Generational Differences

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Dragline
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Generational Differences

Post by Dragline » Sun Sep 22, 2013 11:07 am

I thought this article was amusing and emblematic of the generational differences between Baby Boomers and younger people:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 07974.html

Its funny how the boomers obsess about competition and how not wanting to run fast somehow is contributing to the decline of America. Oh, we must wring our hands!

What they don't get is that these events are serving a different purpose for younger people that is more social and community-oriented. And constant competition for competition's sake is way overrated.

Whenever I read something like this, it reaffirms my belief that the Strauss & Howe generational models are amazingly accurate compared to other historical lenses.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by jacob » Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:06 pm

Just nitpicking here, but being in the 15% percentile of a subgroup while being in the 11% percentile of the whole group is not sufficient to conclude that the subgroup is ranked higher than the group overall.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by djc » Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:46 pm

This Baby Boomer is more like his 20 something daughters generation than his own. The younger people-which I presume is almost everyone here-are waaaay more astute in finances, and in many ways, life, than older guys like me. And I think there will be less career, and life, burnout among them as well.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by jennypenny » Sun Sep 22, 2013 2:18 pm

To use Buffett's terminology, I would say boomers are more likely to use an outer scorecard and millenials are more likely to use an inner scorecard. It's too early to say whether one is better than the other. Part of the difference comes from millenials growing up during the everyone-gets-a-trophy era. Boomers grew up during an era when grades and performance mattered (and weren't inflated).

I do notice a difference in the appetite for competition in the school system. The older teachers still rely on "bees" or contests for group activities. The younger teachers tend to use more inclusive/less competitive group activities. When I attended the Reading Olympics organizational meeting for this year, there was a strong push from the younger parents and teachers to approach it more like a book club during the prep phase.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Ego » Sun Sep 22, 2013 4:16 pm

Dragline wrote:I thought this article was amusing and emblematic of the generational differences between Baby Boomers and younger people:
Geez... I could have written that article. It is spot on. I'm the first to kick boomers in the nuts when they deserve it. This phenomenon does not skip directly from boomers to kids today. There are a few generations between who did not experience this decline in competitiveness. This is new. And it is important.
Dragline wrote:Its funny how the boomers obsess about competition and how not wanting to run fast somehow is contributing to the decline of America. Oh, we must wring our hands!

What they don't get is that these events are serving a different purpose for younger people that is more social and community-oriented. And constant competition for competition's sake is way overrated.
You've got it backwards. By not wanting to run fast kids are avoiding any objective measurement of improvement or decline. As we can all see, decline has become easier. When they were kids no one subjected them to hard, objective measurements and today they avoid them at all cost.

They want to say they "did it" once. After that it is been-there-done-that. Competition and timing are important because they overcome the been-there-done-that mentality. Competition keeps people engaged to try again next time. It is the very thing that makes everyone better. By competing we all improve. Seeing how my friend set the goal of a sub 40 minute 10k made me want to do the same. Setting goals then slowly, methodically working toward their accomplishment is an important life skill. Buying an experience is not.

Teachers once taught to the smartest 25% of the class and the rest benefited from the challenge of having to keep up or they failed and had to do it over again. The kids we are talking about here grew up at a time when teachers taught at the pace of the dimmest 25% and everyone else was harmed by the slow pace. Most didn't know they were harmed. The brighter 75% felt good that they were not dim and so they didn't have to really try all that hard. They didn't experience a great deal of challenge and they didn't learn how to challenge themselves. When they did rise to a challenge they were smacked with a label and drugged with Ritalin for their trouble.

They learned that competition was for professionals, for specialists. They learned that the only acceptable way to compete is to watch others actually do the competition while their role is to cheer for or against the competitors. It is important to note that this rooting is typically for and against teams, as opposed to rooting for an individual who is trying to accomplish something they have been working toward.

For eons we were in a race to the top. Today we are witnessing a shift. Now we race to slightly-above-average in a world where averages are declining fast. Sure, this might be more "social and community oriented," so that nobody feels bad about doing poorly.

Is that good for all of us? Is it good for any of us?

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Dragline » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:24 pm

I think you need to understand that the so-called "Greatest Generation" was criticized in the 1930s in exactly the same manner that the Millennials are criticized today -- they were weak, incompetent and uncompetitive.

My personal experience with the younger folks has been different. One of my best younger employees tells me she was raised by hippies. Nothing was scheduled -- sometimes she got to school on time and sometimes she was two hours late. She does credit them for being supportive about whatever she chose to do. She is extremely self-directed -- yes, competitive about doing her best -- and owns her own work and destiny. But not about everything in life. (She also tells me that she has never eaten meat, but that's a different story.)

