical distinction:

Students have the right to protest. To walk out. To wear protest clothing. To raise their voices collectively. Students are being served by the school; they do not serve the school. In fact, just this past week, students at the high school at which I previously taught engaged in a collective walk-out, and the administration handled it beautifully. They supervised, protected, and assisted students in navigating their disrupted day. They didn’t crack down. They didn’t take “for” or “against” positions; they recognized the Constitutionally-protected rights of students, and helped them as teachers are supposed to: compassionately, thoughtfully, and legally.

In short: Virginia teachers do have Constitutionally-protected free speech rights, but school board policies are being interpreted to supersede those rights for teachers in certain instances, inside and outside of school. Consequent, especially in light of Right to Work legislation, Virginia teachers concerned about keeping their employment should not engage in or encourage walk-outs or any form of work stoppage. Additionally, when engaging in collective action, such as protesting or marching on weekends or during the evenings, be sure not to wear materials emblematic of your school or school division – as you are exercising your individual rights, not acting as an agent of the school – and be very sure not to use or brandish language or images that are prohibited under your school division’s regulations. (For example, carrying a sign with profanity on it, or wearing a shirt with an example of prohibited imagery.)

We have a right to assemble, and a right to speak, but as public officials, even when we strongly and even actively disagree with schools, we must exercise great caution in our decision-making, lest we lose our opportunities to work with the children we love and care so deeply about, and to positively impact their futures and ours.

If I can help clarify or codify anything else around this issue for teachers, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m always happy to help, as I’m doing right now as a private individual, at home, off the clock, and reviewing to ensure I’ve complied with all of my employer’s regulations!

The Camel and The Falcon

Since the day I began my public school teaching career – and it is the only work I have done in my adult life, having wanted to be a music teacher since I was about 14 years old – I have been unwaveringly dedicated to children and the cause of the American public school. I have stated repeatedly and consistently in my work that I could not, in good conscience, work in a private, parochial, or charter school situation, as the focus of my pedagogy is meeting all the needs of all children everywhere. While, as I state in Insurrection, for example, I understand the intermediate steps that even some of my closest public school allies have taken in sending their children to these schools because of the troublesome nature of their local public schools, my efforts to revolutionize instead of reform are based upon the premise that every child deserves the kind of school that loves them authentically, meets their needs wholly, and does so with the very best resources available. I believe that so strongly, and with such fervent conviction, that I feel ethically compelled to ensure that my praxis matches my theory.

I have the extraordinary privilege of being a part of a remarkable team of professional public educators who have dedicated their lives similarly to eschewing historic institutional structures that – well intentioned in some cases, and not at all so in others, if one studies the subject, which I do as it is central to my work – are not what we know to be best for children.

I do not indict the American public school as unwise or unwarranted, as a mistake or as undesirable. I have dedicated my whole life to the American public school. It is because I love children, and believe it to be so obviously true that a free, extraordinary public education is essential, that I strive to put emergent research, best practices, and pro-child priorities to work every day in a truly revolutionary American public school. Our team is demonstrating that radical praxis is possible, and that the theories are sound. Our team is creating the infrastructure upon which the next generation of public school can and should be built: we are removing historic structures that stand against children, and putting in place the authentic, research-based, and loving pedagogy that is for children.

To indict artifacts of a bygone era as anachronistic and insufficient by modern standards is not to indict the entire enterprise, but if we wish to thrive in the future, we cannot cling to old rickety biplanes out of nostalgia, or familiarity, or unresearched opinion. We must build a rocket ship, free and open to all children, everywhere. We don’t need Sopwith Camels. We need Falcon Nines, and we need them everywhere, right now. We don’t need what purported to work in 1930; we need what works in 2030. I want to – I need to – be a part of that, and those who strive as we do, we who believe in children so completely that we are career public educators who never rest in finding better, stronger ways of helping those kids, are doing what I consider work that is critical to our society.

I am truly fortunate to work in a school, and with my leaders, my colleagues, and my kids, that is trying to do truly right, and in the process of teaching our kids, help by example to move the American public school system closer and closer to the ideal its potential promises: a free public school education that meets every possible need of every child, every day, everywhere. It is our life’s work. It’s hard, and it probably should be hard, and it’s not always going to make everyone comfortable or happy, especially because (as I write about extensively), change is hard. Humans tend to prefer the manifest over the unmanifest, and I accept and understand that. But I truly believe that I’m in a place where we’re doing the right things for kids.

Congratulations, Jan Streich

This evening I was privileged to attend the Stafford County Public School Board meeting, in my capacity as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education, to honor an extraordinary educator and a personal hero of mine, Dr. Jan Streich.

Here is a transcript of our remarks:

Karen Richardson:

“Good Evening, Madam Chair, School Board Members and Dr. Benson,

“Thank you for allowing us to join you this evening to present this award to a member of your leadership team.

“The Making IT Happen award, sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Education, is a national honor that recognizes leaders who have made significant contributions to the successful integration of technology in education in K−12 schools.

In 2017, Board Director Keith Reeves nominated Dr. Jan Streich to receive this award.”

Me:

“Good Evening, Madam Chair, School Board Members and Dr. Benson,

“It is a fitting privilege that I am able to return to Stafford, where I began my Virginian teaching career in the early 2000s, and where in this very building I first met our honoree. I was a music teacher [ed: at Garrisonville Elementary School, where now-Associate Superintendent Pam Kahle was Principal] and she saw me presenting adaptive special education techniques in instrumental music to my Stafford colleagues at my first attempt at providing professional development. I was a young teacher, but she saw something in me, a knack for teaching other teachers. Her insight, encouragement, and collegiality was profound, and forever changed my life as an educator and leader, as she has with so many of Virginia’s career public education leaders.

“Jan Streich is among the most articulate and capable professionals with whom I have ever had the privilege of working, a genuine asset to the field of educational technology. You may know, she was one of the primary citations for the earliest crafting of the Instructional Technology Resource Teacher model here in Virginia, and her contributions to the field in both practice and in academic theory form a robust girder around which so many of us have built effective careers to love and teach children. Any time her name is mentioned among educational technology leaders in the Commonwealth, inevitably people smile and nod affirmatively, as her name is practically synonymous with the quality of work to which we each aspire.

