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‘You’re fired’: The results of pampering a generation

Sadly, I laughed out loud (or, “LOL’d” if you prefer) at Robby Soave’s June 30 article in Reason titled “Intern Fired for Dress Code Petition Is the Case Against Social Justice Education.”

An “anonymous millennial” (the intern) had written to an advice blogger complaining about his company’s dress code, saying it was “overly strict.” But he wasn’t going to say/do anything “until his sense of injustice was triggered”:

“I noticed one of the workers always wore flat shoes that were made from a fabric other than leather, or running shoes, even though both of these things were contrary to the dress code.

I spoke with my manager about being allowed some leeway under the dress code and was told this was not possible, despite the other person being allowed to do it. I soon found out that many of the other interns felt the same way, and the ones who asked their managers about it were told the same thing as me.”

The intern decided his best course of action was to create a petition requesting a relaxation of the dress code. “It was mostly about the footwear, but we also incorporated a request that we not have to wear suits and/or blazers in favor of a more casual, but still professional dress code,” he wrote. Most of the other interns signed it.

Once the petition was presented to the bosses, the interns were promptly let go. As in terminated.

The intern was aghast:

The proposal was written professionally like examples I have learned about in school, and our arguments were thought out and well-reasoned. We weren’t even given a chance to discuss it.

I have never had a job before (I’ve always focused on school) and I was hoping to gain some experience before I graduate next year. I feel my dismissal was unfair and would like to ask them to reconsider but I’m not sure the best way to go about it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Ahh … “learned about in school.” “Never had a job before.” Dare I say “‘Nuff said”?

(The employee who wore the more casual shoes happened to be a veteran who had lost a leg, and as such was permitted to wear whatever footwear “was most comfortable.”)

MORE: Students draining counseling centers, scaring faculty into easier grading

Here’s some very simple — and free — advice, Mr. Intern, which was offered to student journalists by Washington Free Beacon Editor-in-Chief Matthew Continetti at the annual College Fix dinner this past Tuesday: Always say “yes.”

You’re an intern! Your job, besides the specifics of the individual niche, is to learn how the company does things … and then do them. It is not to look around and try to figure out what is “unjust” … and then “rectify” it by means of petition.

Coat and tie?? I mean, c’mon — I think this shirt looks just fine!

During my untenured teaching era (years 1-3) I snapped up each and every request that was asked of me, and then some, without complaint.

“Hey Huber, I want you to do morning bus duty,” my principal said to me. Done.
“Huber, we need a sponsor for [fill in the student club]!” Done.
“Hey Huber, this teacher’s period 7 class is really overloaded.” “It is? I’ll take on an additional class to help out.”

Over the last few years The College Fix has documented myriad anecdotes of aggrieved students whining about this and that. For instance, Boston College’s Peter Gray wrote about his experience with advising “a major university” on how to deal with emotionally fragile students:

Faculty at the meetings noted that students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem when in comes to grading. Some said they had grown afraid to give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices. Many students, they said, now view a C, or sometimes even a B, as failure, and they interpret such “failure” as the end of the world. Faculty also noted an increased tendency for students to blame them (the faculty) for low grades—they weren’t explicit enough in telling the students just what the test would cover or just what would distinguish a good paper from a bad one. They described an increased tendency to see a poor grade as reason to complain rather than as reason to study more, or more effectively.

My daughter, a recent college graduate who’s not too much of a whiner  😉   once contemplated an email to a professor to lobby for a better assignment grade — because she “put a lot of work into it.” Thankfully, I managed to talk her out of it.

And who can forget the gripes of students at Brown and elsewhere regarding the “difficulty” of balancing schoolwork and their activism?

MORE: Student activists whine about ‘strain’ of balancing schoolwork, protests

Though I am now retired from the education field, I happened to check in on the itinerary of a recent June inservice detailing what was in store the next few years for my (now-former) colleagues. Aside from doing away with the traditional grading system (letter grades A, B, C, etc.) there was a proposal to do away with penalties for assignments turned in late. English teachers, especially, were dumbfounded; now kids would turn in papers at the very end of the quarter, swamping teachers who have less than a week to submit their marking period grades.

(I joked to one colleague that he should ignore the grade submission deadline; if a due date is meaningless for students, why should teachers have to worry about them, eh?)

One of the rationales behind this idea is that the “important thing” for students is mastery of the material, not a “time constraining barrier.” But … what happens when Johnny gets to a university? Does he tell his professor that the deadline for his research paper is “meaningless” … because he’ll ace the final exam anyway?

More importantly, will Johnny become like the dress-code disapproving intern, protesting perceived injustices and indignities via petitions at his place of employment?

As Reason’s Soave writes, “As if that’s how professional people in the private sector handle disagreements.”

Perhaps we should get back to actually preparing our charges for the real world instead of, as Soave says, holding an “education in social justice activism” in such high value.

MORE: Students ‘don’t choose’ to become activists, need more mental health services

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.