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USA Today Goes After 'Kids' With Thin Skin
February 16, 2005 1:35 PM   Subscribe

'Yep, life'll burst that self-esteem bubble' says USA Today This article can't seem to decide whether it wants to discuss Gen Xers or Millenials. And it quotes Neil Howe (Of The Fourth Turning) toward the end, about the characteristics of Millenials (people born after 1982). What may be the most interesting aspect of this article is that the author seems uncomfortable speaking negatively about the millenials. The writer is hesitant to criticize the Millenials, and so she initially suggests that the cry babies finishing college who are now entering the workforce were born in the 70s and early 80s. Of course, if that were true, those recent college grads would be in their late twenties to mid-thirties. And I particularly like that improved self esteem is bad because it leads to "enhanced initiative, which boosts confidence, and increased happiness."
posted by schambers (57 comments total)

 
I leafed through this article this morning... It sounds to me like little more than one of those "these kids today, they dunno how good they have it" pieces of claptrap that older people usually spew to make their own failures seem less painful. Here it's given the legitimacy of journalistic presentation. I know USA Today has gotten better recently, but this article isn't proof of that.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:39 PM on February 16, 2005


*cries*
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2005


Actually, I hate self-esteem because people who have it are generally annoying.

But otherwise this is just more Generational Generalizations.
posted by jonmc at 1:46 PM on February 16, 2005


USA Today is like cheap beer: it's tolerable sometimes, but generally it just makes me want to drink the real thing. More than the simple "kids these days" attitude, I was struck by the writer's apparent cluelessness about generational cohorts. 26 year olds are lumped with 16 year olds, even though they come from two separate generations, which were reared entirely differently.
posted by schambers at 1:46 PM on February 16, 2005


In the article, Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, says of boosting self-esteem:

There is not nearly as much benefit as we hoped," he says. "It's been one of the biggest disappointments of my career.

I'd like to ask today's Metafilter users: what is the biggest disappointment of your career?
posted by mcgraw at 1:51 PM on February 16, 2005


You know, I'm married to a woman (who posts to this board, I'm not saying who she is) whose mother raised her with a lot of support and optimism, just the kind of "highly exaggerated claims" that the woman in this article talks about. She focused on the potential successes that might be achieved, and didn't worry about the potential failures.

I, on the other hand, was raised by parents who always saw the negative side of things, and actively discouraged me from doing things I might fail at ("you shouldn't enter that contest, you won't win", "if you don't feel like you're making progress in your piano lessons, you can stop") rather than focusing on the potential for success.

Well, I can honestly say this: while my wife and I have similar skills, talents and intellect, she has taken more risks -- and achieved more successes -- in her life than I have by far, and in my 6+ years of knowing her, the support and encouragement she has given me (as she was given) has driven me to accomplish (or fail at) things I never would have dreamed of trying before.

I hope, for this woman's kids' sake, she realizes that responsibility (chores and whatnot) and supporting encouragement (the aforementioned highly exaggerated claims) are not mutually exclusive, and in fact in combination could help her children become well-rounded, capable and responsible people who aren't afraid of shooting for the moon. The trouble comes when kids are taught that they DESERVE success, rather than that they're CAPABLE of it, which is a different thing entirely.

/end rant

ON PREVIEW: the biggest disappointment of my career is that I haven't become independently wealthy from it so that I can retire early from it. I suspect most people will have the same answer.
posted by davejay at 1:53 PM on February 16, 2005


But employers such as Sobel, director of recruitment for an entertainment firm, aren't so sure.
"One of the things the managers talked about is an incredible sense of entitlement for people who don't deserve it," she says. "They'll come in right out of college and don't understand why they're not getting promoted in three months."


This is on the money tho, i've found (my boss always complains about it too--it makes hiring really hard). It's a big big difference from those who are late-twenties and older.

I'd like to ask today's Metafilter users: what is the biggest disappointment of your career?
Which one? I've had a few already, i think.
posted by amberglow at 1:54 PM on February 16, 2005


Um, not having a career?
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:54 PM on February 16, 2005


nope, definitely having one.
posted by hackly_fracture at 1:57 PM on February 16, 2005


I was born in 1982. Does that mean I exist over a widening chasm? Is that what this emptiness is? I have been reconciled to a footnote by the fevered dreams of these experts.

