Saying Goodbye to the Greatest Generation

In the all-too brief period from December 11, 2020, to January 2, 2021, my mother-in-law Mary Grey Randolph went from living at home with a full-time caregiver to the hospital for surgery back to home for recovery, and then back to the hospital briefly, before moving to hospice care for two days, before passing on 1/2/21.

We shared a birthdate, and she often joked and wondered if I would ever catch up with her – and oh, by the way, she was planning on living to be 100.

Though she didn’t quite make it to her 100th birthday, she was living in her 100th year, so she gets full credit for that!

Mimmie, as she was affectionally known to our family, was the last of her generation in our extended family. Her husband passed away in 2015.

They were the Greatest Generation.

Much more than the titles of the great books by Tom Brokaw, Doc and Mary Grey nevertheless were the Greatest Generation, the likes of one which we have not seen since, and are likely not to see again – at least for awhile.

Mary Grey’s long life was marked by devotion to her God and church; love and nourishing her family; and compassion for others.

Mary Grey and W.L. “Doc” Randolph were married in 1943, lived apart for most of the war years, and began their family life in Goodlettsville, TN following the end of WW II.

Her vocational career included office management and bookkeeping responsibilities in several companies for over five decades. After retirement, her full-time occupation was keeping Doc in line, and as beloved “Mimmie” to her grandchildren.

Mary Grey was a long-time member at her church, and was involved in many activities and responsibilities over the years.

She and Doc, along with four other couples, personified friendship, care, and affection through the Sunday Night Bunch, which gathered weekly for over six decades.

She was devoted to her large family, and always took joy in hosting family gatherings from a single grandchild to dozens of family members for all occasions.

To me, that’s a pretty good definition of “greatest.”

The G.I. Generation, born 1901-1924, developed a special and good-kid reputation as the beneficiaries of new playgrounds, scouting clubs, vitamins, and child-labor restrictions. They came of age with the sharpest rise in schooling ever recorded. As young adults, their uniformed corps patiently endured the depression and heroically conquered foreign enemies. In a mid-life subsidized by the G.I. Bill, the build gleaming suburbs, invented miracle vaccines, plugged missile gaps, and launched moon rockets. Their unprecedented grip on the presidency began with a New Frontier, a Great Society, and Model Cities, but wore down through Vietnam, Watergate, deficits, and problems with “the vision thing.” As senior citizens, they safeguarded their own “entitlements” but had little influence over culture and values. Representatives of this generation include John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, Judy Garland, John Wayne, and Walter Cronkite.

William Strauss and Neil Howe, Generations

The event that not only named my in-laws’ generation, but shaped their character as young adults, was World War II. As recounted by Tom Brokaw, “There may never be again be a time when all the layers of our complex society are so completely absorbed in a monumental challenge as they were during WW II.”

Everyone had a role; everyone understood that the successful outcome of the war was critical to the continuing evolution of political and personal freedom.

The nation was infused with a sense of purpose and patriotism. Political leaders, the popular culture, advertising, newspapers, and radio cheered on the war effort once the fighting began. For many young men and women, that call to duty and the constant reminders of its importance in their lives and to the whole country marked their lives during the war and long after.

As I have written about a great deal on this site, I believe that our generations revolve in cycles. Interestingly, the premier researchers in this field, William Strauss and Neil Howe, believed that the generation that will most closely mimic the Greatest Generation in life events and achievements, is the Millennial generation.

The Millennials, those born 1982-2004, are the new “Greatest Generation” – not in name but in deed?

We face a much different type of “battle” today; one not against a named nation or group of nations, but against ourselves.

This cartoon, taken from decades of display on Mimmie’s fridge door, reflects both her life and attitude.

When two different groups view our objectives with a short-sighted and selfish nature, no one will be happy and we will both become quickly frustrated. We will tug and strain, and ultimately fail.

But if we come together and reason, give of ourselves and give up our selfish motives, we will succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

May it be so with the Millennials (Mimmie’s grandchildren), as it was with her Greatest Generation.

Mary Grey Randolph, 1921-2021

What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny

Today is a follow on post to The History of America’s Future, which looked at Generations, a 1992 book by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Generations is a speculation by the authors that the history of America can be seen as a succession of generational cycles.

