FROM "The New Generation Gap," by Neil Howe and Willia...

Salmagundi

December 29, 1992

FROM "The New Generation Gap," by Neil Howe and Willia Strauss in the December issue of the Atlantic:

"A quarter century ago kids called older people names. These days, the reverse is true. For the past decade Thirteeners have been bombarded with study after story after column about how dumb, greedy and just plain bad they supposedly are.

"They can't find Chicago on a map. They don't know when the Civil War was fought. They watch too much TV, spend too much time shopping, seldom vote, cheat on tests, don't read newspapers and care way too much about cars, clothes, shoes and money . . .

"Amid this barrage, Thirteeners have become (in elders' eyes) a symbol of an America in decline. Back in the 1970s social scientists looked at the American experience over the preceding half century and observed that each new generation, compared with the last, traveled another step upward on the Maslovian scale of human purpose, away from concrete needs and toward higher, more spiritual aspirations. Those due to arrive after the Boomers, they expected, would be even more cerebral, more learned, more idealistic than any who came before.

"No chance -- especially once Boomers started to sit in judgment and churn out condemnatory reports on the fitness of their generational successor. To fathom this Boom-defined Thirteener . . . driven only by appetites and no longer by ideas or beliefs -- you can wade through Francis Fukuyama's commentary on Nietzche. Or you can just imagine a TV-glued Thirteener audience nodding in response to Jay Leno's line about why teen-agers eat Doritos: "Hey kids! We're not talkin' brain cells here. We're talkin' taste buds.' "

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