*sobs quietly*
posted by The God Complex at 1:57 PM on February 16, 2005


If I was in a raid with The God Complex I'd so ninja loot his drops.

*excuses self*
posted by mcgraw at 1:59 PM on February 16, 2005


Actually, I hate self-esteem because people who have it are generally annoying.

but otherwise this is just more generational generalizations

I hate generalizations except the ones I support!

(are we really going to have this argument again? No, we're not. I still think you willfully confuse self-esteem and arrogance, however.)
posted by The God Complex at 2:00 PM on February 16, 2005


There is nothing wrong with telling a kid "this is something you did well," as long as there are times you say "this is something you can do better." Sometime these things can/should be combined: "I like how you did X, but I think you can improve Y and Z."

Call me radical, I beleive true self esteem is the result of accomplishment. You earned a black belt? Won the spelling bee? Got a Grammy? You have done somehing you can be rightfully proud of! That is self esteem. The young adults who "come in right out of college and don't understand why they're not getting promoted in three months" don't have self esteem; they have self absorbtion.
posted by ilsa at 2:00 PM on February 16, 2005


That was fast, quick-draw mcgraw. Are you following me?
posted by The God Complex at 2:00 PM on February 16, 2005


Got a Grammy? You have done somehing you can be rightfully proud of!

Well, let's not be crazy here ;)
posted by The God Complex at 2:01 PM on February 16, 2005


You know, I read the article again, and I want to add something to what I said above.

I think the article is attempting to tie "empty" praise to an inability to handle failure later in life. I can't imagine that to be a valid relationship unless the person in question had no other source of feedback other than the person providing the "empty" praise.

The thing is, last time I checked, life is hard. Peers, authority figures and even strangers go out of their way to point out other people's failures, real or imagined. I should think having a cheerleader in your corner would help you learn to deal with those other people and recognize that failure is often a matter of viewpoint rather than facts.

To reference something in the article, if you cry in college because you got a bad grade for the first time, then somewhere along the line you learned it was bad to fail. Encouraging people that they can succeed and shouldn't be afraid of trying should, I think, almost guarantee that they WILL try something and fail at it early in life, and hopefully learn that failure's okay, too.

Oh well. I'm about to raise twins, so I guess I'd better figure this out sooner than later.

ON PREVIEW:

"I like how you did X, but I think you can improve Y and Z."

My parents said that a lot, and I didn't see anything wrong with it, until my wife pointed out how much better it sounds when you say "Yes, you could improve Y and Z, but look what a great job you did with X!" or even better "great job with X!", because they probably already recognize they did poorly at Y and Z.
posted by davejay at 2:03 PM on February 16, 2005


Remember the big fish, small pool effect? We just need bigger pools, or better coordination. When you're significantly better at something than everyone around you, you're going to get praised. Once you actually have competition (moving up a league, going to college, etc) then you're not going to be the best every time.

The corporate world doesn't work like this. There are some highly competitive positions, but most work involves repetition of a task. You may be better at it than someone else who's been there a long time, but that doesn't mean you'll be paid more or promoted to their level. It takes time to prize things like workplace knowledge, dedication, etc. I might complete the same tasks as half a dozen other people, but if they've been here longer and done more projects, I'm not going to "win."

The USA Today article misses this because it equates congratulating someone with rewarding them and competing with just completing. Getting first place in a race isn't the same as getting an A on an essay, and maybe we need to recognize that.
posted by mikeh at 2:11 PM on February 16, 2005


I, too, exist in that nether region between world, the Nothing that is We-Who-Were-Born-In-1982. My parents were wary of this whole "self-esteem" thing, and my father often told me he took it as his responsibility to keep me "down to earth" by knocking me down a few pegs. He heard my teachers' effusive praise on conference night, and assumed they were just as effusive in class, and so, redoubled his efforts to point out my flaws to counter-balance their praise. What he never believed was when I told him that my teachers never said such things in class. Now I can appreciate their quandary; I was hated by my classmates. They were incredibly cruel to me. My teachers knew if they ever praised me, it would only end badly for me.