The Fourth Turning is one of their follow-up books, taking a DEEP dive into what the next “turning” could look like. Keep in mind that this was written in 1997, and uses past history to project a possible future.

A few quotes from the opening chapter sets the tone:

America feel’s like it’s unraveling.

Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.

Not long ago, America was more than the some of its parts. Now, it is less. Where we once through ourselves collectively strong, we now regard ourselves as individually entitled.

Yet even while we exalt our own personal growth, we realize that millions of self-actualized persons don’t add up to an actualized society. Popular trust in virtually every American institution – from businesses and governments to churches and newspapers – keeps falling to new lows. Public debts soar, the middle class shrinks, welfare dependencies deepen, and cultural arguments worsen by the year.

Wherever we’re headed, America is evolving in ways most of us don’t like or understand. Individually focused yet collectively adrift, we wonder if we’re headed toward a waterfall.

I first read these words when the book was released, and readily identified with them. Over the 20+ years since, I think they are even more prophetic.

Here is how Strauss and Howe set up this book:

At the core of modern history lies this remarkable pattern: Over the past five centuries, Anglo-American society has entered a new era – a new turning – every two decades or so. At the start of each turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture, the nation, and the future. Turnings come in cycles of four. Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years, a unit of time the ancients called the speculum. Together, the four turnings of the speculum comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction:

  • The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.
  • The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civil order comes under attack from a new values regime.
  • The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast er a strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
  • The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the new values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.

Each turning comes with its own identifiable mood. Always, these mood shifts catch people by surprise.

Strauss and Howe label The Fourth Turning as a book that turns history into prophecy, taking you on a journey through the confluence of social time and human life.

Part One – Seasons – Acquiring new tools for understanding self, life, family, society, and civilization. Learn about the cycles of life, generational archetypes, turnings, and history.

Part Two – Turnings – Revisit post-World War II American history from the perspective of turnings and archetypes. Gain new insight about why the first three turnings of the current Millennial Saeculum have evolved as they have. Read why this saecular journey must culminate in a Fourth Turning and what is likely to happen when it does.

Part Three – Preparations – Explore what you and the nation can do to brace for the coming Crisis. Learn how, by applying the principles of seasonality, we can steer our destiny.

An appreciation for history is never more important than at times when a saecular winter is forecast. In the Fourth Turning, we can expect to encounter personal and public choices akin to the harshest ever faced by ancestral generations. We would do well to learn from their experience, viewed through the prism of cyclical time. Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time.


Part of a series looking at history and future through the lens of generations


The History of America’s Future

Sometime in the early 1990s, I became aware of a new book by William Strauss and Neil Howe, entitled Generations: The History of America’s Future, from 1584 to 2069. As a student of history, I eagerly dove into the book, studied it, and have revisited it often in the thirty years since.

In Generations, the authors speculate the history of America as a succession of generational biographies, beginning in 1584 and encompassing everyone through the children of today. Their bold theory is that each generation belongs to one of four types, and that these types repeat sequentially in a fixed pattern. The vision of Generations allows us to plot a recurring cycle in American history – a cycle of spiritual awakenings and secular crises – from the founding colonists through today and well into this middle of this century.

Generations come in cycles. Just as history produces generations, so too do generations produce history.

William Strauss and Neil Howe

From the book, a brief description of the four cycles:

Strauss and Howe labeled the four generational types Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist. With one exception, they have always recurred in a fixed order. During a spiritual awakening, Prophets are moving into rising adulthood while Nomads are appearing as children; during a secular crisis, Heroes are moving into rising adulthood while Artists are appearing as children. Later in life, these generations trigger another social moment and thus keep the cycle turning.

The first and third types are what we call “dominant” in public life – Prophets through redefining the inner world of values and culture, and Heroes through rebuilding the outer world of technology and institutions. The other two types are “recessive” in public life, checking the excesses of their more powerful neighbors – Nomads as pragmatists, Artists as ameliorators.

The passage of four generations, Prophets through Artists, completes one full generational cycle over the course of four, twenty-two year phases of life (a total duration of roughly ninety years). From the 1584 Puritan birth year forward, the authors traced five such cycles through American history – of which three (Colonial, Revolutionary, and Civil War) are fully ancestral, a waning fourth (Great Power) comprises the eldest 28 percent of the American population at the beginning of 1991 (when the book was released), and an emerging fifth (Millennial – the name of the cycle, not the name of the generational cohort) includes the youngest 72 percent. Within these cycles, we identify eighteen generations, from John Winthrop’s Puritans to Jessica McClure’s Millennials – and a recurring pattern of awakenings and crises.

