Millennials need voice in reform | Our Corner

One voice that has been largely overlooked in discussing education reform is the one at the heart of it all: Millennials.

Millennials. We are are a generation often associated with things like Disney channel, ubiquitous sports trophies, the rise and fall of boy bands, and the boom of social media. We have also, arguably, taken the hardest hit from the recession. It may very well become the defining moment of our generation — we’ve already been termed the boomerang generation, a term born from the growing trend of Millennials with college degrees who move back in with their parents after graduation.

I was a college sophomore in 2008. I watched as the bottom fell out of the markets and breathed a sigh of relief that I had a few years yet before I would have to face the world. Upon graduating I found the world hadn’t changed much in the inbetween. I became one of the many with an unfortunately common tale: college educated and no job in sight.

There is a lot of talk right now about education reform at the federal, state and local levels. Everything from how to fund public education and teacher evaluations to curriculum and how many and what tests to give students. There are many different voices and opinions in play — legislators, teachers, administrators, parents. One voice that has been largely overlooked in these discussions is the one at the heart of it all: Millennials. Which begs the question, why? It is our lives and our experiences, after all. We’re the ones living it.

What do current high school students think of their education so far? What are their dreams and aspirations? How do they think they will achieve them? Do they think they will achieve them? What do they wish they knew? Do they feel prepared for life beyond high school? Why? Why not? How did they make decisions about what path to follow post-high school?

What about college students and recent college grads? What about those who didn’t choose college? Where are they? What do they think?

Reform based on bureaucratic ideas of what Millennials and the generations that come after us need isn’t likely to reform anything at all. The voices of those in the various educational systems need to be heard and included as well — teachers, administrators and students — if effective change is the end goal.

I grew up attending one of the local public school systems. I graduated from high school the year before passing what was then the WASL became a graduation requirement, but the emphasis was still very much on passing that test. It was a test that, quite frankly, none of the universities I applied to cared about. Not even the one in Washington.

My Biola University education was the greatest gift my parents could have ever given me. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was so much more than just an education, it was an entire experience that has tangibly shaped who I have become. It was classes and studying and writing papers at 3 a.m. It was being involved in campus media and working multiple jobs. It was meeting people from around the world, all of us brought there for that moment and that space in time before we embarked on the rest of our lives. It was experiencing Los Angeles. It was trips to Disneyland and bonfires at Hungtington Beach, movies on the pier in Santa Monica and exploring bookshops in Hollywood.

I wish I had known what the job market really looked like when I graduated, that someone had told me how hard it was going to be. I wish I had known how important, how vital, networking is. That is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since graduating: it’s all about who you know.

My story had a happy ending, I’m living my dream, but I know many 20-somethings who can’t say the same. What would they have done differently? What do they wish they had known? Shouldn’t someone be asking?