So, my classmates tormented me ... my teachers were harder on me than anyone else, so I couldn't be called a "teacher's pet" ... and then I went home, and my parents brought me "down to earth" from the laudy self-esteem building I'd had all day in school.

I'm so glad I'm not a kid anymore....

Anyway, moral of the story, I'm not so sure it's a bad thing. Lots of people are lining up to kick you down. Having one place where that's not the case is something everyone should have.
posted by jefgodesky at 2:16 PM on February 16, 2005


So wait, I'm confused about this new round of Generation naming:

Gen X means you "came of age" in the early 90s and were probably born in the 70s. But what comes after that?

I've heard things like "Generation Y" (something ridiculous like everyone born from 1980- 1992), "The Peter Pan Generation" which is comprised of people who are in their mid-to-late twenties currently who aren't moving away from home and aren't settling into families and jobs and then there's this Millennial crap, which I think covers an even broader swath of time than Generation Y, where everyone is made out to be god-fearing, abstinent, cherubs.

Man, I refuse to be a "Millennial." That's the worst name ever. Plus, it was popularized by self-obsessed unfunny douche bag Bill Strauss as something to make him famous.
posted by StopMakingSense at 2:25 PM on February 16, 2005


If I have anything to say about it I plan on raising my children so that they are utterly unfit for corporate work. The less one's childhood trains one to be competetive in the corporate workplace the better. Childhood is not preparation for real life, it is real life. If I feel good for just being myself - fine. I don't need external validation or hoops to jump through or performance reviews to tell me that I'm worth a good god damn. I'm alive, and I want to do things on a daily basis which challenge me, and you can expect me to be dissapointed when the best offer I have is Junior Asst. Rubber Stamp Technician Class III.

Jesus... do you want your child to be satisfied with meaningless drone-work? That's one of the few things would would make me go all Alan-Keyes on my kid's ass.

*storms off to join The God Complex in Generational Limbo - go 1981!*
posted by Coda at 2:25 PM on February 16, 2005 [1 favorite]


I, for one, welcome our new crybaby Milennial overlords.
posted by jonp72 at 2:29 PM on February 16, 2005


Lots of people are lining up to kick you down. Having one place where that's not the case is something everyone should have.

Well put, jefgodesky.

If I have anything to say about it I plan on raising my children so that they are utterly unfit for corporate work.

What about fit for corporate work, but unwilling to settle for it? I ask, because I was really good at the grocery store clerk job I used to partially pay for college, but I certainly wasn't going to stay there longer than I had to...I'd hate to have been unfit for it, because I couldn't have used it as a stepping stone to something better. In fact, I quit that job the day I landed my first paid television director gig (although I did wrangle free donuts and coffee out of my grocery store boss for the day's shoot before I did so.)

Side note: that old grocery store boss was actually a terrific guy, one of many who taught me that mediocre jobs don't have to mean mediocre people, and all jobs are worth doing well if you're the guy who has to do it.
posted by davejay at 2:33 PM on February 16, 2005


What about fit for corporate work, but unwilling to settle for it?

Amen. Raise kids who can go in, get to the top, and change 'how it is'. Maybe your grandchildren can be saved.

Maybe.
posted by cosmonik at 2:43 PM on February 16, 2005


26 year olds are lumped with 16 year olds, even though they come from two separate generations, which were reared entirely differently.

When people talk about generations, they're talking about groups of people that span about 20 years, so you are in fact lumped in with people who seem to be of quite a different age than you. HOwever, as you get older, that gap seems less conspicuous, and the generation generalizations don't seem to be completely lacking in truth. Of course, you can always get more particular, and sub-generalize - ie, broadly 1945-1962? is the baby boom, but the second half of that is sometimes called "generation jones".

Likewise, "generation X" is broadly speaking kids born in the 60s and 70s, but some people consider it two halves... the ones born in the 60s were kinda the precursors, and all the underground shit in the 80s that hit the bigtime in the late 80s/early 90s (ie, when groening got to prime time and nevermind hit the charts) was due to them. Then the kids born in the late 70s/early 80s, who still feel connected to all that, but who barely remember when it wasn't the cultural mainstream are sorta like a third component...

