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Old 04-20-2006, 10:35 AM   #1
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Kids Today: More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable

as someone born in 1977, i found this article very, very interesting, and very relevant. i would suspect that a majority of U2 fans were born in the 1970s, and as such, there might be a whole lot of interest. and those who are older might well be parents today, which could add an interesting dimension to the discussion that i hope will follow. i've excerpted the most interesting parts, but i'll post a link to the whole article:



[q]Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, examines the generation of Americans born after 1970 in her book, “Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable than Ever Before.” Twenge argues that younger people are more self-assured than their parents, but they also more depressed. She bases her argument on 14 years of research comparing the results of personality tests given to boomers when they were under 30 to those of the Gen-Me cohort today. Twenge, invited to appear on the “Today” show, places much of the blame on the self-esteem movement of the last few decades. Here’s an excerpt:

Linda's Baby Boomer generation grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s, taught by stern, gray-suit-wearing teachers and raised by parents who didn't take any lip and thought that Father Knows Best. Most of the Boomers were well into adolescence or adulthood by the time the focus on the self became trendy in the 1970s. And when Linda and her friends sought self-knowledge, they took the ironic step of doing so en masse — for all their railing against conformity, Boomers did just about everything in groups, from protests to seminars to yoga. Their youthful exploration also covered a very brief period: the average first-time bride in the early 1970s had not yet celebrated her 21st birthday.

Today's under-35 young people are the real Me Generation, or, as I call them, Generation Me. Born after self-focus entered the cultural mainstream, this generation has never known a world that put duty before self. Linda's youngest child, Jessica, was born in 1985. When Jessica was a toddler, Whitney Houston's No. 1 hit song declared that "The Greatest Love of All" was loving yourself. Jessica's elementary school teachers believed that their most important job was helping Jessica feel good about herself. Jessica scribbled in a coloring book called We Are All Special, got a sticker on her worksheet just for filling it out, and did a sixth-grade project called "All About Me." When she wondered how to act on her first date, her mother told her, "Just be yourself." Eventually, Jessica got her lower lip pierced and obtained a large tattoo on her lower back because, she said, she wanted to express herself. She dreams of being a model or a singer. She does not expect to marry until she is in her late twenties, and neither she nor her older sisters have any children yet. "You have to love yourself before you can love someone else," she says. This is a generation unapologetically focused on the individual, a true Generation Me.

[...]

Today's young people are experiencing that society right now, and they speak the language of the self as their native tongue. The individual has always come first, and feeling good about yourself has always been a primary virtue. Generation Me's expectations are highly optimistic: they expect to go to college, to make lots of money, and perhaps even to be famous. Yet this generation enters a world in which college admissions are increasingly competitive, good jobs are hard to find and harder to keep, and basic necessities like housing and health care have skyrocketed in price. This is a time of soaring expectations and crushing realities. Joan Chiaramonte, head of the Roper Youth Report, says that for young people "the gap between what they have and what they want has never been greater." If you would like to start an argument, claim that young people today have it (a) easy, or (b) tough. Be forewarned: you might need referees before it's all over.

[...]

Why the label Generation Me? Since GenMe'ers were born, we've been taught to put ourselves first. Unlike the Baby Boomers, GenMe didn't have to march in a protest or attend a group session to realize that our own needs and desires were paramount. Reliable birth control, legalized abortion, and a cultural shift toward parenthood as a choice made us the most wanted generation of children in American history. Television, movies, and school programs have told us we were special from toddlerhood to high school, and we believe it with a self-confidence that approaches boredom: why talk about it? It's just the way things are. This blasé attitude is very different from the Boomer focus on introspection and self-absorption: GenMe is not self-absorbed; we're self-important. We take it for granted that we're independent, special individuals, so we don't really need to think about it.

This is not the same as saying that young people are spoiled. That would imply that we always got what we wanted. Although some parents are indeed too indulgent, young people today must overcome many difficult challenges that their elders never had to face. While families could once achieve middle-class status on the earnings of one high school-educated person, it now takes two college-educated earners to achieve the same standard of living. Many teens feel that the world demands perfection in everything, and some are cracking under the pressure.
Many people reaching their twenties find that their jobs do not provide the fulfillment and excitement they had anticipated, and that their salary isn't enough to afford even a small house. There's an acronym that describes how this growing self-reliance can be stressful: YO-YO (You're On Your Own).

