On the Hill – Generation Me

Generation Me. It’s one of the names being given to the current crop of young adults, those born in the ?70s to the ?90s.

The reason? The sense of entitlement many of these young people display when they hit college or university.

A couple of recent articles in The New York Times and The Manitoban explain the problem: more and more, students expect A’s and B’s just for showing up.

Not for proving they know the material, or for writing solid papers, but simply as a reward for sitting in class and reading the texts. In one survey, a third of students said they ?expected B’s just for attending lectures,? while 40 per cent said that doing the required reading was enough to earn them a B.

And they didn’t just feel entitled to be given high grades; they also felt entitled to argue with their professors and insist on getting those A’s.

The unrealistic demands of a spoiled generation? Maybe, but a recent example from Ottawa defies the Generation Me label: executives with the Canada Pension Plan apparently think they’re entitled to hefty bonuses just for showing up?even when their job is poorly done.

The public pension fund lost ?13.7 per cent or $13.8-billion in the first nine months of the year ended March 31, 2009.? The full-year results are expected to be ?significantly worse.?

Yet the executives who manage the fund (and It’s just a guess, but they’re probably not the same age as those labelled ?Generation Me?) are still on track to collect their bonuses, which will be announced in May.

All three opposition parties are calling them out on it, demanding that they forfeit this year’s extra payout, as well as questioning the base pay of some. (In 2008, the head of public market investments at the investment board earned $325,000 before bonuses and incentives?more than even Stephen Harper makes.) As the Globe and Mail reports, Conservative MPs are playing duck and cover on the issue, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

The Canada Pension Plan execs are hardly the only examples. From bankers to auto company CEOs, the recent market upheaval proved there’s no shortage of the over-30 crowd who feel entitled to million-dollar bonuses just for warming a seat?an attitude not unlike those students expecting a free A.

And we can’t forget that classic phrase uttered by former Royal Canadian Mint president David Dingwall, who with much self-righteousness declared that he was ?entitled to my entitlements.?

Undoubtedly, there are more than a few confused Generation Me’s still trying to grasp the notion that putting in time shouldn’t be enough; that they should actually be good at something before they get the prize.

But before we hang that label on a single generation, we should remember that the school of entitlement started turning out grads long before today’s class.