Anyway. It's kinda too early to say what the "next" wave is. We've been riding out the leftovers of Gen X for the last 10 years at least, the same way a lot of the cultural mainstream of the 70s was a diluted and sort of lackadaisical version of the 60s. In the 60s, people thought they were Changing Things; in the 70s they were just still stoned and listening to groovy music and wearing flower patterns, but they weren't taking it seriously. I think the same thing is kinda true of the Gen X moment - the goth/punk/dark humor thing always had an element of irony, but it also had an element of pain/anger that has disappeared in the pop culture.
posted by mdn at 2:45 PM on February 16, 2005 [1 favorite]


My siblings were born in 68 & 69, and they are definitely not generation X. They were done with college and moving on with their lives when the term really came into popular use, as far as I can remember.
72-79? That might be Generation X. (Which is weird, because when I was little and watching TV that mentioned Gen-X the 70s never once crossed my mind.)
80-90, then, might be some group called the Millenials or Gen-Y or ... whatever. There's no good name for us, just like there's no good name for the decade in which we are coming of age.

Anyway, from the post:
she initially suggests that the cry babies finishing college who are now entering the workforce were born in the 70s and early 80s. Of course, if that were true, those recent college grads would be in their late twenties to mid-thirties
77-82, to pick numbers out of the air, would make them 23-28. i.e. mid twenties. that isn't totally crazy.

Good link, anyway.
posted by blacklite at 3:05 PM on February 16, 2005


What about the Echo Boomers?
posted by rooftop secrets at 3:22 PM on February 16, 2005


it's all bullshit invented by publishers with a desperate need to fill lots of space with lots of words, and consumed by youth with a desperate need to believe they are unique.
posted by quonsar at 3:23 PM on February 16, 2005


I guess that is us. but. man. what a name.
posted by blacklite at 3:28 PM on February 16, 2005


That's funny. My non-US friends frequently remark on Americans' obsession with being A-number-1 in everything we do.

I was a big fish in a small pond, and yes, it was hard to come to the realization that in the big scheme of things, I wasn't anything exceptional. But I'm glad that this realization came when I was 20. Had it come when I was 7, I might not have ever made it out of my small pond at all.
posted by 4easypayments at 3:39 PM on February 16, 2005


Ugh...pop-psychology really, really bothers me, and I don't think I'm out of line in classifying just about everything in this article as that.

"Believers suggested that students who hold themselves in high regard are happier and will succeed."

Alright, so there's a correlation between happiness, success, and one's feelings of worth. Is this shocking? Well, I guess the important part is the conclusion, which is that independent of one's abilities and life situation, showering them with praise, whether deserved or not will make them happy and successful. Of course, that would only apply if high self-esteem was caused by praise of any sort and furthermore that happiness and success were caused by high self-esteem, both of which I have a hard time believing.

How are you going to communicate to someone that there's something they could improve without using criticism? The only reason to regard criticism as inherently bad is if you have the notion that there is nothing wrong with people, and there's something wrong with everyone.

What if people just tried to figure out what others' actual strengths and weaknesses were, praised them for their strengths and helped them overcome their weaknesses? Oh, and respected people's personal goals. The whole manipulation through praise/punishment seems to me to be intrinsically bound toward coercing people to fit your definition of appropriate. Whereas if you just honestly tell people what you think of them and respect that they can also think what they may of you, you both can take that advice at what you will and use it to your benefit or detriment.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:46 PM on February 16, 2005


I've met cheeses that are older than your self-esteem.
posted by eatitlive at 4:10 PM on February 16, 2005


i'm not so sure this has much to do with inflated self-esteem ... i think a lot of people grow up in artificial over-protective environments and are shocked when faced with their first taste of real adversity ... and the sense of entitlement doesn't come from inflated self-esteem either, but the overall culture of entitlement the u s has been developing

i've noticed something else about people under 25 ... they don't seem to be buying into the kneejerk cynicism and automatic rebellion that older people have ... it seems to me that a reaction of crying or getting upset over adverse feedback is a sign they actually care what people think about them ... it's quite different then "yeah, whatever", isn't it?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:13 PM on February 16, 2005