I am also not saying that this generation is selfish. For one thing, youth volunteering has risen in the last decade. As long as time spent volunteering does not conflict with other goals, GenMe finds fulfillment in helping others. We want to make a difference. But we want to do it in our own way. GenMe also believes that people should follow their dreams and not be held back by societal expectations. Taking a job in a new city far from one's family, for example, isn't selfish, but it does put the individual first. The same is true for a girl who wants to join a boys' sports team or a college student who wants to become an actor when his parents want him to be a doctor. Not only are these actions and desires not considered selfish today (although they may have been in past generations), but they're playing as inspirational movies at the local theater. These aspirations are also being touted by politicians, even conservative ones —such opportunities are what George W. Bush is talking about when he says that "the fire of freedom" should be spread around the world.

This is the good part of the trend — we enjoy unprecedented freedom to pursue what makes us happy. But our high expectations, combined with an increasingly competitive world, have led to a darker flip side, where we blame other people for our problems and sink into anxiety and depression. Perhaps because of the focus on the self, sexual behavior has also changed radically: these days, parents worry not just about high school sex but about junior high school sex.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12392877/

[/q]



i would love it if we could stay away from easy generalizations, and also from easy pronouncements (i.e., "focus on self-esteeem leads to spoiled children" when this clearly isn't the case). i'm interested in personal stories, and where this article might make sense, or where it seems totally divorced from your reality.
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Old 04-20-2006, 11:27 AM   #2
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that article really impresses me, because I can see myself reflected on it. I was born in 1983, my parentes supported my talent and they thaught me to solve all my problems by myself. My dad always told me " there's no reason to fail, you can be the best in whatever you want to do " and , honestly, I believe him.

I'm not spoiled but I'm quite competitive, I applied to the best college here, got the best grades. I apply to contests and expositions, I take any chance to succeed. sometimes it is really stressfull and I had breakdowns.

I've never had many friends and I think that my actitude doesn't help, I like to get the credit for my work and I don't like to work in team. I don't want to have children, I don't want to get married, all I want to do is work and enjoy the benefits of it, keep learning new things, travel. Sometimes I'm affraid I won't get any of that and it is discouraging.
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Old 04-20-2006, 11:28 AM   #3
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I generally agree with this article. The competition these days is insane. For instance, the average GPA of a student from my high school accepted into UVA was a 4.6!!!! The 100th person in my graduating class had above a 4.0 as well.

I on the other hand, struggled to end up with a 3.4, putting me smack in the middle at about 250th. At most schools this would be considered an excellent GPA, but instead I was looked down upon as a not so good student because of a 3.4!

We have to deal with being bombarded with information 24/7 through many different outlets, are expected to retain and understand this information, then apply it. The pressure to balance extracurriculars with a tough schedule, so much is expected of us and we get ridiculed as lazy.
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Old 04-20-2006, 11:42 AM   #4
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Just out of curiosity, how is it possible to get above a 4.0 GPA? Is it AP and honors classes that get weighted differently?

Call me old fashioned, but I like the GPAs where a 4.0 is the highest. A 4.6 just seems to be pretty strange.
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Old 04-20-2006, 11:45 AM   #5
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Yeah, AP and honors have weighted credit.
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Old 04-20-2006, 11:48 AM   #6
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what GPA means?
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Old 04-20-2006, 11:56 AM   #7
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Grade Point Average
A=4
B=3
C=2
D=1
F=0

I'm not exactly sure how the weighted system worked, but you would average your grades based on that scale.
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Old 04-20-2006, 12:04 PM   #8
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we don't have that system in the schools, but we have it at college. I got a 4.7
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Old 04-20-2006, 12:04 PM   #9
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what i think is interesting is that the focus on self-esteem has also increased our sense of individuality (i think a good thing) while ratcheting up the pressure (not a good thing) and perhaps valuing personal responsibility to an unhealthy degree (kind of the opposite of the Conventional Wisdom about "kids today"). there is taking personal responsibility for one's actions, which i think we can all agree is a good thing, but that can be extended into taking personal responsibility for factors beyond one's control, which is not a good thing. it seems really simple, but the hardest lesson that i've had to learn over the past 5 years or so of being out in the "real world" is that, surprise, Life Isn't Fair. i think i was taught that if i worked hard, did my best, played fair, and was a good person, than all rewards would come.

often, they don't. and that's not my fault. (this is also not to complain about where i am in life, it's just that i'm surprised at how, shall we say, one makes one's own luck in life). though i often think that it's my fault, or there was something i could have done, or that there was something, somewhere, that i did wrong. i think my generation is guilty of crediting themselves too much for success, but also blaming themselves too much for failure and inability to live up to a near-impossible "ideal" -- and the blame for such failure, due to this focus on the self ("if you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change"), we place directly on ourselves, thus prompting the questions of, "what's wrong with me."
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Old 04-20-2006, 03:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
...the hardest lesson that i've had to learn over the past 5 years or so of being out in the "real world" is that, surprise, Life Isn't Fair. i think i was taught that if i worked hard, did my best, played fair, and was a good person, than all rewards would come.

