The modern student

One day in the future it is possible historians will look back on our time and tell the children of tomorrow that our era provided many unique challenges and due to this, it was a particularly daunting prospect to be a student in the year of 2009. In many respects, viewing things from the present of course, these eventual scholars may have a legitimate case to support this claim.

In a general sense, our generation is coming of age into a chaotic and tumultuous moment in history. The global economy, while admittedly making small steps towards recovery, still remains in disarray, with broad sweeping consequences. At the University of Manitoba, tuition is on the rise again, partly due to a significant devaluation of the school’s endowment fund and in many other parts of North America the rise in the cost of a post-secondary education has grossly outstripped the average wage increase. A second economic point of concern for today’s student comes in the form of a thinned job market. In some sectors of society, like in the banking industry for instance, employment opportunities have been significantly diminished. In turn, this state of lowered demand, coupled with an oversupply of eligible candidates, creates a situation where immense competition is fostered. As a prime, determining factor in the fight for scholarship dollars, grad school positions, and eventually jobs, it is safe to say that grades have never been as important as they are to the modern student. The stress and anxiety caused from this growing need to over-achieve is only expanded by the magnitude of responsibility that awaits our generation once we leave the sheltered existence of university life.

In a time when the threats of global terrorism and nuclear proliferation are ever-present and the issues of environmental degradation, inner-city poverty and a flu pandemic continue to plague the social landscape, our political discussions and public policy debates are too often ineffectual; their value diminished by vitriol and mutual distrust. It is very likely that our generation will be required to handle these concerns, undoubtedly, a large burden.

This being said, there is plenty of room for the modern student to remain optimistic. The “global village” is shrinking every second of every day, brought on by the rapid advancements in the world of information-communications technology. The social networking movement, with young people on the forefront, has made the exchange of great ideas infinitely easier and has helped to bridge cultural gaps all around the world. This has resulted in a much greater appreciation on the part of our generation, for the benefits of diversity. At the UofM, students from a multitude of different ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds, arriving on campus from all walks of life, are finding ways to incorporate their talents and contribute to the overall success of the university community. While there is certainly a long distance to travel in the fight for social equality, this greater appreciation for cultural diversity should be taken by all students as tremendous point of pride.

In the same light, we must remain aware of just how fortunate we are to live in this time and place. Many modern students are receiving an education and an experience that their grandparents and great-grandparents would only have ever dreamed of. In addition, the communication revolution has afforded a more in depth understanding of the world around us and of our place in it. In fact, according to statistics from the American-based National School Boards Foundation, the average high school graduate has been exposed to more information than their grandparents were in their entire lives. This exposure and the greater opportunity to pursue higher education is what will ultimately enable our generation to thrive.

Although we have often been questioned on our work ethic, I hold nothing but confidence in anticipation for what the future holds. While there may be some merit behind those who diagnose our age bracket with the “silver-spoon syndrome”— we have indeed been very fortunate — I believe that on the whole, our wide exposure to tremendous knowledge and our unprecedented appreciation for cultural diversity will provide the tools necessary to overcome our flaws. With time and continued maturation and growth, I have no doubt that our generation of modern students will rise above our many challenges and succeed where others before us have not.