“Dr. Streich’s work is more than a testament to her deserving the Making It Happen award; her work has consistently made it happen, for her students and her colleagues, throughout the entirety of her storied and accomplished career. It is a personal as well as professional privilege to have supported her most-deserving candidacy for this esteemed international honor.”

(end transcript)

It was eerie to be back at the Alvin York Bandy Administrative Complex, which once upon a very long time ago was the original Stafford High School, built in 1926.

stafford1926

It is lined with memorabilia, and surprisingly, the era in which I was a teacher in Stafford is rather relegated to the “somewhat long time ago” category of said memorabilia. Now, granted, I worked at the poorest and oldest schools in Stafford… I was the assistant band director at Edward E. Drew Middle School, which was the “new” Stafford High School (built in 1961) after the “original” Stafford High School (the aforementioned 1926 building) needed expansion.

stafford1961

Amazingly enough, I also taught the marching band at the new NEW Stafford High School, built in 1975. I madly loved SHS, known as the “Tribe of Pride.” The most amazing kids, the most remarkable growth, the most innovative and self-challenging things happened there during my time, and I was so proud to be a part of that and an agent of positive change. I felt terrible leaving that program to take a new job, and I missed the kids – and indeed the staff, especially Chuck Hite, a mentor and tremendous human being, who trusted me and took me under his wing – leaving a forever-smile on my face whenever I think of Stafford.

stafford1975

I subsequently, having developed such a love for the community, announced and adjudicated at the new new NEW Stafford High School (built in 2015)… so as a great lover of Falmouth (pronounced FAL-muth, the part of south Stafford I taught in), I can safely say I have a meaningful relationship with all four Stafford High Schools.

stafford2015

 

It was a genuine honor to be back in Stafford for this event, and to be able to pay tribute to a person who did so much for me, so young, and set me on a path that I think neither of us could have conceived. From scraggly long-haired musician standing in her hallway to Chairperson of VSTE… it’s been a ride, and I owe a tremendous debt to our very own Jan Streich of Stafford.

Congratulations, my friend.

As Usual, Cell Phone Bans Miss the Point

Yesterday’s NPR report from Tovia Smith highlighting cell phone confiscation in schools yet again highlights the layperson’s and traditionalist’s misunderstanding of the underlying etiology behind so-called systemic distraction in schools.

Students who are distracted, bored, and constantly reaching for their phones are being failed by poor pedagogy, and the suggestion that merely banning the device is a valid solution to this miseducation is a constant frustration for we professional, progressive pedagogues.

It is entirely inappropriate to blame students for the failures of the school, or of the teaching. As I write about extensively in Insurrection, it is our responsibility – professional, ethical, and indeed moral responsibility – to design teaching to achieve learning and needs-meeting for each individual student. The report’s inference that “all eyes on the board” is a desirable state for learning underscores the traditionalist, banking-style pedagogy being employed by the schools highlighted. Lecture, teacher-centric practices, and the nearly-fascistic demanding of attention from children who have not been authentically, meaningfully engaged through well-designed, appropriate learning opportunities cannot be resolved through bagging cell phones.

I’m constantly amazed how rapidly people will scream and yell about electronic device addiction, and yet have no trouble whatsoever perpetuating miseducative and regressive pedagogical practices. It is a prison-like affect, and that belies the social roots of the school and the historic methodology employed by such schools.

If a smartphone is being used in a classroom, if the instruction is well-designed, that use will be either benign or educational in nature. I am utterly unconvinced that any of the stories highlighted in the piece, or that I’ve heard or seen from schools that insist upon student restriction instead of teaching improvement, reveal authentic, student-centered, well-designed, and relevant pedagogy. “Sit there, be quiet, pay attention, and look up here” is the hallmark of the Dickensian schoolmaster, and has no place in today’s schools.

In Pursuit of Google Innovation

I am fortunate enough to have been nominated several times to become in a Google Innovator, and so submitted my application! I blogged recently about getting my Google creds up to current snuff, and folks responded:

From M.: “Keith is passionate and innovative in all he attempts. He is brave and takes risks. He does anything it takes to make school a safe and wonderful place for all students.”

From L.: “Keith is always on top of the latest and most useful ways to get the most out of the G Suite. He is open and giving of everything he learns to bring the rest of us along. While being knowledgeable about all things G Suite he is also on top of all curriculum areas and always looking for innovative ways to leverage the tools to enhance learning outcomes. He is an innovator he just needs the badge.”

From C.: “He’s remarkably well-read and bases his theory in actual practice with actual children, not just the data points pushed by administrators.”

Here’s a link to my Slide Deck for my Google Innovator project: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1b-KuT3d0Kydn3NQFK9INwolSmDIu__J9OA7wBiMFOvY/edit?usp=sharing

And here’s my quick video on what I propose in it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHeT7_InW94

I should hear back from Google in June! Either way, I’m committed to doing this work! I’ve gotten some great encouragement – my colleague Dwayne McClary called it a “game changer” (a great pun as well as a great compliment!) – and I’m excited to leverage Standards-Based practices into something even more powerful for kids than I think it’s historically been!

Slice of Life #4: Maple Bluff

sliceoflife

The Slice of Life Blog Challenge is sponsored by TwoWritingTeachers.org.


 

My great-great-great-great-grandfather, Lyman Reeves, built a home for his family in 1848 on a hill in Palmyra, New York, which today is on Creek Road, just along side the Garnagua Creek. Lyman’s uncle, Elias, was one of five settlers from Southampton, Long Island, who came up and across the Hudson and Mohawk rivers in 1790 to settle what is today Palmyra, New York, as part of the “Long Island Purchase” that appears on many old maps of Upstate New York. The initial purchase secured, more of the Reeves family – including James, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather – made the same journey, which I’ve mapped, and that, as they say, is history.

History that still stands.

The home is called “Maple Bluff,” and it is in an apple orchard – indeed, it was a working farm the entire time it was in the Reeves family – and it was home to generations of my line, and the birthplace of my great-great-great, great-great, and great grandfathers.

Here is Maple Bluff as it looked in 1937…

maple_bluff_1937

I mapped and researched and read and looked everywhere to find where this place might be, just hoping to see the grounds of it, walk the places my people walked, see the apples they’d planted, or at least the memory of them.

In December of 2014, I found it.

On the far left, an 1858 map, showing “L. Reeves at center.” Discovering this map let me to overlay modern imagery, and zoom in… and there it was.

