Monday, August 08, 2005

Generation 'Whatever': From Pessimism to Pragmatic Optimism

Opinion polls suggests that many of today's young people are overcome by cynicism, pessimism, and the sense that their future will be determined by forces beyond their control. Why is this? Don't they have everything to look forward to?

The research is pretty convicting - pessimism is bad for your health, your job performance, and your happiness. So what can be done?

Encourage, scaffold risk-taking, show them that failure is limited and specific, model positive self-talk, look for leadership opportunities and apprenticeships, and help find mentors.

Check out the UCLA link below "How to Be a Leader in Your Field" (written for Graduate Students). Philip Agre's 6 Step Recipe includes:

1. Pick an Issue.
2. Start a Project to Study It.
3. Find Relevant People and Talk to Them.
4. Pull Together What You've Heard.
5. Circulate the Result.
6. Build on Your Work.

Seems pretty basic, but have student been give much practice at this before reaching graduate school? Think of the skills required to be successful - identifying interests, planning and prioritizing information, exercising initiative and interpersonal skills, risking failure, and and accrueing,integrating, and synthesizing information.

How much time can we find for students to learn these skills and devote themselves to a project? Are we only teaching students to learn information that is already known? If so, we may just be deluding them that all the best mysteries are solved, and there are no new worlds for them to conquer.

'Generation Whatever' Blames Pessimism on Select Few in Power
How to Be a Leader in Your Field
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Teaching Optimism
Optimism, pessimism and depression in school aged students
Optimism/Pessimism & Health
Optimism / Opportunities-Obstacles Profile
The developing of a resilient organizational leader
Business resilience

Here are some mentor links: Peer Resources Find a Mentor
NCRA Virtual Mentoring Program - Other Mentoring Programs
NIH Science Mentoring
MentorNet Underrepresented Groups in Engineering

And don't forget about contacting people off websites or blogs!

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