Keep in mind that this was written in 1991.

So, here we are in late 2020, and what does the history of America’s future look like?

From above: during a secular crisis, Heroes are moving into rising adulthood while Artists are appearing as children.

That would be today’s Millennials moving into rising adulthood, and Gen Z appearing as children and teenagers.

So, according to Strauss and Howe, a secular crisis looms.

That pretty much describes 2020, don’t you think?

Here is where the life cycle can help. The story of civilization seldom moves in a straight line, but is rich with curves, oscillations, and mood shifts. The ebb and flow of history often reflect the ebb and flow of generations, each with a different age location, peer personality, and lifecycle story. By viewing history along the generational diagonal, by searching the cycle for behavioral clues, we can apply the mirror of recurring human experience to gaze around the corner of current trends and say something instructive about the decades to come.

William Strauss and Neil Howe

Here’s a timeline visualization of the generational cohorts:

What do you think?

Looking ahead: more ideas from Strauss and Howe, a look back (and today?) to the Gilded Age, and more!

Inspired and adapted from Generations: The History of American’s Future, 1584 to 2069

Hocus Pocus Bewitches a New Generation

A Lesson in Culture Transfer from One Generation to the Next

When it first hit theaters in 1993, Hocus Pocus performed poorly at the box office and with critics. However, thanks to annual replays on cable and strong video/DVD sales, a core fan group kept it alive over the years.

When the Disney Halloween classic was released to theaters earlier this month, it quickly rose through the ranks to become 2020’s biggest box office. Granted, the numbers are tiny compared to pre-COVID box office totals, but people are still going to theaters and strange things are happening.

Which is totally appropriate for Hocus Pocus, a bonafide 90s classic that children of that decade – now parents – are introducing to their children.

And by the way, that last sentence describes my two older kids – born in 1981 and 1984.

They first saw Hocus Pocus in theaters when released, later on VHS, and for a few years now, rewatch it every year on DVD or streaming.

Now, they are introducing it to a new generation – my grandchildren.

The movie’s unexpected success at the box office is impressive since it is widely available for fans to rent or buy and stream on various platforms; it’s free on Disney+; and it has aired on Disney’s “Freeform” as well.

There’s even a book about it – Hocus Pocus in Focus, by Aaron Wallace. My daughter and her husband – born in the late 80’s – devoured it when it came out, talked about it with their friends, and now viewing the film on Disney+ is evidently a big deal among their friends.

Of course, with Disney involved, you know what comes next – a sequel.

Bette Midler, who played Winnie Sanderson in the original, recently confirmed that she, along with co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson) and Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson) will all be returning as the Sanderson sisters for the second Hocus Pocus movie.

The sequel will be coming to Disney+ at an undesignated date in the future.

As I was researching different sources for this post, it occurred to me that I have stumbled upon a whole new thread of generational research – the transfer of culture from one generation to the next.

Immediately, I thought of the Disney Company. Certainly, my Disney fanaticism was fully developed in the last couple of decades – but I was introduced to it by my parents. First, through movies: my first movie seen in a theater (1964), and my favorite Disney movie even today, is Mary Poppins. Then, my father, as a Gulf gas station owner, was part of a Gulf-Disney marketing campaign throughout the mid to late 60s. We received regular promotional items, like magazines and record albums (which I still have!), which his customers eagerly snatched up.

When my wife and I became parents (four times, from 1981 – 1992), the introduction of Disney movies through first theaters then VHS tapes was a regular part of family entertainment. It continued with the shift from a cable channel to DVDs then streaming services.

As our children became parents, they did (and are doing) the same: Disney entertainment is a regular part of their lives, especially with the advent of the Disney+ streaming service.

In 2016, my wife and I brought this to a new level: a week-long family vacation for all 15 members of our family to Walt Disney World.

From viewing movies to visiting theme parks to sharing our Disney-related gifts across birthdays and other times, the Adams family culture had been deeply imbedded with a Disney imprint.