IMG_2703798997271

And so I did the only thing I could do. I packed up the car, and I went there.

And there it was. Not just the grounds. Not just the spot.

The very house. Maple Bluff stands to this day, 163 years later.

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The current owners, the Wildeys, were incredibly kind and gracious to a stranger, and they knew the history of the house well. They were kind enough to show me inside, where my family once dined together, and celebrated with each other.

On the left, is Christmas 1910. The young man second from the right is Floyd Austin Reeves, my great-grandfather, then age six. On the right, I stood and looked through time into the very space.

livingroom

Mr. Wildey was kind enough to do me one more great service before I left.

On the left, I stand in the very spot in which my great-grandfather stands in the picture on the left, taken right around 1915. Roughly a century later, I walked in his footsteps.

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As a genealogist, I’ve recorded 18,835 individuals in my family history, have travelled to countless cemeteries, spent days on end poring over old source documents, combing town historians’ files, and working to unlock the mysteries of from where I come.

But nothing ever gave me quite so much joy as going back to the beginning, and a beautiful house called Maple Bluff.

Child Identity and Voice

Children have sovereign, individual identity and voice, and are generally denied that by virtue of both their age in society – society views them as incapable – and the historic attitude of adults toward children – specifically that children are property of adults generally and property of their parents specifically.

The revolutionary educator has a moral mandate to refute this antiquated, anti-child philosophy in action and word, often manifesting as policy craft, and has the imperative from the root-most ethic of teaching to validate the individual child’s identity and to amplify that individual child’s voice. Identity and voice are critical elements of an authentically loving relationship, and since – as you surely know by now from my writing and my work – all teachers must genuinely love their children, the validation and amplification of identity and voice is a job requirement.

To fail to do so is to fail to love the child, which violates the ethical principles of teaching.

Students often need to be taught how to use their voice, and sometimes even taught directly that they have a voice. We should carefully consider the need for children to develop their own identities – devoid of adults’ ghettoizing preconceptions and ideology – and their own personal agency whenever we plan and set policy.

Keep student voice and identity clearly in mind throughout your work as an educator.

 

Discipline Cannot Replace Love

When I sit down to have a conversation with a student about choices, I think so often about the times I was “in trouble” in school, and how much better I’d have responded – and about the potential wing-spreading I could have done – if someone had sat down and related to me.
 
We have such power, and to cling to it and wield it is tyrannical. We must seek at every turn, in every interaction with every child, to give them the power. To ask them, invite them, to express themselves, and ask questions, and meaningfully seek greater understanding. Every moment is teachable, because every moment, they are learning.
 
To see tears welling in eyes recede, as the Sword of Damocles fails to drop and a whole invitation to a world of acceptance, kindness, thoughtfulness, reflection, and FREE CHOICE opens before them, brings me, at times, to tears.
I love children, authentically, and demand that all teachers love them.
 
We cannot afford to lose one moment of one day, with even one child, to our adult vanity, expedience, systemized thinking, antiquated notions, or harshness. There is no such thing as too much love for children, and I count myself in the most fortunate and critical situation to understand this and the mountainous research that supports it, and to be able to practice my craft to send healed little ones back into the world, having learned a lesson free of harshness.
 
There is no substitute for love. Not discipline. Not structure. Not hardness. Not consequence. There is NO substitute for love. It must be our foundation, or we are absolutely in the wrong place, as pedagogues.

Impatience is a Virtue: Millennial Excellence in the face of Boomer and GenX Arrogance

Simon Sinek is a self-described optimist and a multiply-published author who speaks quite a bit about leadership. Mr. Sinek went to Brandeis and got a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology, so it is safe to say that he is not an expert in child development, pedagogy, or alcoholism, but he seems to have no trouble speaking at length about what’s “wrong with” Millennials, as he does in his 3.5M+ view YouTube video, “On Millennials in the Workplace.”

I take exception to quite a few of his characterizations in this video, and am compelled to respond as someone who believes the evidence does not support the accusations hurled at “Generation Y” or the Millennial generation, and that that dearth of evidence mirrors and reinforces my personal experience, having taught many of these students and having watched many of them thrive because of their unique generational characteristics, not in spite of them.

Unlike Mr. Sinek, I am an academic, and I’m not using that term haughtily here; but it does infer that one has to pass a higher bar for me to accept something as “true” than to see it a few times or to hear others say it repeatedly. In the course of researching my first book, Insurrection: A Teacher Revolution in Defense of Children, I had to immerse myself in quite a bit of challenging research and a significant review of literature that gave me a far deeper appreciation for the variables that influence the development of a child and the growth of that child into an adults. From this position – one of research married with experience within the field of education, and therefore the growth of children into adults – I can speak to some of the fallacies and misperceptions Sinek levies in his video. But first, let’s talk about who we’re talking about.

Millennials, born after 1982 and up through roughly 2000, give or take, are among the most egalitarian, social justice-minded people ever born in the history of our species, surpassed perhaps only by the incoming Generation Z. They believe in animal rights, support equal rights for queer people and ethnic minorities, eliminating hate speech, drawing attention to rape culture, fighting patriarchy and sociopolitical oppression… 80 million Americans fall into this generational definition, the largest generation in America. Thanks to the Great Recession and the policies of Boomers and Xers, Millennials carry a trillion dollars in student loan debt, despite being told that education is critical and their schools being flagrantly irrelevant and antiquated in so many jurisdictions. 63% of working-age Millennials have a Bachelor’s degree but 48% of those graduates don’t need their degrees for the jobs they’re able to get. 64% of Millennials would rather be happy and have a job they love than make more money and be bored, a shocking turnaround from two generations prior. Half of them believe Social Security will fail, and over 90% of them believe that profit alone cannot define a business’s success.

80% of Millennials prefer immediate feedback over incremental review, 56% won’t work at a company that has punitive anti-technology policies, 71% ignore policies that do exist because they’re punitive, 69% believe on-site presence is not necessarily critical to job performance, but Millennials are staying longer at their jobs and are measurably more loyal to employers than Generation X people did despite the common perception they’re staying at a job for less time.

35% of Millennials start their own small businesses in addition to working a more traditional job. 54% want to do so.

