I was reading Newsweek last evening, and came upon a most disturbing article: Generation Divas it was called. The gist of the article is that we are so external beauty obsessed that a whole generation of young girls (especially) is being groomed to the hilt. The sub-title of the article says it all: how obsession with beauty is changing our kids. The article refers to a show I had never heard of—“Toddlers and Tiaras” on TLC. It is called “a reality show.” Some reality.
This article got me to thinking—what generation is this?
In my husband’s work capacity, he has participated in discussions on how to attract and retain members. One of the approaches his work place has used is to consider what appeals to the various generations, and the characteristics that typify each generation. We all know the Boomer generation (of which I am sort of a member—I was born just a tad before the official beginning in 1946). This generation followed the Greatest Generation—enshrined in Tom Brokaw’s eponymous book.
Does this symbol register with you?
If these events and names strike a familiar note with you—Vietnam, Woodstock, assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, Martin, and Bobby, sexual revolution and drugs—chances are you are part of the Boomer generation.
After the Boomers, we had Generation X—this grouping includes those born between the years 1964-1980. This generation saw the Berlin wall come down, and the beginnings of computers. (Note—the events might not occur during the inclusive years, which are birth years, but rather occur as the generation comes of age.)
In keeping with the alphabetical appellation, Gen X was followed by Gen Y–birth years of 1981 to 1995. Tracking these cycles is the work of sociologists and observers of popular culture. Here’s a piece on the 20th and 21st century cycles.
So, why my rather lengthy journey into the characteristics of generations? Because those who study these generational cycles tend to assign behavioral attributes to the people born during the bracket years. So, I am wondering—what generation is this one? The given designation of Generation Z is not really helpful.
A discussion in class yesterday brought me up short—and did nothing to answer my wondering “what generation is this?” The final assignment that I have for students is for them to work in collaborative groups. They are to do research on a “third world” country and a problem that country has. Then, they are to propose a solution to that problem, focusing particularly on whether or not “first world” countries have an ethical obligation to help. To prime the students for this project, we had a discussion on several essays they were assigned to read. One of the discussion questions I posed was: do rich countries have an obligation to help poor countries. From my students I received an unequivocal NO. We have NO obligation to help any other country.
I confess—I shuddered. And I could not help but conjure up images of French peasants storming the Bastille, and marching on Versailles.
What generation is this, indeed?
Image of illustration on Storming the Bastille--from Encyclopedia Britannica online