In my childhood, that meant one thing: Disney. To my children and grandchildren, though, it’s much more:

  • Walt Disney (movies, cable channel, TV shows, theme parks, cruise line)
  • ABC
  • ESPN
  • The Muppets
  • Pixar
  • Marvel
  • Lucasfilm
  • 21st Century Fox
  • Disney+ (I list this separately because of the HUGE impact it will have in the future).
  • and many more!

Here’s a graphical representation of the above:

You want to talk about the transfer of culture from one generation to the next and the next?

Class is now open!

Looking Through the Generational Lens

One of the consistent lenses I use to view life through is that of generations.

It comes as a natural part of my curiosity of life, as I am interacting with 5 generational cohorts in my family: my parents and in-laws are from the GI Generation; I am a Baby Boomer; my oldest son and one daughter-in-law are Gen Xers; my other three children, two daughters-in-law and one son-in-law are Millennials; and my 6 grandchildren are Gen Zers. Even though we are spread out across three states (and occasionally, around the world) and do not get to interact as much as we would like, the personal level of generational differences is obvious.

Take the same dynamics as above – 5 generations – and move them into the institutional world, say a church setting, and it won’t be long till you have a generational collision.

If you are a leader in ChurchWorld, how do you deal with the fact that, for the first time in our history, we can have five separate and distinct generations working alongside each other in our churches? The 5th generation, born since the mid-2000’s, is not far behind in taking up a leadership role.

Generational differences are important, but it is all too easy to stereotype these differences. The only way we’ll ever build bridges between generations is to stop stereotyping and get to know who these generations really are and why they are that way.

An interesting book on the subject: Sticking Points – How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart, by Haydn Shaw. Here’s a teaser:

For the first time in history, we have four different generations in the workplace (and five in families). These generations might as well be from different countries, so different are their cultural styles and preferences. Of the four approaches organizations can take to blending the generations, only one of them works today. Focusing on the “what” escalates tensions, while focusing on the “why” pulls teams together. Knowing the twelve sticking points can allow teams to label tension points and work through them—even anticipate and preempt them. Implementing the five steps to cross-generational leadership can lead to empowering, not losing, key people.

How many different generations do you regularly interact with?

How’s that going?

Encourage All Generations on Your Team to Connect Through Real Conversations

In 2020, 25 percent of the labor force will be over the age of 55 – and they’re not retiring anytime soon. These projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the US Department of Labor indicate that not only will Baby Boomers continue to work alongside their current Generation X and Millennial colleagues, but that they will still be around when Generation Z joins the workforce.

The result? A clash of cultures that will require a new management approach.

Gone are the days when people entered the workforce as young adults, worked until their late 50s, and then moved off into retirement while younger generations took their place. Instead, the average retirement age has steadily been creeping up in recent decades as older employees – in particular, the Baby Boomers – stay in the workforce either by choice or by necessity.

Of course, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are still reverberating across home, work, and church settings, so everything is up for grabs!

Before we dive into the discussion, here’s a brief recap of just who comprises the generational cohorts mentioned above. While there’s no set standard, the following descriptions are generally accepted:

  • Baby Boomers – born in the years 1946-1964, numbering about 76 million people
  • Generation Xers – born in the years 1965-1980, numbering about 66 million people
  • Millennials – born in the years 1981-1997, numbering just over 83 million people
  • Generation Zers – born in the years 1998-present, numbering over 80 million and still growing

THE QUICK SUMMARY – You Can’t Google It! The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work by Phyllis Weiss Haserot

Much of the learning, skills and perspective people of all ages need to succeed long-term in their careers is not found in data on the Internet, but rather in conversations and personal relationships with the people they work with.

Tech tools have trained us to search the Internet for answers to everything, but we can’t find most of the non-technical or non-data-based answers we seek there. Learning about perspectives, relationships and experiences comes best from conversations.

In most organizations there are three, four, or even five generations working together with differing expectations about how things are done and by whom. People of different generations are increasingly isolated physically, functionally, or emotionally from each other both by communication styles and media and lack of the perspective that would help them understand why people think and act as they do. You Can’t Google It! facilitates action to promote and foster cross-generational conversation in organizations on both the parts of management and the multi-generational teams that are increasingly the key to productivity, profitability and sustainability.

