Book-dumb or street-smart: Which would you rather be?

Neil Howe has an op-ed piece out on The Washington Post (Who Is the Real ‘Dumbest Generation’?) with some interesting statistics about how those Americans born between the late Fifties and mid-Sixties “performed the worst on standardized exams, acquired the fewest educational degrees and been the least attracted to professional careers” yet may just be the right ones to lead us through these dark times.

They’re practical and resilient, they handle risk well, and they know how to improvise when even the experts don’t know the answer. As the global economy craters, they won’t keep leafing through a textbook. They may be a little rough around the edges, but their style usually gets the job done.

As interesting as Howe’s citations, however, is the backlash in the comments from members of the group Howe discusses: those late-Boomers and early X’ers whom are marketingly (how’s that for a new word?) labeled Generation Jones™ (a name that defies foolishness and short-sightedness, to say nothing of the fact that it hardly comprises a full generation, but I’m digressing for the moment), and which would include 1961-born President-elect Obama (says here he’s a Generation X’er, but let’s continue to digress for the moment, OK?).

I’m prone to take Howe at his word (I’ve been following his stuff for 15 years) so perhaps I’m biased in assuming his stats and conclusions are correct (if you’re not in my camp on this, you might as well skip the rest of this and go to my Anthony Mason and Wu-Tang post).

If you get past the headline-grabbing “Dumbest Generation” gauntlet and reflect upon what Howe is writing throughout the entire article (which many of the commenters seem incapable of doing), he’s calling this group book dumb and street smart. Which would you rather be? By street smart, I mean pragmatic, able to make the best of any situation, able to think on your feet — someone who is successful in spite of the odds (and often without due credit), a self-made man or woman. That’s our lot and our burden as members of Generation X. Read the rest of this entry »


Gen X and Boomers? Sure. ‘Generation Jones’? Not so much.

I’m not so sure of this Generation Jones™ campaign, which I only became aware of from a comment the other day, and which I’ve responded to. It’s a term that now seems to be on some sort of viral marketing push to gain acceptance. In fact, there appears to be at least a small segment of folks born in the late Fifties and early Sixties that seem willing to buy into this concept — and who could blame them? Unless you were born in 1946 or 1947, and therefore really can’t deny it, it seems like no one wants to be associated with the Boomers these days.

I’m of the strong opinion that there are only two American Generations spanning the years when G.I.’s returned from World War II (beginning with the first soldiers coming home in 1943) through approximately 1980 — the Baby Boomers and what we often call Generation X.

From what I’ve studied, I believe Barack Obama’s birthyear of 1961 marks the start of Generation X, based primarily on the work of Strauss & Howe, and for at least two other reasons: JFK taking office that year, and the legalization of The Pill for birth control in June 1960, which would impact babies born starting in 1961. No, I’m not naïve enough to think that birth control didn’t begin until then, only that it was at long-last government sanctioned and kicked off the sexual revolution that lasted essentially until the early- to mid-1980s — impacting most of Gen X’s parents — and ending roughly when the tragedy of AIDS finally hit home with mainstream America following Rock Hudson’s death, and later, Magic Johnson’s stunning retirement press conference. Connected to this, American birth rates declined from a peak in 1957, with a little uptick in 1961, falling off dramatically, past Roe v. Wade and well on into the Seventies.

Read the rest of this entry »