Many of the USA Today's articles make me want to vomit. I might be too harsh on them but I find that many of the "fads" they write about tend to be overly hyped. Recent articles about ipods, podcasting, and mom's in bands make me cringe.
posted by andendau at 4:28 PM on February 16, 2005


Ugh...pop-psychology really, really bothers me

Yeah, but it's all we've got.
posted by cosmonik at 4:43 PM on February 16, 2005


"My siblings were born in 68 & 69, and they are definitely not generation X. They were done with college and moving on with their lives when the term really came into popular use, as far as I can remember."

Oh, they're Gen X all right. The term didn't really come in to use until the oldest Gen Xers were in their late 20s (those darned Boomers were dominating the media for a LONG time), and of course, Coupland originally defined it differently anyway.

I was born in 1965 and there is no way I am a baby boomer. Nope, sorry, not going to happen. Culturally I can't identify with boomers at all, but I do still identify with people born in the 70s, young whippersnappers that they are. :) Someone born in the late 60s isn't going to be any more of a Boomer than I am -- and they aren't the generation after the Xers either, since generations are generally longer than 5 or 6 years. Calling Generation X 72-79 makes no sense.
posted by litlnemo at 4:57 PM on February 16, 2005


yup, pyramid--i blame that on the excessive attention paid to them throughout their lives--it's not like how the 70s parents or society saw kids at all.

The USA Today article misses this because it equates congratulating someone with rewarding them and competing with just completing. Getting first place in a race isn't the same as getting an A on an essay, and maybe we need to recognize that.
What's also unsaid (altho mikeh got it) is that the rules are always different in different environments, and even then they change at (other people's) whims--Some under 25s aren't even willing to adapt, but expect all environments to reward them--just like their lives up til then have (until life beats them down a bit and makes them get real)--it's sort of like they're showponies, but won't even consider being workhorses, even if the situation demands it. It's also a middle-class and higher thing, for the most part.

Life (and growing up) will take care of these adjustment problems--no need to worry.

And no one's mentioned the quarter-life crisis yet?

(and 65 is the beginning of X, apparently--i'm actually one of the very last of the boomers (12/64), but my life has been more Xish)
posted by amberglow at 5:03 PM on February 16, 2005


Discussing generational trends is different than stereotyping generations. In general, if you were born on a cusp (early 80s for instance), then you're probably whichever generation with which you most identify. Of course there will be people in every generation who don't fit the mold, but the generational trends are about things like statistics. For instance, higher divorce rates among Gen X parents. Greater percentage of those boomer parents working full-time, and so on. As a broad generalization, you can say that each generation is a reaction to the one that preceeded it. WWII, Boomer, Gen X, Millenial...

My point was that although the criticisms are targetted at Millenials, the writer tries to pin it on Gen Xers, precisely because that's the way Gen Xers have been labelled their entire lives: as underperforming. The tension in the article comes from that contradiction. Most people born in the 1970s are not graduating from college now, but the writer ignores that. 20 year olds and 26 year olds aren't even in the same generation. And the differences are much greater than between 26 year olds and 32 year olds, for instance.
posted by schambers at 5:13 PM on February 16, 2005


Getting first place in a race isn't the same as getting an A on an essay, and maybe we need to recognize that.

Just to be a bit of a contrarian:

There has to be some sort of a middle ground between blanket praise of everyone, and rewarding just the top three. To use the the "race" analogy, even when I finish in the bottom 25% of a half-marathon, I still walk away with a t-shirt and a time. I'm never going to get my name in the paper for showing up at a race and making everyone else look good, but those butt-ugly race t-shirts are a nice little perk for participation.

This is probably an old and familiar rant with some people here, but I'll say it anyway. I think that in many ways we are afraid of mediocrity. The arts suffer the worst for this because if you are not the next Vincent van Gogh or Jimi Hendrix, you hear something like, "You're wasting your time. Why not learn accounting or computer programming?" The end result is I think that amateurism is really suffering. If you can't be the elite, then at least do something profitable.