84% of Millennials want to make a substantive difference in the world more than they want professional recognition. Working in international diplomacy is the fourth most ideal job for the Millennial generation that is so often excoriated for being disconnected and disinterested in public service. Millennials value “community,” “family,” and “creativity” to degrees never before seen in prior surveys of generations. Their task-switching abilities – which previous generations erroneously called “multitasking” – are extraordinary in no small part due to their use of task-switching resources and technologies, giving them a neurobiological plasticity and flexibility that other generations simply lack.

This is reflected in their academic performance. As Howe and Strauss wrote in Millennials Rising, citing student performance data as well as professional educator evaluation data, “Millennials are … a generation of positive trends in educational achievement.”

Millennials are the most diverse generation in history (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000) and exponentially more ethnically and racially tolerant than any generation before them. They’re also more responsible with physical relationships, are more interested in avoiding or delaying sex, and are vastly less violent than preceding generations (Howe & Strauss, 1999).

While it’s true that empirical evidence does show that Millennials tend to score higher on traditional mechanisms measuring narcissism and lower on empathy, it’s also true that some of those traditional mechanisms stem from a time prior to the advent of digital technologies, and may not account for an increase in individual agency. We know that priorities within the hierarchies of needs change based on age; it may be that new control mechanisms and better studies are required, because despite seeming to show more narcissism in Millennials, we do not see the usual correlations in decreased giving, charity, volunteerism, optimism, altruism, or willingness to assist others in need that one would have previously expected.

Despite being “just as good” as prior generations and being optimistic and hopeful, when controlled for the impacts of the Great Recession, Millennials as a generation are making 20% less, have been left a disastrously eradicated housing market and economy, a planet teetering on the edge of ecological collapse, global sociopolitical tensions created by values and circumstances they find repugnant, and have dimmer prospects for advancement and success than generations prior through no fault of their own. In short, Millennials have been pretty screwed, pretty badly, and still manage to want to stamp out bigotry, uplift people, and make the world a better place.

Let’s start there, instead of the usual exhausted narrative about them being lazy (they’re not), privileged (they’re not), and unwilling (they’re not).

Time to tackle Sinek’s video. While he lands on an acceptable overarching point – “balance is important” – he spends fifteen minutes demonizing technology and Millennials far more than he endeavors to point out the absurdity of outmoded corporate environments.

It is absolutely true that Millennials are altruistic, and care about making the world a better place. While they may not always have, in their younger years or in their initial indoctrinations into a particular field or topic, the language or concept to articulate precisely what a “positive impact” may be, they’re also deeply involved in levels of academics at which previous generations stagger, and show a particular robustness in understanding patterns, trends, and complex problems. It’s not a bad thing to want to “make a different” or “have an impact,” as Sinek seems to scoff at as being nebulous or unimportant in his opening. (Fortunately he’ll back off this a bit later, but we’re taking him as he goes.) The dismissive attitude that is frequently levied against Millennials that is rooted in seeking specific quantification in an historic way is an example of the amplification of generational misapprehension and misunderstanding of subsequent generations. Older generations have the advantage of more robust networks of experience upon which to draw, and too often use this as punishing invective instead of entertaining innovation when it crosses the desk. The same phenomenon exists between Adults and Children, which I’ve written about extensively, but I find the Boomer-Millennial divide to mirror this: “Well, what does impact look like? How will you positively change X variable, which we’ve identified as the true measure of success?” I’m not saying that experts can’t be experts – to the contrary, I rail against that kind of anti-expert rhetoric – but a Millennial who comes to the table wanting to make things better by speaking about the outcome is engaging in backward design, and allowing an organic, messy, convoluted design process to evolve in nontraditional ways is innovation in and of itself, and I consider it the responsibility of anyone in a position of “management” or “authority” to take the time to allow fruitful failure or unexpected success by allowing Millennials to use their substantial gifts to try things. This generation will repeatedly try and fail in remarkable ways with remarkable diligence and endurance, provided they have the intrinsic motivation any Ed Psych 101 student knows is more powerful than whatever extrinsic motivator you put on the table. Creating conditions of relevance is the responsibility of the teacher, not the student; so, too, is it the project leader’s or institution’s responsibility to create those same conditions for their employees.

I digress here to call out silly distractions like “they want free food and beanbags.” Come on, Simon.

If you’re being serious, then Millennials acclimating to nontraditional ergonomics and seeking to create comfortable and familiar environments that disengage from traditional oppressive structures of form and instead individualize workspaces and environments is not only a good thing, but has been shown by countless designers and researchers to be beneficial to creativity, productivity, and outcomes… so yeah, beanbags might be just what the office needs. If you’re being snarky, then you’re only underscoring the dismissive, haughty attitude that Millennials rightly perceive in those who speak about the instead of to them.

I am indignant on the behalf of Millennials in the same way I’m indignant on behalf of children when older laypeople snark at them. If you’re going to be academic, be academic, and if you’re not, then don’t expect to be taken any more seriously than a beanbag punchline. (Also, ensuring your workers have food when the economy that your generation left them is a flaming dumpster fire might not be such a bad idea, yanno? But let’s get back to it.)

Sinek identifies here his four domains of complaint about Millenials: Parenting, technology, patience, and environment.

Sinek has a cultural anthropology background, and so I’ll grant him expertise in speaking, to an extent, about parenting in this context. That said, he fundamentally misunderstands the concept of “special,” when he calls out as part of the (unarticulated in this video) “special snowflake” meme. Originating around the film Fight Club for all intents and purposes, “special snowflake” is a derogatory term used by previous generations to suggest that individuals are not unique and special, and deserve no recognition as such, instead choosing to suggest, implicitly or overtly, that people must earn any acknowledgement of their individuality through toil.

This is, in a word, nonsense.

The sovereignty of individual identity and agency is critical not only to progressive pedagogy but to understanding children, let alone developing interpersonal prosocial relationships. Understanding that each individual has their own perspective, cognition, identity, and sovereignty of person is a critical concept in interpersonal relationships. Homogenizing individuals into groups, classes, or blocs is a form of erasure, blotting out individual humans on the altar of a broader humanity, and while it is not invalid to be concerned with or about broader humanity, one cannot exclusively relate to groups. Interpersonal relationship is critical – as Sinek will go on to say himself – and yet he indicts individuality here as somehow bogus, suggesting that there is nothing intrinsically special about any one person. Yes, there is, Simon: Every individual is unique and must be approached and conceived as such, lest overgeneralization, stereotype, and assumption usurp the individual person’s sovereignty and, therefore, ability, leading to – in Sinek’s context – a less fulfilled, less understood, and potentially less “productive” partner or associate. Again, this broad-sweeping überlanguage that speaks over Millennials instead of to them, and speaks about Millennials instead of with them, is a disturbing artifact of generational paternalism, though certainly not unique to Millennials as any person will tell you about the generation of their parents.