The main problem I see about competition as a "value" is that it discourages participation, which is a more important value in my view. This is the reason that boomers are either highly fit or extremely obese. They ascribe to the view that if you can't do it extremely well, you shouldn't do it at all. That's just a bad idea IMO.

I am very optimistic about the future -- provided we can survive our current leadership. I chuckle at the current hand-wringing about young people.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Ego » Sun Sep 22, 2013 8:16 pm

Dragline wrote: (1) The main problem I see about competition as a "value" is that it discourages participation, which is a more important value in my view. This is the reason that boomers are either highly fit or extremely obese. (2) They ascribe to the view that if you can't do it extremely well, you shouldn't do it at all. That's just a bad idea IMO.
Those are two different things. To some extent I agree with your second point. The belief that one must be exceptional or go home is the result of specialization and it is probably not good for anyone.

On the other hand, I disagree with your first point about competition discouraging participation for two reasons. First, my local running club, triathlon club, and cycling club all exist as a means to encourage friendly competition and help everyone get better. That is their reason to exist. Cyclists ride in a rotating paceline where each person takes a turn at the front, blocking the wind for the rest of the group. At the last minute they sprint to the finish. We all go faster together and we all get stronger together. Secondly, most people participating in real roadraces are not competing against anyone but themselves. They are trying to beat their previous PR.

These are critical skills for improvement, 1) being able to compete in a friendly way with others so that everyone improves and 2) being able to set goals and use objective measurements to gauge progress. As Chad said in another thread, there is no stagnation, there is improvement or decline. When we remove 1) competition and 2) objective measurement, we end up with people in decline. The article is about both factors.

Part of the problem as I see it is the difference between the way people explain what they do. Use running as an example. Younger people tend to say, "I am a runner." Older folks say, "I run or I ran today." The younger folks buy the gear, shoes, hats, belts with the little goo holders.... They pay exorbitant race entry fees. They complete a race where there is no timing, everyone throws chalk at one another and this qualifies them to say, "I am a runner." They bought the right to say it when they bought the paraphernalia of a runner and paid the entry fee. And they will say it for years after completing the chalk fest.

Talkers talk and doers do.
Dragline wrote:I think you need to understand that the so-called "Greatest Generation" was criticized in the 1930s in exactly the same manner that the Millennials are criticized today -- they were weak, incompetent and uncompetitive.
Is it possible that maybe it was true? Is it possible that the greatest-generation was weaker and less competent than their parents/grandparents? I've been researching my family history. When I look at my family I suspect this is probably true. My great-grandparents were pretty tough mofos who fought their way here through some pretty horrible conditions.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Tyler9000 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:18 pm

Dragline wrote: The main problem I see about competition as a "value" is that it discourages participation, which is a more important value in my view.
Ah -- but competition only discourages participation by the losers. ;)

Kidding aside, IMO a distaste for competition is merely a symptom of a deeper generational difference of risk aversion.

But Millennials did not adopt a risk-averse outlook by choice. It was gifted to them by the actions of their parents and grandparents -- from bike helmets and participation stickers as a child to a faltering economy and hopeless unemployment as early adults. And it's not all negative, either -- many Millennials I know are far better with money than their suburban-competitive parents.

Each generation has its strengths and weaknesses forged by the generations before it. To me, the hand-off is much more interesting than the end comparison.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Chad » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:30 am

Ego wrote:As Chad said in another thread, there is no stagnation, there is improvement or decline. When we remove 1) competition and 2) objective measurement, we end up with people in decline. The article is about both factors.
I appreciate that I said something that resonated with you Ego. Though, I have to disagree with you a little. :D The issue between the "ultra competitive" Boomers and the "just doing it is reward enough" Millennials are extremes, and both are bad.

The Boomers extreme competition has put many people in massive debt (including our country) and has created a class of society currently controlling government/most corporations that views making money to be the equal of creating value. Unfortunately, it is not even remotely close.

A great example of the Boomers going wrong is Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Gekko actually starts the movie as a real capitalist. Buying up undervalued companies and breaking them up fits perfectly into the idea of capitalism's creative destruction. Companies that don't use their assets efficiently should be destroyed and replaced. This isn't always nice, but this type of competitiveness...real competitiveness is great for the economy. Where Gekko goes wrong is when he gets inside information and actively works to artificially influence the company. By artificially influencing the company he goes from identifying inefficient companies to creating them for his own gain. He creates a false competitiveness, which is what we have today in many of our industries and government.

