I have sixteen books laying on my home office floor. I am researching for a new book I am writing and I’ve picked up every leading article and book on Generation Y I can find. My research has been very enlightening.
Of the sixteen resources I am reading–eight of them offer a very negative report on kids today. Dr. Jean Twenge wrote a book called, “Generation Me” and Mel Levine wrote, “Ready or Not, Here Life Comes.” Both reveal a sad commentary on young adults today. Both are sobering. One of my favorites, however, is Mark Bauerlein’s recent book called, “The Dumbest Generation.” These are all researched based books providing stats on today’s student and their self-absorption, low reading skills and poor relational skills.
The other eight books furnish a completely different perspective. Neil Howe and William Strauss have published several leading books on Millennials and they are extremely optimistic about kids today. Another book by multiple authors is called: “Millennial Leaders,” and it contains story after story of how young adults are leading the way into community service and innovation.
So, here’s my question. Who’s right? If all of these resources are based on surveys, focus groups and legitimate research–can they all be accurate?
May I offer my reflections on this question? I think they may all be correct. Here’s why…
1. They are all measuring different categories. I think today’s students can be self-absorbed and turn in low math scores, but at the same time, still want to change the world. They want to make a difference and live a meaningful life, but they don’t want to relinquish the video games or the Lucky Brand Jeans they wear. I think kids today want influence and affluence.
2. I think there have been some changes in the numbers lately. I believe earlier students from Generation Y were more altruistic than their later counterparts. I believe that iPods, iTunes and iPhones have created a more self-absorbed group of kids over the last five years. It’s not that they don’t care about anyone else. It’s just that they can get wrapped up in their own world walking across the quad on their school campus, with earphones tucked in their ears and a cell phone they are texting on as they putter across the lawn.
I am coming to grips with the fact that this generation is a generation of paradox. Maybe all the stats are right. And who knows? Where there are contradictory results on their surveys…maybe, just maybe, these kids can live with contradiction.
All of this excites me about what is happening on June 25-26th. Our organization, Growing Leaders, is hosting a National Leadership Forum, where we will be hearing from both sides of this research on Generation Y. We have Neil Howe, the leading expert on the Millennial generation presenting, as well as Mark Bauerlein, professor Emory University and author of “The Dumbest Generation.” It promises to be our most stimulating event we’ve ever hosted.
I’d love for you to weigh in on this issue…and come to the Forum if you can. We have loads of people already sign up. If you are interested, just go to: www.NationalLeadershipForum.org.