Individuality and individualism are fundamental values that people in America will often hold up as rightly American. To denigrate individualism and individuality with snark belies a particularly craven perspective not only of Millennials, but of one’s fellow human. Demanding that one be addressed as one’s sovereign self instead of being oversimplified into or coopted by a demographic or statistic is an act of dignity and self-worth, nothing less, and to dismiss it is to undermine human dignity and sovereignty. I resent the language Sinek uses in this passage, as it objectifies the Millennial into a “nail that sticks out of a board” or an “undeserving stander in a crowd of sitters.” Compliance is not a desirable characteristic in children or in adults. But don’t take my word for it.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2016 described autonomous and independent soft-skills as critical to success in the contemporary workplace: Leadership, in which an individual progressively thinks and self-organizes. The ability to recover from failure, the mechanisms for which will vary wildly from person to person based on a variety of neurocognitive and psychosocial factors. Clear communication. Affability. Adaptability. Passion. Many of the top qualities NACE identified require a deep sense of individuality and self-awareness that cannot be achieved through imposed homogeneity.

It is not improper for Millennials – as many of us of older generations who are members of historically suspect classifications, such as females, people of color, or queer people – to demand individual sovereignty and agency in the face of institutions or movements that have denied them. To the contrary, each generation in its turn has celebrated civil rights victories. The generation that grew up in the late 19th century won suffrage for women in the early 20th and every subsequent generation has continued to demand equality for women, slowly eroding sexism. (And let us not kid ourselves: women today continue to be globally oppressed, objectified, and materially harmed, including being denied individual sovereignty and agency.) The Silent Generation won voting rights for people of color in America and every subsequent generation has been building up to address ever-more-apparent, ever-more-repulsive racism, culminating in but presumably not ending with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and Millennials are at the forefront of recognizing that there is a great deal of work still to be done. More and more, individuals fight more strongly against being denied their uniqueness on the altar of statistical simplicity or expedient demography, and as social scientists and pedagogues of any generation, we pro-child, pro-individual radicals join the Millennials, or more accurately laud them joining us in that effort. From personalized learning to the rights of the individual – the good of the one outweighing the good of the many as Kirk may have told Spock – social progress eschews forcibly grouping people into what Vidal rightly called ghettos of social order.

Another snark of Sinek’s that frosted my proverbial cupcakes was the suggestion that Millennials were told “you can have anything that you want just because you want it.” Point me to one legitimate parenting book, one organized class or school of parenting thought of my generation, show me one identifiable source of authority or note that ever said that that was a legitimate parenting skill. There’s a fundamental and not-at-all semantic difference between telling children that their aspirations matter and their potential is significant, and telling children there’s no investment to be made to achieve. The latter it not at all what is said, and I challenge Sinek to find any source that says otherwise. Name one person you know who was ever told that wanting was all that was needed. Name one person of our generation who said that to their kids. Name one. No way. It’s one thing to indict a generation of parents for going a little too far in promoting an idea of boundlessness without addressing the real structural violence and imposed social mores of generational and institutional stricture, and quite another to say that parents raised kids telling them they never had to do anything to have everything. That’s beyond hyperbole; it’s just not accurate, and I’ve found zero sources to suggest that there is any truth to Sinek’s assertion in this instance.

I was honestly surprised to hear someone who studied anthropology at Brandeis speak in such nonacademic terms on a subject already too overpopulated with lay opinion and inaccuracy. I don’t have time for non-empiricists when it comes to children and our future generation. Anecdote and opinion does not authority make, and while I’m guilty of editorializing and opining frequently and sometimes forgetting my platform, this isn’t one of those instances. I’m an academic putting my work in writing here, not having a Diet Dr. Pepper at the Four P’s around the corner. This is a serious subject and a video that has 3.5M views on YouTube alone and who knows how many Facebook posts, reposts, and likes, I’m going to hold Sinek to at least a modicum of academic standard and demand production of a source, or discard this assertion as groundless.

I consider that kind of inaccurate over-broad picture-painting to be haughty and bullying.

On the subject of schooling, if you’re read even a fraction of my work, you know that Sinek hits on something important in discussing the problems Millennials faced in schools. They perceive school as boring, antiquated, uninteresting, out of touch, irrelevant, impersonal… and they’re right. They’re absolutely right, and serious educators know that and are working tirelessly to change it. The institution of the school in America is dangerously out of date, and the fact that schools in America are affording opportunities and situations better than, say, an isolationist religion-only extremist enclave of indoctrination in a third-world country, that doesn’t let them off the hook in my book, and certainly doesn’t give the traditional Reform voice credence when it says “our schools are doing just great and everybody should leave them alone.” However, this post is about Millennials, and I won’t digress – this time – into things you can read about throughout this blog and my published works and offered oratory. Suffice it to say, Millennials were victims of poor schooling models, but so have the members of every generation that came before them, in the view of many of we radicals and revolutionaries. Sinek’s lament about grade inflation and unearned accolades underscores the massive flaws that exist throughout traditional assessment systems, which have recently been a particularly passionate topic for me, and upon which I’ll be speaking at length at the 2017 International Society for Technology in Education conference in San Antonio, Texas this summer.

