The so-called millennials have been on my mind lately: Last weekend I spent a little time at an educators’ conference where Topic A often was the frustration of teaching to a new group of college students that (according to the anecdotes) has Dad call the prof when grades are subpar, thinks the best way to save a department is to remove everybody older than 30, and feels it’s OK to e-mail the prof to ask, “Are doing anything important in class today?” Whether this means that the Everybody-Gets-a-Trophy generation will be our ruin or that my generation is simply full of grumpy old coots is an open question, but Harlan Ellison knows what side he’s on. His interview with the Toronto Sun is ostensibly about the DVD release of Masters of Science Fiction, a series of films, originally aired on Starz last year, that includes the Ellison-scripted The Discarded. But the good stuff involves Ellison’s “splenetic rage” at the students he met at UCLA recently:
At a recent lecture in front of 27 students at UCLA, Ellison used a reference to “the emperor’s new clothes” as a metaphor. “And they all looked at me with a blank expression. I literally had to go back to the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale and explain to them the whole thing. And they still looked at me and they still didn’t get it. So I had to explain what the trope was and what it meant.”
By the end of the lecture, after hitting other dead ends in the conversation, “I launched into a splenetic rage about their cultural ignorance. And, of course, they were furious with me: ‘Who the hell do I think I am?’
“It is part of that automatic cultural response in this age of slackers, or Y generationals, or millennials, or whatever the f..k they’re calling themselves these days. Not only are they ignorant of everything — everything! — but they’re arrogant about their ignorance. They take great pride in not knowing or bestoying geezerdom on anything or anyone who achieved anything prior to their emergence.”
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In fairness, Harlan Ellison IS a grumpy old coot. Actually, I kind of suspect he was born a grumpy old coot.