Where have all the weird students gone?

Darren’s thoughts on my post “” regarding alter egos and stepping outside the safety zone, got me thinking about University students – and particularly the ones I meet in public relations.

No offence, but they are all awfully nice and normal.  There aren’t many weird or eccentric students in the class of 2007.

I’m not talking about disfunctional in a US University sense, fortunately.  But young people willing to express themselves with a style and/or opinions that marks them out from the crowd.  Where are the wacky or weird ones?  I know it is Bournemouth, but…

So do they reflect typical or Millennial traits?  Apparently, this generation’s form of rebellion is to be anti-rebels; to be more subserviant to authority.  They are the “risk averse” generation having received a lot of parental attention owing to falling birth rates.  Supposedly this is a ““; depressed by gloomy world events, a lifetime of debt and a cynical marketing-savvy outlook. 

But isn’t this the sociable and achievement-oriented?  They know just what to do to succeed, so don’t need to rock the boat.  Parental attention makes them feel special, gives them high expectations.  They see adults as equals not the establishment to be challenged.  They’re students in desres accommodation – with microwaves, washing machines and wifi for their laptops. 

Clearly these are , but the fact remains, I meet very few eccentric students.  Maybe like those going to  they are just “secure in their own fabulosity, so they really don’t brag, and they’ll totally be happy for you if you do something cool.”

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

11 thoughts on “Where have all the weird students gone?”

  1. I know I’m in danger of repeating a stereotype here, but as well as the above, could it partly be the gender imbalance on our courses? (Women are so much more socialised and, well, normal than men.)

    How many female trainspotters have you ever seen? This isn’t a stereotype, it’s derived from the Baron Cohen research into the the correlation between autism and maleness.

    So here’s the familiar stereotype: madman or genius?

  2. As soon as kids started liking the same music as their parents, and vice-versa, it all started to go down hill. There needs to be difference, there needs to be a challenge and there needs to be a lot more excitement.

    Predictable we do seems to be the order of today.

  3. Richard B – interesting point not only that we see predominantly female students, but maybe they are too homogenous in other ways, in terms of background etc. Interesting to consider if it is a “Type A” low level autism effect that leads to guys being more likely to be “less normal”. Does that then imply that extremes (mad or genius) are male?

    Richard H – I blame the parents for wanting to be friends with their children at a young age. I am fortunate to be very close to my parents now, but as a teenager, we had the usual rows including “what are you wearing?” and “turn that racket down!”

  4. My first encounter with the Public Relations Students Society of America (PRSSA) at a reception at the PRSA annual conference a few years ago was a revelation – about a thousand of them, the gentlemen in smart suits, the ladies in even smarter ones. They were totally business orientated.and looked completely unlike any group of students I have ever seen. They looked at my bade and then politely ignored me as I didn’t have a US job or internship to offer… I guess what happens in USA comes here…and of course USA then remained well ahead of Europe in accepting pr as a ‘routine’ business discipline.
    They have a most impressive organisation incidentally which CIPR has not yet been able to match. We are thinking of a student event to run with our World Festival in 2008 – we will be consulting soon.

  5. Colin – I suppose that today most undergraduates of PR see University as a step towards their careers, rather than a time for personal expression and rebellion.

    I look forward to hearing more about the student event, there is undoubtedly a lot of talent in the Universities. One of the projects that the 4th years at Bournemouth were involved in this year had an innovative international dimension – working in global teams using virtual media – so I am sure they will have some good ideas and contacts.

  6. Just to cheer you up. There are those wonderful times when students tell you that you are just plain wrong. It has happened to me a lot this year. But that’s the benefit on teaching online PR. Push bad – Pull good – so throw away you press releases – not that I am controversial or anything.

  7. David – thanks. I do enjoy working with the students as they see the world differently in any case (not least because they have little historical reference to draw on). But maybe I need to take a leaf out of your book and be a bit more controversial myself – challenge them so that they are forced to consider their views and argue for beliefs a bit more.

  8. It costs so much to go to university today, that students dare not risk it. Even since I started uni four years ago, the numbers of students who spend days in the bar and the like has dropped hugely. The people who started university this year will leave with debts of at least £18,000, and I will leave with a good £11,000 worth at the end of this year. When it costs so much, you dare not allow yourself to be free. The problems I can see is that we/they will have those impulses in a few years when we’re secure rather than get them out of the why now.

  9. ThunderDragon – the cost of University is something that I’ve pondered before (see https://greenbanana.wordpress.com/2007/01/11/is-a-pr-degree-worth-the-money/).

    I agree that the cost is a great focus on the outcome of the study. I was also talking with a graduate yesterday who said that when you are aiming to work in a profession such as PR where you will represent serious organisations, you feel the need to act responsibly.

    As you indicate, self-expression may well out at a later stage. Currently we see born-again bikers or the desire for sportscars as a sign of a “mid-life crisis”. Maybe for today’s graduates, the need to be weird and wacky will out in their 30s – if the ongoing financial and other pressures let them.

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