Sinek also references (presumably) the research of Alfie Kohn, specifically Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. He’s absolutely correct that there are serious problems with artificial incentives, though one must take care not to conflate erroneous reward-based structures and the invalidity of eliminating unhealthy competition. As a career music educator, I’ve always been ambivalent on the subject, and take great care not to make the research say something it does not, and while the state of the literature certainly does indict the artificial and inflationary homogenization of aptitude and achievement to which Sinek alludes, it also seriously questions the validity of engendering competition among children, as underscored by some of the remarkable successes of Responsive Classroom and similar frameworks that eschew competition in favor of appropriate mechanisms of recognition, and the promotion of individuality within a free collaborative environment. Millennials respond well in these circumstances, and while I have no evidence, I sometimes wonder if that isn’t partially because they’re annoyed by nonsense trappings of recognition precisely because they experienced them. (That’d make for interesting graduate work for a Master’s student; I wish I were still teaching at The George Washington University or else I’d pitch it as an idea to a grad assistant…)

I will say that there’s nothing wrong with telling people that “just” showing up matters, and there’s a hypocrisy evident in the false narrative raised by critics of Millennials in saying they “just want credit for showing up” but then call them “apathetic.” There’s something important about showing up to a rally, to a protest, to stand the line against a greater power. In such a case, showing up may be the only thing that truly does matter, and yet another bloviating oversimplification does nothing for anyone.

I see no substantive evidence that Millennials are prone to the fragile disintegration Sinek highlights. This strikes me as a distillation of the generational lament, rather than an empirical observation of Millennial behavior writ large. How many Millennials do you know who are so isolated, fragile, and devoid of identity and network that they shatter at the mere suggestion of imperfection? I know a total of zero such people, and while here I descend in the anecdotal just as Sinek does, my suspicion of his position drives me to the research: As of 2014, Millennials were 27% more likely to keep their commitments in the new year. They are more honest about their skills than the prior two generations. They were 16% more interested in personal improvement than the generation prior. Not only can Millennials “tolerate” critique, they’re more likely to be honest with themselves about their need for it.

The profound arrogance of my generation and the Boomer generation in lambasting Millennials as “fragile” is not just maddening; it’s just wrong.

In the latter part of the video, Sinek seems to suggest that modern parents are imbeciles compared to their older counterparts, and that softness, kindness, empathy, and security in knowing one’s uniqueness and value are negative characteristics to be “toughened up.” The concept of “grit” is troubling to me at times, because too often we see “boot-strapping” types trying to artificially “toughen up” their kids instead of nurturing their sensitivity, leaving adult-ness for adult-hood. Empathy is vastly undervalued by these individuals, and belies a particularly sinister perspective on humanity. I read recently that J.C. Watts, a Republican congressman and a Rand Paul proxy, said, “people are fundamentally bad.” This is unsurprising given the monotheistic position that morality must extend from an external authority rather than from an intrinsic human condition. I, of course, reject this paternalistic depressive view of humanity that the far right historically espouses, as any honest right politician will tell you: The right believes humans must be saved from themselves, that they are inherently wrong, intrinsically erroneous, devoid of merit and altruism, and that only external forces – God, patriotism, parental authority – will right the ship. I regard this as a particularly craven, myopic, and uninformed position on the state of humanity, relying upon isolated anecdote instead of the state of the literature and the totality of our experiences once controlled for the variables of totalitarianism and local social ill. Parents who seek to engender “hardness” in children fail to understand childhood writ large, and place children in peril through acts of neglect, mistreatment, and harm if not abuse. It is one thing for a child to fall down, experience hurt, and learn that hurts are a part of the human condition, and varying responses to varying types of hurt are important. It is one thing for a child to experience sadness or pain or anger, and be shown the antecedent-consequent relationships when it comes to the way the child reacts to those experiences. It is an entirely different thing to actively seek to create harm, in order to accelerate these natural processes on the altar of getting children to “grow up.” One of the worst hallmarks of chattel mentality directed toward children is attempting to harden them artificially instead of nurturing their child-ness, which is a direct benefit of no longer having to fight bears, club attackers, and live in a state of primordial hypervigilance.

I’d be darned pleased if parents and board presidents alike would stop trying to reintroduce people into the raging wilderness.

Where Sinek hits the nail on the head is in his conclusion, finally eschewing some of the – in my evaluation – falsity he started with, and getting to the real issue: children have changed, and so the adults into which they grew are different than previously. Social structures and corporate structures, however, have not adapted to them. As I write in Insurrection, the preservation of institution at the expense of people is hugely problematic. Sinek is precisely right that the organizational environment is the problem, not the Millennial. When an organization cannot capitalize upon the qualities, talents, and skills of its constituent members, that is a fault of the organization, not said membership.

I am infuriated by Sinek’s proposition that Millennials engaging in social media is analogous to alcoholics drinking, and am flabbergasted by his egregiously inaccurate representation of alcoholism in this context. Clearly, Sinek doesn’t know much about this topic, and not only does a terrible injustice to the benefits many Millennials have gained from integration into wider networks through technology, but goes a terrible injustice to mental illness, addiction, and alcoholism. I cannot abide it without comment: Alcoholism is a disease, and alcoholics do not choose to have that disease. Addictions are not at all the same as habits or trends, and I find the suggestion that giving kids access to social media to be tantamount to giving kids alcohol or cigarettes deeply irresponsible. There are no benefits to abusing alcohol. There are no benefits to cigarette smoking. None. There are no redeeming qualities to cigarette smoking. Cigarettes in particular are the result of corporate collusion to maximize profit while destroying the health of consumers. One can make the argument that there are technologies that seek to maximize profit without regard to health, but one cannot rightly, seriously, or academically indict the whole of social networking as being as intentional or destructive as cigarette smoking.

C’mon, man.

Devices do not create dopamine kicks. Behaviors tied to antecedent-consequent extrinsic motivators do, and that motivation will have varying effects on varying individuals. To say “an iPad is as addictive as alcohol” is to fundamentally misunderstand technology, addition, neurobiology, psychology, and human behavior. It’s not a semantic sleight-of-hand or interesting quirky anecdote to make such a statement; it’s dangerous, inaccurate, ascientific hokum. That kind of gross, unsophisticated, sweeping oversimplification is dangerously simpleminded and is part of the Luddite-like false narrative that the wholesale elimination of technology is good for kids and adults. Sinek himself scuttles his argument by jibing about posting a picture of his food on Instagram: clearly he knows that one can have innocuous if not prosocial interactions in the social media realm, and to suggest to the contrary is not only observably false, but in my experience and professional assessment as an educational technologist, potentially destructive to the countless number of people who have found ways to supplement executive function and organizational deficits through technology.

