Wide generation gap not a good thing
Highlands TodayWorking to close generation gaps strengthens nations. In June 2009 the Pew Research Center released findings of a new study on age differences. Interpretation of results is puzzling. The first news accounts carried headings more or less like this: "Study Finds Widening Generation Gap In U.S." A month later an article's title was "Generation Gap More Subtle." So, which is it? Apparently, both, and that's dangerous.
Published: August 28, 2009
Published: August 28, 2009
Some understand Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," scratching his beard while his daughters question his traditions, weighing decisions as he mumbles, "on the other hand." Today's children, teenagers, and adults relate more to cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. Bob, however, stirs controversy unknown a few generations ago. His creator Stephen Hillenburg sees him as "squeaky clean, naïve and asexual." Gay men made Bob their icon because of their interpretation of his flamboyant lifestyle, tolerant attitude, and the fact that he regularly holds hands with his sidekick Patrick.
The Pew survey lists the expected dividers: social values, morality, religion, technology. Calling this the "largest gap since the tumultuous 1960s," those older than 29 cited a difference they labeled "a sense of entitlement." That conjures scenes of imagined conversations, the older pointing to the younger, saying, "If you think you're entitled to what I have"; the younger sullenly responding, "You're not entitled to tell me what to do"; Madonna, refusing to acknowledge her age, shouting, "I think everyone's entitled to my opinion."
Walter Breuning, at 112 the newest oldest man alive, strolls the Rainbow Retirement Home dressed in suit and tie. Younger people scoff at such quaint garb but feed pigs and shovel manure in Europe for a cheap, "green," new vacation on the Old Continent. An August 2009 headline declared another way to whip recession: "Backyard Chicken Trend Is Sweeping The Nation." If the venerable Breuning had said "in my day" and suggested these activities, he would have met stony silence and rolling eyes.
The Associated Press summed up the Pew poll: "The young and the old are not on the same page. Researchers say that the differences don't seem to matter anymore." That's true only if we ignore one another and apply Darwin's "survival of the fittest."
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king. The people vowed allegiance to him if he would lighten their heavy, unjust workload. He pretended to seek counsel from the elders, who advised him to listen and "be a servant to this people today" (1 Kings 12:7 NAS). He did not listen, instead siding with his young companions, who were trained to be "yes men." He brashly declared: "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke" (v. 14). Civil war and literal division of the nation followed.
Arthur Morgan, mid-20th c. champion for progressive education, said: "Preparation for old age should begin not later than one's teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement." Linking generations together takes the best of each for the benefit of all; the guarantee of continuity is quality.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.