The Millennials go to the opposite extreme and want no part of this, as they have actually seen the above. They grew up with a front row seat on what unbridled competition brings (crony capitalism or false capitalism). They run races where the goal is to be covered in colored powder by the end. This has little value.

Where Millennials bring value is demonstrated by the Tough Mudder. They take semi to very difficult obstacle courses and work together in small groups and between these groups to improve everyone's performance, but are unconcerned who the top few individuals are. They are concerned more about the whole than they are about the individual.

This of of course can be taken to the extreme and become a negative, just like the Boomers did with competition. However, the Millennials have not had that opportunity, so they can't be judged on that, yet.

Ideally, we would like competition where everyone matters, not just the top performers. It's fine to keep score and know who those top performers are, but they by no means are the "be all end all" for whatever we are doing as a society.

For instance, I can't find one famous CEO (not a founding CEO they are different) in my lifetime that was worth what they were paid. Even Jack Welch just turned out to be an ok manager and strategist, who was great at using the GE financing arm and accounting tricks to make it look like GE always beat the Street's estimates by a penny or two. (Just take a look at this chart http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/10/ge ... k-cooking/, which is another example of a Boomer taking competition too far.)

That's not to say CEO's aren't worth a lot of money, but there really isn't such a thing as the top 2-3 "best" CEO's.

Our job as a society is to prevent the Millennials from going to the extreme like the Boomers did. Allow them to make the necessary corrections, but not to go over board.

While, there is only improvement or decline, improvement does not always equal a faster time or more money. No one measurement can ever determine if we improved or not (Millennials), but it can help us get to where we want to go (Boomers).
Last edited by Chad on Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:36 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Chad » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:31 am

On a side note, the guy who owns/runs the Spartan Races is as clueless about the definition of communism, as everyone else is in this country.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Ego » Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:54 am

Chad wrote:On a side note, the guy who owns/runs the Spartan Races is as clueless about the definition of communism, as everyone else is in this country.
Actually I think he is spot-on. When you invoke Gekkoism as one of the extremes along the competition spectrum it is correct to point out the other extreme. By the way, Gekkoism is not competition, it is something abhorred by competitors. It is cheating.

When you bring up the likes of Gekko you encourage comparisons like.... Elimination of timing in running races is to the average runner what X is to the average investor. What is X? Do we want X?

Sure, the boomers who spent their lives in useless competition keeping up with the Joneses have done damage. Is the solution to eliminate the things they used to keep score? Eliminate greener grass? Eliminate a bigger, shinier car for anyone?

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Chad » Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:51 am

Ego wrote:
Chad wrote:On a side note, the guy who owns/runs the Spartan Races is as clueless about the definition of communism, as everyone else is in this country.
Actually I think he is spot-on. When you invoke Gekkoism as one of the extremes along the competition spectrum it is correct to point out the other extreme. By the way, Gekkoism is not competition, it is something abhorred by competitors. It is cheating.
If he was spot on everyone in a Tough Mudder would be FORCED to finish at the same time, which isn't even close to what happens.

I think you missed my point on Gekko, competition, and the Boomers. They have taken competition to such a level that it's ok to cheat in their mind. Thus, there is no competition anymore and it corrupts the whole process.

The Boomers are running a race where they have "the fix in" and the Millennials know it, so they refuse to compete. So, far they are creating a better race, but they can go too far.

Ego wrote: Sure, the boomers who spent their lives in useless competition keeping up with the Joneses have done damage. Is the solution to eliminate the things they used to keep score? Eliminate greener grass? Eliminate a bigger, shinier car for anyone?
Not at all, it's to attain the bigger shinier car in a way that is morally competitive and creates value, as much as it creates money. Using money as your only measurable over simplifies and corrupts competition and business. Using money as your only measurable would be like only using times from a select part of a race course to determine the winner, while ignoring the overall time.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Felix » Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:45 am

Ego wrote: For eons we were in a race to the top. Today we are witnessing a shift. Now we race to slightly-above-average in a world where averages are declining fast. Sure, this might be more "social and community oriented," so that nobody feels bad about doing poorly.

Is that good for all of us? Is it good for any of us?
Yes.

It seems that we did all those more social and community oriented things to "get to the top" to begin with, in terms of evolution.
See here
http://www.futurity.org/generosity-surv ... he-nicest/
here
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/ ... -lifespan/
and here
http://www.thersa.org/events/video/archive/martin-nowak

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Ego » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:37 pm

Chad wrote: I think you missed my point on Gekko, competition, and the Boomers. They have taken competition to such a level that it's ok to cheat in their mind. Thus, there is no competition anymore and it corrupts the whole process.