Moreover, it’s troubling to me that Sinek seems to believe that anybody who drinks a lot is “an alcoholic.” There are a variety of permutations of alcohol abuse, from bingeing to compulsive drinking to social habit to addictive personality behaviors to, yes, alcoholism, but the etiology of the behavior differs in each of those instances. This is one of the things that frosts my cupcakes about those who foray into making declarations about groups of people without a more robust social science, pedagogical, or research background than the average layperson brings to the table: Sinek hasn’t controlled for all variables, but is levying proclamations at and about an entire generation of young people. I find that disappointing and not especially thoughtful.

There is a profound benefit to integrating people of diverse and disparate cultures and experiences through social media, and just because Sinek cannot seem to capitalize upon these advantages and strike better balances does not mean the wholesale elimination of technologies is wise or warranted. Indeed, removing technology from my work in any situation – one on one, small group, large group, or otherwise – will impede my ability to complete tasks and respond effectively as a collaborator and leader. My memory is not what it should be, and my ability to lose track of time at the drop of a hat is legendary. I will go down a rabbit hole for hours if I do not create a structure for myself, in the way that works for me, to ensure that I fulfill my obligations and strike a better work-life balance than I would be capable of otherwise. To deny me my technology is to disable my ability to be my best, and it is no one’s right to deny me that identity or agency. While certainly this is inclusive of balance and some people have more difficulty with balance, again, to make blanket statements about 80 Million people in such generalized, disparaging ways strikes me as deeply irresponsible.

Social media in the hands of Millennials saves young queer lives, reveals truths about law enforcement and our government, empowers people of color who organize and expose historic structural violence in ways never before seen in this country, unites families and friends across distances untraversed in the history of our species with rapidity unknown before our time, and can be a powerful force for good in individual lives and for people collectively. Social media in the hands of Millennials is changing global sociopolitical history by affording outlets and voices to those who would otherwise be ignored, silenced, and erased. Sinek utterly fails to acknowledge the prosocial goods and benefits that can come from the healthful, balanced use of technology to meaningfully enhance lives, and while it is a common overbroad charge levied against technology generally and Millennials specifically, the ubiquity of this argument does not make it compelling. This is a tired narrative, no matter how it is presented by a well-spoken person on a stage.

Sinek’s disparaging of Millennials and their social media in such an overbroad way amounts to an ornery codger shouting “get off my lawn.”

There is an obvious – or what should be obvious – difference between all members of a generation and certain members of a generation. It is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy to say “some Millennials in X situation or with Y technology exhibit addictive behaviors, therefore all Millennials exhibit addictive behaviors.” One doesn’t have to bother researching a counterpoint to his supposition that Millennials are addicted to social media, as it is unsubstantiated, devoid of empirical evidence as well as failing even a basic logical test.

I think Sinek thinks he’s cute in some of these statements, but there are a great many people who are going to use this widely-shared video as justification for disparaging, belittling, and limiting Millennials, and I cannot abide this kind of insult hurled at the feet of so many of the most talented, empathetic, creative, diligent, insightful, intelligent, and impressive young people I’ve ever met. As an educational technologist, I cannot abide the generalized negativity Sinek hurls at technology and collaborative platforms, as we in this field know from decades of experience across generations that there is genuine power and good to be found in the thoughtful, intentional, well-designed and integrated use of these technologies. If he had said that he advocated for more balance and stopped there, this would have been a different matter, but Sinek’s position throughout entire portions the video is that Millennials need to put their technology down.

No, they don’t. Detractors of Millennials need to do a great deal more listening and far less insulting, lest the lawn-protecting fuddy-duddies of my generation – which happens to be Sinek’s generation, too – create further disenfranchisement and disillusion for a generation we’ve already treated poorly.

We’ve managed to foul up their economy, their housing prospects, their educational funding, their credit, their air, their water, their food supply, their news media, their infrastructure, their education system, their government, their representation, their marketplace, and in far, far, far too many instances, their health, their safety, their bodies, their families, and worse. For every whine, lament, and complaint about Millennials, I would like to see people of my generation and the one that came before mine be accountable for the decisions they made that tossed away a safer, better, more prosperous world for Millennials, causing them to be the first generation in the history of our species to inherit a situation worse off than the one that came before.

Another variable for which Sinek fails to control in his extemporaneous diatribe is the artificiality of the nuclear family construct of the mid-Twentieth Century. The extended associations, personal interactions, mentoring, and support that Sinek (rightly) describes as important used to be provided by a wider, less centralized extended family network, a condition in which we lived for thousands upon thousands of years before America, as an example, isolated families into “mom-dad-kids in fenced-in-yard.” This is a complex development with a huge number of factors involved, and it is improper to suggest that it is the fault of Millennials that they are relying upon a new, technology-integrated if not technology-rooted way of relating interpersonally. The world has changed, and lamenting it as “all for the worse” is beyond conservative; it’s a Luddite mentality.

Sinek also seems to suggest that it’s a “bad thing” that Millennials want to see immediate changes at a large scale. What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with saying, if we can make this happen fully or more quickly, we can do more and do better for more people?

I share the impatience of Millennials in my work – public school revolution – because the historic incrementalism of many of the great voices of reform, like Diane Ravitch, will have us creep toward betterness while children languish in suffering situations. By contrast, I believe that a wholesale shift – revolution, not reform – is precisely the kind of fruitful disruption we need to make things better for the most kids, most quickly. It is precisely the innovative, creative, impatient mindset of Millennials that refutes Sinek’s “it takes a long time to climb a mountain” analogy. Millennials want to know if we can implement a ski lift, or get a helicopter, or maybe tear the mountain down if it doesn’t need to be there. While I recognize he’s making a point through illustration, so am I: It is not a foregone conclusion that the way mountains have been scaled in the past is the way they will be in the future, or in the immediate situation right in front of any given Millennial. In fact, their abilities to innovate, create, and disrupt are among their best characteristics, and I think we do a grave injustice to them and a grave disservice to ourselves to ask them to slow down when they may well have a proverbial rocket pack at their disposal if we empower them instead of seek to correct them.

The inherent dissatisfaction of Millennials stems from any variety of factors, but it is not a vice. It is, in my estimation, a tremendous virtue that the generation at hand is unwilling to tolerate the extant without justification, that it questions constantly, and that it is, by comparison, impatient with older things and older people. Systems and structures that deny Millennials (or post-Millennials or children) individual agency and identity deserve to be questioned and decimated and reconstructed, and if we heed the virtuous impatience of this generation, they will show us better, positively-disruptive alternatives to extant traditional methods that we may be incapable of seeing or generating ourselves.

