There are reasons why this new generation of students appears so extreme. While there are some similarities between them and the previous generation, Gen. X, they’re not simply Gen. X on steroids. They are unique. You can find both positive and negative research about them. Before we attempt to develop them as leaders, we must try to understand their world. Some of the factors that have shaped them are below.
You and I became familiar with it as adults. They grew up with it: 1993 in New York City, 1995 in Oklahoma City, 1999 at Columbine High School, 2001 at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. And—multiple terrorist acts since then worldwide.
Talk about diversity and tolerance. Those words are their middle name. They not only plan to travel and work abroad, the world has come to them—with a rising Latino, African and Asian population in the U.S. They are comfortable with blending. They helped elect the first African-American president.
Following the 2001 terrorist attacks, our kids heard the word “hero” more than they had in the entire previous decade. And the heroes were not famous celebrities, but policemen, firefighters, city mayors and ordinary citizens. Even, mom and dad.
After Vietnam and Watergate, patriotism reached an all-time low in America. This new generation changed all of that. Today, voting is up, civic service is up, non-profit organizations are up and flags waving in front of homes is up. It’s a new day.
This generation has embraced seemingly contradictory beliefs. Their values are pluralistic and they attempt to reconcile varied and opposing principles, parties or practices so they can co-exist. They want to stand for values, but expediency rules.
I’m using a broad definition for this word, but parental control is huge. Parents are personal directors for school and career. And kids welcome it. Family is top priority for most of them. Parents plan to navigate their child’s life and secure their future.
Although these kids want influence, they also want affluence. They don’t take “no” for an answer and are used to getting what they want. They want “things” and are impatient if they have to wait. Options. Convenience. Speed. Customization.
This generation considers technology an appendage to their bodies. They connect via screens: texting, Facebook, Internet, gaming, YouTube, Second Life, Skype, IM and twitter. Kids have exited the Gutenberg world of the adults (paper) and entered the Google world (screens). And technology enables them to change the world.
Are you ready to launch into 2010 and equip this next generation for the world they’ll face? What have you noticed about how different today’s kids are?