The Boomers are running a race where they have "the fix in" and the Millennials know it, so they refuse to compete. So, far they are creating a better race, but they can go too far.
We agree that Gekkoism is bad. Rosie Ruiz is bad. No argument.

Where do we go from here? Is the solution to quit? As a cyclist does it make sense for me to refuse to compete altogether or should I just refuse to compete against Lance Armstrong? Do I get any positive benefits from refusing altogether? What do I lose?

Part of the reason we are talking past one another might be because we have different ideas of competition. You think of competition as football where there is definite a winner and a loser, right? Black and white. Duality. I think of running and cycling where I can (and often do) compete with a previous best. And when I compete with others (notice I said with) we work together as a team most of the time, then sprint for the finish line at the end. Sure, someone took the sprint on Saturday morning but we all got stronger in the process. This is very similar to the kind of cooperation that felix showed in those links. A cooperative competitiveness. Winning is not as important as trying hard and improving together.

This is one of the reasons I do not find MMA a particularly attractive sport. By definition in MMA the winner must hurt the loser in order to win. That is not how life typically works. In life when two people are competing both often walk away stronger. This is true in business as well.
Chad wrote:Not at all, it's to attain the bigger shinier car in a way that is morally competitive and creates value, as much as it creates money. Using money as your only measurable over simplifies and corrupts competition and business. Using money as your only measurable would be like only using times from a select part of a race course to determine the winner, while ignoring the overall time.
I agree with that and with felix's idea. Competition and cooperation are not mutually exclusive. In fact, cooperation at the expense of competition is bad as is competition at the expense of cooperation.

In my mind, turning a running race into a one-time-only chalk fest experience is a good example of cooperation at the expense of competition. Everyone has fun but is weaker in the end.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Ego » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:53 pm

Coopetition https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coopetition

In many ways the opposite of tragedy of the commons.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by jacob » Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:15 pm

Coopetition describes the early rounds of the hockey league I used to play in. People wouldn't go hard on the beginners of the opposing team but give them at least a chance to stick handle a bit before challenging them.

However, during the finals when a t-shirt was on the line for the winning team, the gloves almost came off (between a pair of Millenials) and in general no mercy was given.

So it went from corporative to competitive as the stakes got higher.

People were aged 15 to 55. The average age was probably 27.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Chad » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:22 am

Ego wrote: Part of the reason we are talking past one another might be because we have different ideas of competition. You think of competition as football where there is definite a winner and a loser, right? Black and white. Duality. I think of running and cycling where I can (and often do) compete with a previous best. And when I compete with others (notice I said with) we work together as a team most of the time, then sprint for the finish line at the end. Sure, someone took the sprint on Saturday morning but we all got stronger in the process. This is very similar to the kind of cooperation that felix showed in those links. A cooperative competitiveness. Winning is not as important as trying hard and improving together.
Yeah, this is probably the disconnect. Though, it appears it might be a little different. I was actually assuming you were using the black and white winner model in your argument, while I was trying to get across the running and cycling model you state. Either way, it appears we were both going for the "cooperation does not negate competition" model.
Ego wrote:This is one of the reasons I do not find MMA a particularly attractive sport. By definition in MMA the winner must hurt the loser in order to win. That is not how life typically works. In life when two people are competing both often walk away stronger. This is true in business as well.
I would argue that a very high percentage of fighters in MMA walk away stronger. Even if you lose and take a beating, it can still be a positive. For a great example, the fight last Saturday between John Jones and Alexander Gustafsson was a huge positive for Gustafsson even though he lost and took a beating (top 5 fight ever in UFC/MMA). He has to have enormous confidence after that loss, as he fought arguably the best fighter in the world and barely lost. He also found a new level of desire and heart he probably never had to use before in a fight. The physical stuff all heals.
Ego wrote:In my mind, turning a running race into a one-time-only chalk fest experience is a good example of cooperation at the expense of competition. Everyone has fun but is weaker in the end.
Yeah, I don't entirely understand the desire to do these "chalk" races.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Dragline » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:13 pm

Looking back at my first post, I probably should have been more specific on the differences as I see them. Boomers actually come in two flavors. Those that identify competition as a "value" and insist that all activities that can be competitive are made so, and those who view competition as "inherently evil" and therefore be removed from all aspects of life so we can sit around and sing Kum-bay-ya and imagine like Lennon (if not Lenin). [Yes, its just like the divide in Congress -- opponents can't just be wrong, they are necessarily "evil".]

I think younger people tend to take a more balanced view -- that it has its place, but that one's free time and social relationships need not involve competition, even if the activity could be competitive.