The world belongs to the next generation, and the “real world” changes for the better because of those who make it, not because of those who try to keep it the same. Sinek is right that the traditional corporate environment doesn’t work, just as I’m certain I’m right that the traditional scholastic environment doesn’t work. But the solution is not to demand that the very technologies that liberate and empower and enhance the lives of incoming generations be stifled or eliminated; it is a far better use of our energy to adapt ourselves to the new realities of powerful innovative thinkers like the Millennials.

I. Katherine Benziger outlined Carl Jung’s falsification of type phenomenon, in which the brain experiences stress – and therefore, the body experiences stress – when it is forced to operate in a modality that differs from its developed preferences. For someone like me, being forced to sit in a lecture hall, facing the same way, silently and still, for a protracted period of time while I am talked at is a sure-fire way to raise my anxiety and frustration levels. To demand that I comply with this modality because it’s “the real world” is not only counterproductive – I’m not going to learn this way no matter how much you wish it were so – but it’s also inhumane, especially in the case of doing this to a child, and virtually ensures an ineffective learning situation. It is not the fault of the learner when a false or improper modality is forced upon that learner, and we do that all the time in schools, institutions, and corporations in America. We insist that people “do what they’re told” and “do what they have to do” because “this is the real world.”

If our capacity for design and organization is so limited that we cannot even conceive adjustments to extant structures, let alone wholesale reinvention, we have no one to blame but ourselves for our failures, and certainly ought not blame people who will consistently and clearly tell us that what we’re doing doesn’t work for them. Of course students in schools will be depressed if you force them to do something that doesn’t work for them in the slightest. Of course students will feel isolated and frustrated and hurt if they are clobbered into corners when they use platforms and resources that are met with withering disapproval by authority figures. It seems to logically follow that the more we demonize things that come naturally to Millennials instead of seeking to understand and prosocially integrate them, the worse off we’ll make the problems we see.

When Sinek says that the worst outcome is suicide, he’s right, and failing to conceive an individual, that individual’s needs, and to empower that individual with authenticity, agency, and identity is a sure fire way to make things worse for any individual, especially if predisposed to depression. When Sinek says that the “best” outcome is blasé mediocrity, I say, absolutely not. That’s the best you can hope for in the system as it exists, when that system utterly fails to account for the individual Millennial and that individual’s needs, preferences, and uniqueness. The solution is not to change the Millennial: The genie is out of the bottle. The world has changed. Our kids are growing up digital natives, to use the outmoded term, and there’s no going back, nor should we want to. Let’s go forward with the best aspects of an integrated world and redesign systems to account for those new realities.

It is absurd to say “put your technology away” then ask a student a question that involves precise figures, names, or dates. The sum total of human knowledge is online, and we’re going to pretend it doesn’t exist? The same absurdity exists in any corporate environment: Why would you not want access to a massive repository of data when making decisions? Kenneth Matos of the Families and Work institute suggests that Boomers and Gen X-ers would be far better off looking at their own resistances to change, rather than pointing a finger at Millennials, and I concur with that assessment.

The little anecdote that Sinek gives at the end of his quasi-sermon underscores his bias against those who don’t use technology and who don’t relate the same way he does. He says that “the way” that “we” develop relationships is through personal inquiry and verbal relationships. Again, he makes massive assumptions. Some people are deeply put-off by being inquired about in their personal lives when relating in, say, a corporate environment. Some people are not at all comfortable having a personal conversation verbally in that fashion, and are able to be far more interpersonal using, for example, a technological method. I do not say that everyone can do this or that nobody prefers the former, but that’s my point: saying “this is how a person should be” is almost invariably an overreach. Homogenization grossly oversimplifies complex individuals in complex relationships, and promotes misperception and misconception, yielding no improvement in the situations Sinek laments. Ascribing blame to technology and its use, associated with age or not, is to conflate an object and a behavior. Telling people to liberate themselves from their technologies implies they are enslaving in the first place, which is a values and judgement position, not a position rooted in evidence, and most certainly implies that all people relate to, with, and through technology in the same way, which I believe is patently absurd and observably inaccurate.

If Sinek’s concern is prosocial relationships, he should focus on those, instead of the mechanisms and modalities of those relationships, lest he miss his own point entirely.

It is intellectually lazy to grossly overgeneralize a generation based on a trend, and to make assumptions and logical leaps like those present throughout the video. If there’s anything “lazy” associated with the Millennial generation, it’s previous generations’ unwillingness and incapability around changing ourselves and what we do to adapt for the better, and Millennials can show us how to do that if we listen. That said, we better get at it quickly, because their impatience is a virtue, and Millennials wait for no Boomer.

In the end, Sinek’s overarching point – that balance is important – is well taken, but I challenge you not to take his video as a “hell yeah” reinforcement of your preconceptions about Millennials. They are a remarkable, diverse, powerful generation that is poised to do what our generations could not, and reverse poor trends and improve the world in profound ways, quickly, if they are given the chance. I count myself fortunate to teach the Millennial and Gen-Z generations, and look forward to seeing them do the remarkable things they surely will, and will join them in lamenting those individuals and institutions who stood in their way instead of empowering them.

I admit freely that I am biased, as someone who wants to work with them instead of against them, and wants them to do what they want, not what I want, but I am ultimately unconvinced by the tired “laziness” narrative, when I see empirical and observable evidence everywhere I look that Millennials are remarkable as a generation. I hope you’ll take pause before indicting any person because of their age, and instead take the appropriate opportunity every person deserves: get to know an individual, as an individual, for who they authentically are. We all have strengths and deficits, and just because the Millennials are different than us doesn’t mean we’re better.

It’s high time for Generation X and the Boomers to get off their high horses. The world doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the future generations.


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Bergman, S., Fearrington, M., Davenport, S., and Bergman, J. (2010). Millennials, narcissism, and social networking: What narcissists do on social networking sites and why. Personality and Individual Differences.

Howe, N. and Strauss, R. (1999). Millennials rising: the next great generation. Vintage Books: New York, NY.

De Hauw, S. and DeVos, A. (2010). Millennials’ Career Perspective and Psychological Contract Expectations: Does the Recession Lead to Lowered Expectations? Journal of Business and Psychology.

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The professional website of Keith David Reeves