AGE fails test on accuracy and hypocrisy

I was going to blog last week about Chris Lehmann’s excellent post last week on Expectations of Student Behaviour, which argued that teachers are sometimes guilty of some degree of hypocrisy in the way that they treat students and the expectations they have of them, and argues in part:

One of the things that never seems to amaze me is when I talk to teachers and hear them talk about holding students to standards of behaviour and work that they would never hold themselves.

He argues that the young people we work with every day, are people. Sometimes they miss deadlines and sometimes they’re not feeling fantastic and that’s part of being human and growing up. It’s probably something we’ve all felt at times; a certain discomfort with the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude we sometimes see some teachers adopt.  A certain unease at the gap between what’s said and what’s exhibited by the teacher themselves.

I felt that unease again today, and I was reminded of Lehmann’s post again, when I was reading the AGE online and their lead article, Grads Fail on Emotional IQ on the supposed lack of emotional IQ that today’s graduates have and how, according to employers they lack empathy, collaborative skills and teamwork, apparently because they were ‘soft’ or ‘spoiled’

A national survey of some of the biggest public and private-sector employers shows that many bosses are concerned that graduate job seekers lack empathy, self-awareness and consideration for others.

This was the picture the AGE placed on its’ home page to illustrate the article. I suppose it is supposed to represent some kind of blank-stared zombie-like trance. Look, he’s listening to music!, how un-empathetic he must be, probably on one of those mp3 players, though I can’t for the life of me figure out what the flies mean, or what the lines in the mouth and coming down from the mouth are supposed to signify.

When you read the article you see that while graduates ‘fail’ the test, and ‘bosses bemoan Gen Y’s diminished values’ it’s actually ‘almost 20%’ of bosses who feel this way, or more positively, that 80% of bosses don’t fail there’s a problem with the values of graduates.

But where Lehmann’s comments connected with me was the hypocrisy in the attitude towards these Gen Ys the AGE loves to label (probably for it’s increasingly rarified non gen-Y audience).  Stunningly offensive graphic and deliberately misleading interpretation of the statistics aside, the bigger implied argument is that these bosses somehow have passed the ’emotional IQ test’, that they themselves are empathetic, team-workers and unstintingly unselfish.

Perhaps now is not the ideal economic time to make those claims. With motor vehicle executives in the USA flying to Washington in their private jets to plead for public money to bail them out, with industry leaders paying themselves obscene amounts of money in bonuses when things are good, but taking no blame when things turn around, when major banks take advantage of the government banking guarantee to buy others banks and reduce competition, you have to wonder about the demonising of young people as ‘spoiled’ or out of touch.

Last week it was literacy rates and bosses were ‘bemoaning’ the fact that graduates couldn’t fill in forms or put pieces of paper into alphabetical order. This week it’s emotional intelligence and empathy. These kids can’t take a trick according to ‘some employers’ and I’ve got to say that the tawdry image of young people that the AGE thinks sells newspapers is not my experience of the students I work with every day. Furthermore, the media’s portrayal of young people is particularly one dimensional and likely to be less than helpful.

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