Of course we shouldn't be giving out hollow praise. Winning your community little league game may or may not make you a future baseball star. But I don't see a problem praising how much work a person put into a story, recital, or basketball game.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:26 PM on February 16, 2005


This article blows, for all the reasons everyone else has stated. The Echo Boomers piece on 60 Minutes that rooftop secrets linked was much better, but still not great.

I have a question for you mefites: how many of you feel like you actually belong to any of these "generations"? I feel like I can very easily identify other generations, for example, all baby boomers really seem a lot alike to me. But I never felt like I was part of one.

I was born in 1976, but I never felt Gen X at all. I feel like I was coming along right at the end of it, and it was already cliched and stupid to refer to yourself as a Gen X'er by the time I realized what it was. It seemed like it was the people a few years older than me, friends' older siblings, the people graduating high school when I was just starting, who could qualify as true Gen X'ers. And I definitely never felt like I could identify with the Generation Y/Millennial/Echo Boom whatever kids.

The people older than I always seemed like they were forging new ground in what was hip and edgy, while the people younger than I always seemed really eager to swallow whatever mainstream pop culture was fed to them. My peers and I, however, were caught in the middle, desperately trying to stay a step or 2 ahead of the mainstream, really afraid of looking like posers.
posted by papakwanz at 5:53 PM on February 16, 2005


Wasn't Generation Y some Pepsi marketing campaign? I'm not naming my generation (b. 1982)after some sales pitch...
posted by ParemosLasMaquinas at 6:06 PM on February 16, 2005


How about the "internet generation".. ?
posted by Drexen at 6:38 PM on February 16, 2005


According to the guy who coined the phrase Gen X'ers should be hitting 40 right about now. It seems to me that the slacker/whiner label is being applied to Millenials-or-whaterver-we're-calling-em for exactly the same reason it was applied to Gen X'ers before them - they had the misfortune to leave college in the middle of a unprecedentedly crappy job market.
posted by bonecrusher at 6:43 PM on February 16, 2005


papakwanz: I think part of the problem is that generations seem to be defined by key marketable events. For example, our media view of the late 60s is dominated by the radical counter-culture, hippies, LSD and rock and roll. Pictures of my parents during this time reveal a young man with a crew-cut standing next to a woman with a classic Patty Duke cuirl. I think early Doonesbury can be viewed as a microcosm of my parent's generation and my dad appears to have been Mike Doonesbury, the forgotten and invisible everyman stuck between Zonker's counterculture and BD's conservativism. But in marketing the 60s and early 70s, "flower power" sells much better than the ambivalence of a nation that elected Nixon to two terms.

Likewise, I get fed up with the way that Generation-X has been marketed to me as an identity. I think it started when people started declaring Curt Cobain as the martyr for Gen-X. At the time I was already sick of hearing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" 3 times an hour. But also, I had by that time too much personal experience with depression and suicide to be sympathetic towards the mass-market outpouring of vicarious grief generated by MTV.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:47 PM on February 16, 2005


papakwanz: I think part of the problem is that generations seem to be defined by key marketable events. For example, our media view of the late 60s is dominated by the radical counter-culture, hippies, LSD and rock and roll. Pictures of my parents during this time reveal a young man with a crew-cut standing next to a woman with a classic Patty Duke cuirl.

On target as usual, KJS. The counterculture vision of the 1960's sold to us by the media actually only directly touched a tiny minority of Americans. By the time the residue of the 60's touched the lives of the majority of Americans it was the 70's and it was a whole other kettle of fish by then.
posted by jonmc at 6:54 PM on February 16, 2005


I only really have one thing to say about the difficulties of generational division and it, along with many better thoughts, can be found in this AskMe.
posted by dame at 7:29 PM on February 16, 2005


I'd like to propose that everyone born on the cusp of Coupland's Generation X -- in 1965 -- be henceforward referred to as Generation Wonderchicken.

Even though we're not actually a generation at all. Nice ring to it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:38 PM on February 16, 2005


Ridiculous levels of encouragement are only necessary to counteract the damage done by a incredible discouragement being provided by other aspects of their lives.

