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As Gen Z students increasingly engage in political and civic life, they demand a shift in the way educators support them. Timothy Law Snyder, president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, argues that this generation’s unique characteristics require educators to adapt their methods. How can educational institutions cater to the needs of the “solidarity generation” and foster an environment of intergenerational collaboration?
- Gen Z’s distinctive background calls for educational institutions to adapt their methods and cater to their needs.
- Embracing intergenerational solidarity and collaboration can help institutions engage with Gen Z students for meaningful change.
- Fostering open dialogue and inclusivity is essential in promoting a culture of mutual respect and learning among students.
Understanding the “Solidarity Generation”
Snyder refers to Gen Z as the “solidarity generation,” highlighting their skills in organizing on social media and working across traditional partisan divides on issues like gun control, environmental protection, and racial justice. Born between 1997 and 2013, this generation has grown up amidst school shootings and the economic and racial divides exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the killing of George Floyd. These experiences have led to impatience with the status quo and disillusionment with “rugged individualism.” Snyder emphasizes that educators must acknowledge and adapt to the diverse demographic background and life experiences of Gen Z in order to engage and support them effectively.
Fostering Intergenerational Solidarity: A Collaborative Approach to Education
Gen Z students, according to Snyder, are looking for intergenerational solidarity where educators actively engage with them in the process of changing educational systems. This approach contrasts with recent proposals by Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who seeks to prohibit public colleges from projects promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory. Similarly, the University of Austin in Texas aims to avoid “liberal bias” on its campus. Snyder urges institutions to embrace a more collaborative approach, working alongside students to create meaningful change in education.
Real Examples of Gen Z’s Impact
Snyder provides real-life examples of Gen Z’s impact, such as Zee Thomas, who organized a 10,000 person march within five days of George Floyd’s murder, and the students behind the 800 different protests across the United States involving over 2 million people after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. These examples showcase the power and determination of Gen Z, emphasizing the importance of recognizing their potential and providing them with the tools and support to continue making a difference.
Education Adaptation: Partnering with Gen Z for Curriculum and System Reforms
Snyder suggests that educational institutions need to partner with Gen Z students in unprecedented ways. This includes giving ground on curriculum and allowing students to contribute their input. For instance, Loyola Marymount University is working on decolonizing the curriculum in response to the demands of students of color, who have met with the faculty senate to discuss their concerns. Faculty members have responded positively, recognizing the need for change and committing to including student input in the design of the curriculum. This collaborative approach is crucial for creating an inclusive and effective educational environment for Gen Z.
Encouraging Open Dialogue and Inclusivity
Despite a solidarity among student activists, Snyder acknowledges the existence of polarization and dissent within the student body. He emphasizes the importance of fostering conversations that encourage growth and change while ensuring that minority voices are not silenced. Snyder believes that educational institutions must create spaces for open dialogue and facilitate discussions between students with differing opinions, promoting a culture of mutual respect and learning. By doing so, they can help bridge the divide and empower students to engage in constructive, issue-oriented discourse.
As Gen Z students demand change in education, institutions must adapt to meet their needs. By embracing intergenerational solidarity and allowing students to have a say in their education, institutions can better prepare this generation for political and civic life. It is essential for educators to recognize the unique characteristics of Gen Z and create an environment that fosters collaboration, inclusivity, and open dialogue. Will educators rise to the challenge and pave the way for meaningful change that empowers the “solidarity
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