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Generation Gap!

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Startling news in the Personal Journal section of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: there’s a generation gap. Jeffrey Zaslow reports that

Older people have always offered advice to younger people, with words of wisdom culled from their memories of youth. And, of course, in every era, young people have found advice from elders to be outdated and ineffectual. These days, however, given how fast the world is changing, there’s been a clear widening of the advice gap.

in the next paragraph, Zaslow explains that “On many fronts, people from Generation Y—now ages 16 to 32— assume their peers know best. They doubt those of us who are older can truly understand their needs and concerns.”

Can it be true? Let me read that last sentence again. They doubt those of us who are older can truly understand their needs and concerns. I had no idea.

Okay, I’ll stop the sarcasm. But really, this is news? We — the generation that didn’t trust anyone over 30 — need to be told that our kids think we don’t understand them? And this is somehow related to “how fast the world is changing”? Didn’t people 40-50 years ago say that the world was changing fast? Didn’t they also say so 100 years ago? 150 years ago?

Accompanying the article is a box with “tips from young adults for their advice-giving elders.” As the father of a 23-year-old, I might want to study this closely. Here are the tips:

  • Question your assumptions: What worked in your youth might have little relevance today.
  • Offer suggestions, not pronouncements: Say ‘you could’ not ‘you should.’
  • Welcome a dialogue: Listen, don’t lecture; you’ll learn things and give better advice.
  • Resist saying: ‘When I was young…’
  • Don’t belittle technology: If you’re critical of social media, young people may dismiss you as a dinosaur.
  • Accept your limitations: The young understand the world today. Sometimes, the best advice is: ‘Trust your instincts.’
  • I’m going to have a hard time giving up item 4. There’s nothing I love more than saying to Joel, “When I was your age, … ” Of course, I do so ironically, but somewhere within the irony is truth trying to come out. But I must say, I’m not convinced by the first and last items. I don’t doubt that the young have wisdom, but one can’t deduce from that that we don’t. What could it possibly mean that the young understand the world today? Does anyone understand the world? Could a more careful statement be made here?

    Well, anyway, I’m probably giving this article more attention than it deserves. Joel, when you read this post, could you tell me what I’m missing? Thanks.

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