I used to work at a children's mental health center that treated kids with anger management problems - fighting, stealing, lighting fires, lying, drug use etc. When a kid is raised in an incredibly negative environment, those types of behaviours are encouraged - because any attention is good attention. Try congratulating them on not punching someone and see their face light up with pride. And watch that positive behaviour be reinforced.

Also, there's never anything wrong with encouraging kids try things that are new, or try more at things that are hard. It's what we have to do all our lives to survive and be a success. But its equally important for them to realistically understand their level of acheivement.

For regular kids with a balanced home life, over encouragement is ridiculous. I remember getting a Participation ribbon on Track and Field Day in primary school, and feeling acutely embarrassed by it - i didn't know the word 'condescension' yet, but I sure sensed it.
posted by Kololo at 12:36 AM on February 17, 2005


When a kid is raised in an incredibly negative environment, those types of behaviors are encouraged - because any attention is good attention ... I remember getting a Participation ribbon on Track and Field Day in primary school, and feeling acutely embarrassed by it - i didn't know the word 'condescension' yet, but I sure sensed it.
posted by Kololo

Kololo, I'm familiar with both neighborhoods - not personally on the attention-grabbers, but yes on the condescension-ribbon. I also think that that article was crap, as it - like so many other social plagues these days - makes an attempt to blame the victim. There's a reason some of these kids have these attitudes, and it has little to do with Generations X, Y or M - it's all about overweening bourgeois parents who shove silver spoons into their kids mouths, and make them believe that they own a larger societal-stake than the kids next door - thus the arrogant SUV drivers, etc. And the term is 'coddling', not 'encouraging'.
posted by vhsiv at 2:51 AM on February 17, 2005


THIS IS NOT A GENERATIONAL PROBLEM! (please excuse the yelling) This -- unwarranted overconfidence -- is an American condition... ultimately giving to collective delusion. (ex. our capacity to "liberate" the world)

I have to interpret the article as a critique of American education and the drawbacks of constant back-patting and empty, formulaic encouragement for average efforts. And this is nothing new.

"When you correct writing, they'll say, 'It's just your opinion,' which is infuriating. Bad grammar and spelling and sentences being wrong is not my opinion, it's just bad writing," she says.

We all aren't right all the time. Undergrads may have a lot of "self-esteem" because many have never been forced to realize that, in at least some cases, they are inept. It's also quite possible that they have rarely been truly challenged. Attitudes such as this are the result of an uncritical, spit-back-the-answer approach to education that is a large part of American education. A high school career of multiple choice tests and five page papers doesn't necessarily cultivate a refined sense of reflection.

Gross generalization : the American high school is a rather watered down institution. And, I'm not talking about private schools or the Ivy League -- I wouldn't know.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a good outlook. It just shouldn't be taken to the point where people develop false ideas about themselves and their abilities. An unrealistic evaluation of oneself can easily lead to disappointment.

Maybe we don't need to take things to the level they are in, say, France, where pupils are openly given class rankings from the elementary school level and assigned to certain "filières" starting in middle school. Where the idea of slacking off senior year doesn't exist because of the BAC and where the university works on a year to year basis -- those not making the cut either trying again or finding something else to do.

We seem to have an ingrained idea that everything will fall into place -- it's America. Sure, a lot of things have gone our way for a while now. Prosperity might continue for many more years. Inch Allah as they would say where I'm living. But I can't help but thinking that there exists the possibility of a "feel good" overdose.

Living in the "third world" and witnessing the fatalism that is a result of poverty and sparse possibilities, I have to believe that our "self-esteem bubble" is largely due to to luxury we are afforded. What worries me is that it seems like many are prone to thinking our comfort is not the result of providence.
posted by pwedza at 5:18 AM on February 17, 2005


Qonsar is right -- these kind of pieces are a knee-jerk reaction to white space (or, on TV, dead air).

What bothers me is that this stuff obscures the interesting social science which can be done around demographics.