Recent personal anecdote: My eldest son (the hard driving born-to-compete jock like his mother) recently starting going to school early. We asked him what he was doing. He said he joined a "Meditation Club" and they were meeting before school. Of course I wouldn't put it past him to compete on who can breath the deepest and slowest, but I find that younger people in general take much more balanced approaches to their lives than some of their overly critical elders.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by jennypenny » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:40 pm

The irony of the current generation is that even though they grow up thinking everyone gets a trophy, they take more tests and are required to possess more credentials than any previous generation.

@Chad-- +1 on that fight the other night. It was a clear example of how someone can win even when they lose.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Ego » Thu Oct 03, 2013 11:47 am

Interesting article in the NYTimes yesterday regarding the discontinuation of appearance fees at road races.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/sport ... -fees.html

The sport is changing, that's for sure. Appearance fees were never really a good idea. Prize money makes a good race. Appearance fees only subsidized a chosen few. The fees were a cheesy way to ensure that non-East-Africans could continue to make money in the sport. Good riddance.

The part of the article I found most interesting is the section about how venture capital has taken over these events. Long ago roadraces were friendly competitions put on by volunteer groups. Then they became venues for charities to extract large sums of cash from the few individuals actually doing something to keep themselves from suffer from the affliction the organization supported. The cash drew the flies and the flies are eating the carcass.

A few weeks ago we had the Bubble Run 5K where participants run through foam bogs. Upcoming events are the Zombie 5k where participants drag themselves like zombies and the Ugly Sweater 5k where participants get prizes for best facial hair. All for-profit events.

Jenny, your point about testing frequency and credentialism has been bugging me for a while.... because it is so true. Could it be that they saw through the nonsense of the testing where scantron results for French class are terrible at predicting who can actually speak French, and then assumed that the nonsense extends to every form of "being measured"? Hum.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Spartan_Warrior » Thu Oct 03, 2013 12:38 pm

Ego wrote:Jenny, your point about testing frequency and credentialism has been bugging me for a while.... because it is so true. Could it be that they saw through the nonsense of the testing where scantron results for French class are terrible at predicting who can actually speak French, and then assumed that the nonsense extends to every form of "being measured"? Hum.
It probably doesn't help that in most conventional middle-class forms of "being measured" per other generations--size of house, size of salary, size of job title--more or less the same nonsense does extend.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by GandK » Thu Oct 03, 2013 1:07 pm

jennypenny wrote:The irony of the current generation is that even though they grow up thinking everyone gets a trophy, they take more tests and are required to possess more credentials than any previous generation.
Yes, and so many of their credentials now revolve around tests as opposed to practical demonstrations of knowledge or competence. When the test score, not the underlying education or skill, becomes the prize, then cheating becomes destigmatized and rampant.

http://www.caveon.com/resources/cheating-statistics/

One quote from the above: "Almost 85% of college students said cheating was necessary to get ahead." What will test-rich but skills-poor young workers do when the businesses who hired them discover that many of those little emperors have no clothes... that their skills are largely limited to the efficient use of social media and Google to answer direct questions?

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by Ego » Thu Oct 03, 2013 2:18 pm

Spartan_Warrior wrote:It probably doesn't help that in most conventional middle-class forms of "being measured" per other generations--size of house, size of salary, size of job title--more or less the same nonsense does extend.
Agreed.

If I were to stop doing all those things that might gauge my improvement/decline because a prior generation chose their metrics poorly, would that be a smart move on my part? Does the boomers poor choice of metrics absolve GandK's students of cheating?

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by jennypenny » Sat Oct 05, 2013 7:38 am

Ego wrote: Does the boomers poor choice of metrics absolve GandK's students of cheating?
I don't think so. Opt out instead of cheating. Find a different path. We've talked about this before with higher education. I don't think it's necessarily easy, but I can't imagine cheating your way through credentials is a cake walk either. I think the biggest problem with all of the testing is that the kids become indifferent to it. DD is taking the SATs this morning. It's a non-event for her and her friends. I remember when it was a big deal, but she's taken so many tests in her life that today's test is almost meaningless to her. I can see her point.

------

It's symptomatic of what I see as the biggest problem with the trophy-laden generation. Everything is always ok and everyone always wins, so nothing is ever a big deal. All of life's normal experiences have been modulated for them, so they avoid lows but consequently also avoid the highs. They post on facebook about a good meal in a restaurant with the same level of excitement they would use to post about a graduation or job promotion.

I suppose it's just the same old complaint. If everyone's a winner, no one is. If everything is special, nothing is.

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Re: Generational Differences

Post by jennypenny » Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:49 pm

A Pew panel on the Millennials. Neil Howe is one of the panelists.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwioWR8WLJ4

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