You Can’t Google It! is a tool to help organizations and individuals remove the stress, frustration, and negative energy that often arises from working with people of different generations, so they understand and are able to accomplish their common goals―faster and profitably. It is about the implications of different generations, and how to move towards closing that gap.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Author Phyllis Weiss Haserot pulls no punches in establishing the issue of cross-generational conversations:

  • As an established professional, do you question the work ethics of young employees and co-workers?
  • As a young professional, how do you deal with resistance to your ideas from Baby Boomers who think their experience and seniority mean they know it all?
  • Will your organization be threatened because key personnel will soon reach traditional retirement age?
  • Are you wondering how to transform intergenerational challenges into an asset for your organization?

Much of the learnings, skills, and perspectives that people of all ages need to succeed – especially in working with each other – are not found in data on the Internet but rather in conversations and personal relationships with the people they work with. The new multigenerational paradigm is meaningful cross-generational conversation.

GENgagementTM can be defined as the state of achieving harmony, mutual involvement and cooperation, flow, and ongoing absorption in work with people of different generations.

GENgagement means getting all of the generations to understand each other, their influences, and their worldview so they can work collaboratively, loyally, and productively.

It is integral to the mission of transforming workplaces into engaged and productive environments for solving problems and being great places to work. Equally important, it helps individuals and organizations develop closer rapport and loyalty bonds with clients and other external stakeholders – the bedrock of any mission-driven organization.

A satisfying and perennial recipe for GENgagement contains these ingredients as integral to the experience for all personnel:

Defining the big picture for everyone

Having a clear purpose and mission

Visioning – what achieving the mission and purpose will look like

Communicating the importance of each person’s role

Living a culture that respects the values of and promises to employees, clients, donors, alumni, etc. every day

Enabling multigenerational input to organization and and market strategy and service delivery

A sense of joy and continuing curiosity at work

Phyllis Weiss Haserot, You Can’t Google It! The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work

A NEXT STEP

Distribute the following questions from author Phyllis Haserot to your team in advance. After they have had time to read through them, gather the team for an extended conversation about each question.

  1. Help me understand your perspective on work and the marketplace outside of our organization. What factors influence your worldview, the attitude you bring to your work, and your interactions with colleagues?
  2. What would you like to see changed about how our work is done, and how can you help make it more effective? How important is hierarch to you? When is years of experience very important in your role, and when are other factors equally or more important?
  3. What is getting in the way of a more productive and satisfying working relationship? How can I as your teammate help you learn how best to work with me?
  4. What would you say are your core values? Do you think they are significantly different from my generation’s core values? How can we jointly overcome intergenerational tensions?
  5. What strategies for impact and influence at work can we learn from each other?

Use these conversations as a springboard to ongoing cross-generational conversations as a regular part of the leadership development process in your organization.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 127-3, released September 2019.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

My 5 Generation Family is a Microcosm of Society

The legions of ancient Rome were composed of ten cohorts each: cohesive units of 300-600 men who trained, ate, slept, fought, won, lost, lived, and died together. The strength was their ability to think, act, and react as a unit. Though composed of individuals, training and socialization equipped them to behave as if of a single mind when called to battle. Social demographers, students of the effects of population on society, use the term cohort to refer to people born in the same general time span who share key life experiences – from setting out for school for the first time together through reaching puberty at the same time, to entering the workforce or university or marriage or middle age or their dotage at the same time.

The five primary generations of today’s American lifestyle span a remarkable slice of American and world history. Three major wars, countless minor (?) ones, economic booms and busts, social upheavals, rocketing technological achievement, and even stepping beyond our planet are among the milestones that have directly and indirectly shaped the times.

I count myself fortunate to have a direct connection to all five generations. To me, understanding more about how each of them think, feel, and act is not just a mental exercise – it’s necessary part of life.