For example, there is this proposition which attributes the mid-to-late-60s sexual revolution to the tendency of women to hook up with men several years older than them. Because of the tremendous mismatch between the huge number of women born between 1946 and 1949 (the beginnign of the baby boom) and the relatively small number of men born between 1940 and 1945 (the final years of the Depression and the war years), the men had a supply-demand advantage which resulted in women discarding traditional sexual mores.
posted by MattD at 5:59 AM on February 17, 2005


Back when the term "Gen X" was first coined I kind of liked the idea of being part of a cohesive generation. Then I realized any group of people that large really can't be cohesive, and now I always suspect that articles like this are really marketing people trying to get us to their work for them in our ensuing discussion.
posted by jonmc at 6:47 AM on February 17, 2005


My siblings were born in 68 & 69, and they are definitely not generation X. They were done with college and moving on with their lives when the term really came into popular use, as far as I can remember.

The thing with generalizations is that not everybody is going to fit them, by definition. In a very broad sense, the majority will probably continue to be more or less the same as those who came before them, taking part in the pop culture while teenagers, etc, but then basically continuing to live in the same town, go to the same church, blah blah, as their parents. It's only some percentage of people who really feel like they "belong" to a particular time, and how that time is defined (how it stands apart from what came before or after) is what defines the generation.

Late 60s is definitely gen X in that someone had to build the momentum of the 'underground' side of the 80s so that it could burst through into the mainstream after Reagan. It existed as a counter-culture and got its strength from being countercultural, so without that element, it couldn't have been a generation at all.

The whole reason it was so amazing to see the Simpsons on tracy ullman, or to hear "alternative" music on major radio stations, was that for years it had been what set us apart from the 'rest' of the country. Wearing docs or having blue hair in the 80s was actually unusual. It made you a 'freak' or a punk/goth or an 'alternative' kid or whatever. At the start of the 90s, it became normalized so that it no longer carries any of the brave/weird connotations that it once did. Now it's just another possible style, not a statement of any sort. For that reason, it seems like if you were born after say 77, you entered adolescence after the counterculture had become the mainstream, and have a different sense about the meaning of those things.
posted by mdn at 7:25 AM on February 17, 2005


Oh am I ever glad to have been born in 1981 to escape the curse of the "Millenials." I would hate to be lumped in with a bunch of whining losers.

/end cynicism.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:53 AM on February 17, 2005


A high school career of multiple choice tests and five page papers doesn't necessarily cultivate a refined sense of reflection.
posted by pwedza at 7:18 AM CST on February 17


Five PAGES? Try five PARAGRAPHS. I work as a tutor in our university writing center, and 50-60% of the students that I work with are freshman in their first or second semester English courses. They all struggle pathetically just to get to the required 500-750 word length of most of their assignments.
posted by papakwanz at 10:39 AM on February 17, 2005


i think kids are generally pretty smart no matter what grown-ups do to, for, or about them. they know their third place ribbon sucks, especially if everyone else in the class got one.

adults are the ones who need all the rationalization that every little thing they do affects their kids' lives.
posted by osmium at 10:50 AM on February 17, 2005


kids are smart, and i agree totally on the adults needing validation, but 18 years of rote praise and reward has to have some effect on a kid, whether they buy it or not.
posted by amberglow at 10:55 AM on February 17, 2005


THIS IS NOT A GENERATIONAL PROBLEM! (please excuse the yelling) This -- unwarranted overconfidence -- is an American condition... ultimately giving to collective delusion.

How old are you? Because for a lot of us born in the 60s & 70s, we never got the "rote praise". That's what started all those slacker/punk movements - because our parents were too busy getting stoned or discovering their sexuality, or whatever. That's what changed in the 80s, when the culture went from the whole 'me generation' thing, to the think-of-the-children phase. So kids who were brought up by those parents who decided to have kids in the 80s are more likely to have parents who were focused on their kids. People who had kids in the 60s & 70s tended to be much more focused on themselves, and I can say that many of my generation (many of my friends around my age & older) feel as if our parents never really wanted to be parents so much as just see what happened, explore having children, fingerpaint with their babies, etc. A lot of us did not feel like we ever got much support.

It isn't that these things are hard and fast, or that kids don't see through "honorable mentions" that go to everyone, but I really don't doubt that it made a difference to the milllenial gen that so much attention was focused on them as they were growing up.
posted by mdn at 12:06 PM on February 19, 2005


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