“Many of my students come to class in flip flops and shorts.”

“Many of my students come to class in flip flops and shorts.”

Professor and Economist Jose Maria O’Kean (Sevilla, 1957) is a master of many elegant and paradoxical things that he uses in selective measure when asked about the values ​​of youth and the current generation. taught He used economics classes at Pablo de Olavite University of Seville, and Olavite was dean of the Faculty of Business Sciences and vice-rector of the university’s foundations. Trained as a researcher at Harvard University’s School of Economics, he has a bright view of the academic community. He has held relevant positions at the Universities of Seville, Cádiz and Huelva and was Director of the Sevillian Headquarters of the Menendez Pelayo International University. A researcher of the macroeconomic situation, he published the book «A new crisis? inflation, unrest and uncertainty” (Connecta).

– You have been teaching for over thirty years. Are today’s youth more complacent than previous generations?

-What are today’s youth like? If we’re talking about “centenarians” who are 15 to 28 years old, I’d say they’re disrespectful. Generally, they think that what other people are doing doesn’t make sense and that they are the ones who are connected to technology and know how the world works. They wonder why they are going to listen to their father or mother; Or why they think a teacher can tell them something interesting; Or why they believe their boss is right. Their reasoning is that there is nothing they can do until you prove them right. They do not recognize any authority.

-Need to prove to your students that you are perfect in your economics classes?

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-Yes. You have to justify everything. And they are first year students. By the end of the course, they respect me a little, but they feel that what you tell them is useless and meaningless. And if you try to impose morality on them, they say you are wrong.

– You explain macroeconomics.

-Yes, that’s why it’s relatively easy because I’m explaining things about reality to them. It is true that the majority are not interested, but there are always ten or fifteen people who read economics books. Most women from the ‘centennial’ generation want to be ‘influencers’ and most of them want to rock Bitcoin. Easy payment through internet and digital platforms without much effort.

Within fifteen or twenty years ‘Centennials’ will rule Spain and institutions…

– They want to change everything. Because they are disrespectful. When I taught at the University of Huelva, the Mario Conte phenomenon was in full swing and everyone wanted to be like him.

What values ​​are you missing in these students compared to the values ​​you had in your classes twenty or thirty years ago?

– As I said earlier, the figure of the teacher is nothing to most people. Our teaching in class was good for another time but today they think we are completely out of date. This is the main difference I notice, and then comes the side effects: they want everything very quickly, and they don’t want to spend hours getting it. They don’t want to work too much. But that is the struggle from the students ever since I started teaching.

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-Management exams will adapt to this new philosophy and will stop demanding more knowledge from prospective civil servants.

– This is different. You have to learn knowledge and store it in your head and apply it later. Now that we have this knowledge at our fingertips, all we need to know is to apply it, which means having the mindset. Anyway, I think we’re going too far because you have to have the knowledge to learn to function with a well-constructed head, whether it’s an architect or a doctor or whatever. It is also true that the theoretical knowledge we provide in university may not be useful in your performance in a company, but I believe that managing technology is not enough to be a good professional. What we do at university is to give the tools to build the mind.

Are there many university students in Spain?

I think there should be more students in vocational training as it happens in many European countries, because many university graduates do not find a job that suits their knowledge, while in vocational training it is much easier and faster to achieve it. Another issue is that many ‘centenarians’ or ‘millennials’ prefer to continue at university to avoid working until they are 25. They don’t need to be as independent from their parents as we are, and they’re not in a rush. They know that working is a hassle and will take the necessary time to create content on the Internet or play video games. Or take a trip during the week. Many people want to delay the moment and have all the freedom they need at home.

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– You once said that the pandemic has wiped out respectable aesthetics.

-Yes. You get on a plane and you see people in swimsuits. The same thing happens with AVE. Everyone, tourists and non-tourists alike, now seems to be a day-long tourist in shorts or flip-flops. The pandemic has wiped out that respectable aesthetic, and young people are wondering why they need to wear a shirt or jacket over underwear or flip-flops when they’re so comfortable. And many people on the AVE will take off their flip flops and put their feet up on the seat. There were rules respecting the privacy of others, but those rules are no longer respected.

Do any students walk to their classes in flip flops?

-Yes, many and in short films.

– Nobody told you anything?

-In a university of the last century, students who did not wear a jacket and tie were not allowed to enter class. Now anyone who thinks it’s weird is any professor who dresses like that, although at my university there are professors who teach in flip flops and shorts.

– Are they mixed with their students?

– It has its logic. We already know that youth is always right and all we have to strive for in this society is to stay young at all costs.


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