  • Veterans (1922-1945) My father and mother were born into the early part of this cohort. He entered military service just as WWII was ending; she was in college and then taught school; they were part of what some call “The Greatest Generation”. Think “American values” and you’ve got their number: civic pride, loyalty, respect for authority, and apple pie. My father passed away in 2012, and my mother in 2018. They may not be physically present with me, but who I am was shaped by their influence, and they impact me every day. My mother-in-law, aged 99, still lives at her home of 65+years (with a caretaker). Additionally, this cohort, as their generation moves into their twilight years, still controls a significant part of the economy and will continue to be influential in the years ahead outside of their numbers.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) My wife and I are late Baby Boomers. Born in the latter 50s, we are a part of what was until recently the largest cohort in US history. For over thirty years, the sheer size of the Boomer generation defined the organization’s social landscape in a majority-rules cultural takeover. We were the civil rights, empowerment, and diversity generation. Never content with the status quo, we are always redefining what it means to be old and cool and important and successful.
  • Generation X (1965-1981) My oldest son and one of my daughters-in-law are Xers, even though they sometimes exhibit characteristics of the next cohort as well. Technologically adept, clever, and resourceful, the Xers are a deeply segmented, fragmented cohort. Their need for feed back and flexibility, coupled with the dislike of close supervision is but one of the many complex nuances of this generation. They are all about change- they’ve changed cities, homes, and even parents all their lives. Often seen as pessimistic with an edgy skepticism, many Xers are more positive about their personal future than the group as a whole.
  • Millennials (1982-2000) My other three children, two daughters-in-law, and a son-in-law all fall into this cohort. They are the children of the soccer moms and little League dads, and endless rounds of swim meets, karate classes, dancing lessons, computer camp and … you get the picture. They consider themselves the smartest, cleverest, healthiest and most-wanted group to have ever lived. Born into the technology boom times, barriers of time and space have little absolute meaning to them. They are willing to work and learn. By sheer numbers (their total births eclipsed the Boomers by several million) they are going to dominate history in new ways. They are the hyper-connected: constantly connected to multiple devices in order to know what and whom they need to know.
  • Generation Z (born after 2001) Just now entering teenage years and early adulthood, sociologists have little hard data yet. But it is the generation of my six grandchildren, and it is important to me! So far, technology is the hallmark of this group, which is the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones and social media as a daily part of life. They’re growing up amid the promise of technological innovation – but also in the environment of economic uncertainty, a sharp decrease in well-defined and reliable career paths, increasing political divides, and the effect of decades of repressed racial tensions. Consequently, when compared to their predecessors, this group is both more cautious and more anxious.

There are some indications that generational cohorts repeat every four generations, so we’ll just have to see. Led by the thoughts of William Strauss and Neil Howe published in the late 1990s, this idea of “cycles” is getting more attention now that their predictions of today’s Millennial cohort are proving to be on target more often than not. That will definitely be my radar in the future!

An interesting fact, and the origin of the title of this website: there are 27 years between each of the first born in the above generations of my family, thus 27gen.

The next five years are going to be very interesting as each of these five generations exert influence on each other. I will be actively watching my own microcosm of society.

The last time we were all together in one place – Walt Disney World, September 2016.

The Class of 2023 is Headed to a College Campus Near You

The Mindset List® has delighted millions for over a decade about what has “always” or “never” been true for entering college students. It was created at Beloit College in 1998 to reflect the world view of entering first year students, and started with the members of the class of 2002, born in 1980.

What started as a witty way of saying to faculty colleagues “watch your references,” has turned into a globally reported and utilized guide to the intelligent if unprepared adolescent consciousness. It is requested by thousands of readers, reprinted in hundreds of print and electronic publications, and used for a wide variety of purposes. It immediately caught the imagination of the public, and in the ensuing years, has drawn responses from around the world. This site now gets more than a million hits a year.

The Mindset List®, an annual compilation of what has always and never been true for new college freshmen, has changed hands from founder Beloit College to Marist College.

Recently, the Mindset List of the Class of 2023 was released.

This fall’s college class of 2023, now arriving on campuses, learned of the attack on New York’s Twin Towers from parents and grandparents once they were old enough to handle it. Born in 2001, they have lived in a world in which shedding shoes at airport security; capturing news from crawling headlines on the TV screen; flying Jet Blue; and recognizing that blackboards, pens, and watches are sometimes smarter than we are have all been routine occurrences.

The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Emeritus Professor of English Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Nief and co-editor Tom McBride, and list co-author Beloit Professor of Sociology Charles Westerberg have been working with Marist during the transition. “This annual list is a cultural touchstone,” noted Marist’s Executive Vice President Geoffrey Brackett. “Every year Ron, Tom, and Charles have done the remarkable work of encapsulating a changing world into a cohesive list. The list has served as a reminder to the wider community of colleges and universities of the importance of understanding the constantly altering landscape outside of higher education. Marist hopes to continue that service by taking on The Mindset List and strategically expanding its capabilities and reach.”

