Closing the Classroom Door on the Millennial Generation
It seems that the world is engulfed in the Millennials; you can’t turn on the television without seeing their scrappy, young faces so full of hope and grandeur selling you oversized headphones, Toyotas, and MacBooks Pros. Logging into any social network is an open invitation to being bombarded with news article postings about Millennials in the Workplace, Campus, Breakroom, Church, or any other place these scrapping young lads and lasses bless with their presence.
The term “Millennial Generation” (also known as the belittle “Y-Generation”) was coined many years ago by two gentlemen named Will Strauss and Neil Howe. Strauss and Howe discussed what they called the “Generation Theory” – a theory that became the anchor to their monumental must-read book Generations: A History of America’s Future.
Strauss and Howe poured over primary documents leading back through American history and noticed a startling pattern in beliefs and ideas: a four-part cycle theory separated out into 22-year long periods. This pattern resulted in an 88-year cycle of four generations, each a reaction to the previous generation – the two men theorized that you could tell America’s social history by studying past.
Basically, every generation has an identical generation some 88 years in the past. For instance, the jilted Generation X aligns with The Lost Generation – Kurt Cobain to one is Ernest Hemingway to another. The Xers and the Lost Gens were interested in total deconstruction of American society, questioned the norms of their times, and grew to be socially conscious and pragmatic thinkers.
Doing the same with the Millennials aligns them with the GI Generation: the generation that Brokaw famously claimed to be “the greatest generation”. This declaration was a fitting one: the GIs were raised as children in times of great poverty and an even greater war, as youths they willingly joined and fought World War II, as adults the created the Boomer Generation, ushering in suburbs, economic growth and worldwide political and social dominance.
More United States Presidents come from the GI generation than any other generation in American history: a near 60 year domination in the White House.
Will the Millennials be the Second Coming of the Greatest Generation? There’s no way of knowing – as of the time of this writing, there is no real economic crisis that matches that of GIs (regardless of what network news tries to scare into us) and there is no major military conflict that will call upon the entire generation to take arms against a common enemy (I don’t think Hitler would stand a chance against Katy Perry).
It’s doubtful. One would thing that this Second Coming would be a bit more successful with their social movements. Kony 2012 and the Occupy Movement were cultural failures and embarrassments to the nation as a whole. A generation who is much more willing to film themselves pouring buckets of ice water on their heads doesn’t compare too well with one who left careers and family behind to join the war effort in anyway possible, or one who lived in complete darkness each night of their life to thwart potential Japanese bombers?
So Millennials are everywhere – their presence is felt on billboards, commercials, music, film, social network, political movements, television shows, and on and on and on and on. They plague us with their social justice warrior-ism, idealistic views of their worlds and their place in it, and only recently have we begun to see their awakening: that the world they grew up in is not the one they will live in as adults: their pluckiness will be met with a cold, distant, and unforgiving economic machine that each generation before them faced with varying degrees of success and failures.
But there is one place that the Millennials can not be found: student desks in your American middle schools. The last of the schooled Millennials are currently residing as high school freshmen – born in 2000-2001, they are the dying breath of Millennials.
This is a problem for American school systems because for the last two decades, they have been adapting and remerging over and over again to cater to this outgoing, peppy group of people: unaware that the next generation does not fit that mold.
Who’s next in line? The answer is the poorly-named “Homeland Generation”.
The Homeland Generation is made up of those born post-9/11 and were named shortly thereafter. If ever a misnomer existed, Homeland Generation is it.
On the Strauss-Howe spectrum, the Homelanders line up with the ill-fated “Silent Generation” – a generation of Americans who grew up in the wake of the GIs greatness and the Lost Generation’s rejection and anger. The reaction was a generation of introverts who lived solemnly and without noise through the waves of their predecesors.
The American school system is designed to cash in on the extroverted, “go-get-‘em-Tiger” millennial. Classrooms are celebrations of creation, curriculum in many schools are designed to teach students that they have an impact on society as a whole – that their actions are “important” and lead to results that can make the world a better place (basically they live in a Michael Jackson song).
While this approach to education is not flawed and my critique of it is not meant to demerit it or to cast it away as a waste of time, it is important that American educators understand that this approach will not work in a few years, if Strauss-Howe are correct.
The Homeland Generation will not see themselves as having a direct impact on the world, they won’t reject that notion, they’ll just feel that the effort is not worth the minute gain – instead, they will be more introverted and focused on bettering themselves rather than the world around them. They’ll listen to Millennial educators discuss the social-economic failures of the world, a world of racism that can be taught out of existence, and they’ll hear the elderly Gen Xers tell them that their actions won’t matter – and they’ll disagree with both of them.
The Homeland Generation will patiently sit in their desks, taking notes of opinions that mean nothing to them, they’ll smile and nod and do as they’re told – silently waiting, for everyone to get off their high horses and just let them be who they are without ridicule or scorn.