Friday, April 11, 2008

Generations X and Y, Late Baby Boomers, and the World is Going to Hell in a Hand Basket

I didn't blog yesterday because the day was too pretty. The sun came out for the first time in five days in metro DC, so I went for a long walk in Huntley Meadows, which are preserved wetlands about two miles from my home.

But before walking, I was in the neighborhood Starbucks when two of my neighbors dropped in. One is retired military, special forces, and now owns a consulting firm, and the other neighbor is an executive with a hotel chain. We bemoaned the lack of competence in the younger generation: I voiced the lack of competence in the educational environment, and both of my neighbors articulated incompetence in the work environment.

It was during my walk when I realized that every generation berates the aptitude, commitment, and performance of the younger generations. How do we stop this pattern, and if the generations after us are getting "dumber," how do we enlighten them?

As I reflected on this conversation, I began looking beyond my daily environment to examine the competence of the younger generations. I know that two of my nieces are far savvier than I. In fact, I have on occasion not only called on one of my younger nieces for advice, but also have allowed her to take the lead in certain situations. I also recognize that my students are also more knowledgeable in particular areas than I am, and many of them have flourished amidst obstacles that are unimaginable to me. While I may have had to negotiate a more contentious racial landscape in the U.S., they have been the unwilling recipients of the drug and free sex culture that my generation precipitated. While I had to contend with STDs, they have had to worry about and witness the ravaging effects of AIDS. In my generation, smoking marijuana was considered hip and cool, the younger generations know that not only is marijuana a gateway drug, but often marijuana is immediately rejected for crack cocaine. They are even now witnessing their friends getting addicted to heroin, a drug that was not widely used in my generation.

I write all this to incite those of us who are late baby boomers and older to pause and recognize that our children and younger generations are the direct recipients of the world that we created for them. If they are lazier, dumber, and less committed, we have to ask ourselves not only what actions did we engage in to help foster the behavior of the younger generations, but how can we help to change the culture in which the younger generations are subsumed.

So today, I make a commitment to stop berating the generations that will soon be taking care of me, and to help these younger people reach their full potential by addressing the ills in this society that have fostered their lack of or underachievement. The world is not going to hell in a hand basket; it is in fact ripe with opportunities, and we just cannot turn our backs and decide that the ills of the younger generations are not our problem.


Judy said...

My sisters-in-law were talking about this topic last night. I loaned Alisa my book, Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More More Miserable Than Ever Before. She was reading aloud to us and everyone was laughing. But you're right..and Cindy pointed out that they need to be taught well and mentored well and patiently in the work place.

M. L. Simms said...

That's true. I have made a concerted effort to do more mentoring.

E. said...

I'm not sure what mentoring is these days. No one can seem to explain to me what it really is.

I'm thankful for the people who have appeared like lights in my life and offered knowledge....but still, mentoring seems to be something totally foreign to me.

I'm not sure what it is.

DLW said...

In being given what has been handed to us by previous generations, I believe that it is also true that we have also been deprived of the things previous generations had the pleasure of experiencing. For one, I would have liked to grow up in a time where the apathetic were in the minority, I'd like to know what energy "the cause" envoked, among other things. The fact that globalization is putting America's focus on the developing world, has pushed the issues and situations of African Americans into a back closet. I would have liked to have among my experiences the pride of when the first black family was on TV or when "black is beautiful" was not simply a catch phrase but embodied such hope and meaning among those who spoke the words. I have romanticized your era because the experiences have been few and far in between in my own. If asked what I'd like to be given from previous generations I'd ask for your spirit, I think I'd like that most of all.