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds characterized by the following:

  • Like Pearl Harbor for their grandparents, and the Kennedy assassination for their parents, 9/11 is an historical event.
  • The primary use of a phone has always been to take pictures.
  • YouTube has become the video version of Wikipedia.

According to Westerberg,

With half of this generation composed of people of color, they are among the most demographically significant cohorts in American history. American politics today is hard to comprehend without taking account of this major trend since, within a year, their generation will represent 25% of the U.S. population.

Here’s a few more characteristics to whet your appetite:

  • They have grown up with Big Data and ubiquitous algorithms that know what they want before they do.
  • Apple iPods have always been nostalgic.
  • Most of them will rent, not buy, their textbooks.
  • The Tech Big Four – Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google – are to them what the Big Three automakers were to their grandparents.

You can read the whole list here.

“The Mindset List helps put into context the growing interest high school and college students have in social issues,” noted Martin Shaffer, Dean of Marist’s School of Liberal Arts. “We’re seeing a more engaged, more deeply involved student body on campus.”

Even if you’re not a college professor, you need to read the whole list here.

With contributions from parents and academics around the world, the List has tracked cultural change, stimulated intergenerational conversation, and just made older people feel even older.

– Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg

Indeed.

Welcoming the Class of 2022 to a Campus Near You

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

Recently, the Mindset List of the Class of 2022 was released.

 

The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds characterized by the following:

  • They are the first class born in the new millennium, escaping the dreaded label of “Millennial,” though their new designation—iGen, GenZ, etc. — has not yet been agreed upon by them.
  • People loudly conversing with themselves in public are no longer thought to be talking to imaginary friends.
  • The Prius has always been on the road in the U.S.

According to McBride,

Students come to college with particular assumptions based on the horizons of their lived experience. All teachers need to monitor their references, while students need to appreciate that without a sound education they will never get beyond the cave of their own limited personal experiences.

Here’s a few more characteristics to whet your appetite:

  • Films have always been distributed on the Internet.
  • Donny and Marie who?
  • Oprah has always been a magazine.
  • A visit to a bank has been a rare event.

You can read the whole list here.

The original authors have moved on to new projects in their retirement but will continue their battle against “hardening of the references” at their website, themindsetlist.com.

Even if you’re not a college professor, you need to read the whole list here.

With contributions from parents and academics around the world, the List has tracked cultural change, stimulated intergenerational conversation, and just made older people feel even older.

– Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg

Indeed.

It Doesn’t Take a Magic Mirror to See the Past in Your Face

courtesy Paulin'a CC

courtesy Paulin’a CC

Whose face do you see when you look in the mirror?

Recently I went on a business trip that’s took me through 4 airports, 3 rental cars, a subway ride, 3 hotels, and more lines than I care to recall. While I was waiting in those lines, I looked in a lot of faces, and heard lots of conversations. One conversation in particular stands out – two young women in their early 20s were behind me talking about another person. I wasn’t eavesdropping, but voices in a jet way are quite clear. The comment that stopped me? “Yeah, he’s 35 you know, and that’s like, you know, old.”

I’m over two decades past the age of 35, and I obviously have a different outlook on life than those two young women. Or do I?

I’m not normally the type that looks at myself in a mirror. But this comment, along with comments from my colleagues I had not seen in several months made me look in the mirror in the hotel that night. Just who was that looking back at me?

The face I saw was that of my father. Even though he passed away four years ago, I still have vivid memories of him. Going places he’d been, seeing things he had talked about, reading about things he was interested in – my memories are constant, and good.

This morning, I looked long in the mirror and the vision I saw was that of my father, coming into focus like a picture being developed right in front of my eyes.

Thought of another way, however, that familiar face embedded in my mind morphed into my son’s and then into his son’s – my grandson. Like a modern day mashup, those collections of lives lived, and yet to live, offer a considerable span of history. A long life lived, a life at halftime, a life in early adulthood, and a life just beginning – that’s quite a few faces in the mirror.

It doesn’t take a magic mirror to see the past in your own face, or wonder about the future in the face of your children and grandchildren.

Who knows when you will glance into a mirror and meet a past you hadn’t expected and weren’t ready for, or a future that is yet to come.

Look in the mirror – what do you see?