often, they don't. and that's not my fault..."
I was taught the same thing Irvine, but I believe the answer is to redefine your idea of 'all rewards'. While it's true that it seems no good deed goes unpunished , do your family and associates know you as a person of integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness? Are you known as someone who treats others fairly, can be relied on when needed, and is compassionate? Have you stabbed anyone in the back to get to where you are in life or have you made up malicious stories about others to improve your own image? Do you do your best each day, not because you're being graded or watched, but because you take pride in your finished product?

I imagine the answers would be: yes, yes, no, and yes. If so, then you are being rewarded daily... maybe not in materiallistic ways, but in more important, intangible ways. Mr. Blu and I work very hard at our jobs, do our best not to live beyond our means, and work diligently to pay off our debts. We don't cheat our employers or friends, we're law-abiding and responsible. We contribute to charities when we can & have gotten involved with community outreach programs through our church.

We'll probably never be able to buy a home, car, boat, cruise vacation, etc. without the help of financing and our retirement years will be comfortable at best, probably a bit leaner than our current standard of living. Is it fair that we work our tails off & can't expect better? No, considering how many people work the system & live better than we do currently. But that's not my concern; the people that know me respect me as a decent human being and I can go to sleep at night with a clear conscience and no guilt over how I've treated my fellow human beings on any given day. I've learned over the last few years to see that as the true reward of hard work, dedication, and doing my best.

And when I start feeling sorry for myself and think more money or things would be the answer to my problems, I just think of all the folks who have won millions in the lottery, only to be miserable & bankrupt 2-3 years later. Everyone - no matter how happy they may seem - has their own albatross to bear.
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Old 04-20-2006, 03:18 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Muggsy
we don't have that system in the schools, but we have it at college. I got a 4.7


Congrats. My highest is a 3.0
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Old 04-20-2006, 03:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by BluRmGrl

I was taught the same thing Irvine, but I believe the answer is to redefine your idea of 'all rewards'. While it's true that it seems no good deed goes unpunished , do your family and associates know you as a person of integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness? Are you known as someone who treats others fairly, can be relied on when needed, and is compassionate? Have you stabbed anyone in the back to get to where you are in life or have you made up malicious stories about others to improve your own image? Do you do your best each day, not because you're being graded or watched, but because you take pride in your finished product?

oh, i totally agree and very good points, i just think that people born after 1970 have been given very clear ideas of what "success" looks like, and are used to being told when they've done well, and also told when they've not done well and then steps they can take to recitfy their performance so that they will do better in the future.

it just doesn't seem as if the real world give you the kind of reinforcement we grew up getting in nearly all aspects of our micro-managed, self-improvement focused childhoods.

and i know, it's like "DUH!" obviously the world doesn't owe me, or anyone my age, a damn thing. but, as raising children has changed (as elucidated in this article), we're simply seeing a new set of issues and problems unique to this generation.
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Old 04-20-2006, 03:46 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
... raising children has changed (as elucidated in this article), [and] we're simply seeing a new set of issues and problems unique to this generation.
I can agree with that. One of the larger problems that I see today (and we've touched on this some in other discussions) is the damage rather than good that's actually coming from the 'positive reinforcement' movement. Don't misunderstand - I think it is tremendously important to compliment your children on a job well done, or on a particular skill/task that they are very adept at, but do so sparingly. I don't approve of the ol' Catholic school 'you're a worm with no redeeming qualities, not worthy of forgiveness' type of child rearing, but kids need to learn that they can't always be the best, that sometimes they'll fail & they need to learn ways to deal with that early on.

Constant cheerleading from parents, teachers, etc. doesn't lead to well-adjusted, confident adults. It generally leads to a generation of spoiled, self-indulgent brats with serious entitlement issues... kinda' like we see a lot now.

I don't know the answer - Hell, I don't even have kids, so I probably should keep my 2 cents to myself here. Somedays the only thing that makes me happy when I see these little monsters in action, though, is the knowledge that they'll be in for a hard lesson when the 'real world' does come knocking on their door.
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Old 04-20-2006, 03:47 PM   #14
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Wow, I really saw a lot of myself in those descriptions. For the record, I was born in '79.

I absolutely agree with Irvine re: life not being fair. Now when I think about it, I don't recall anyone ever suggesting to me that it was fair, and yet it was an assumption I made. That certain actions bring forth certain results and when that doesn't happen, it can be crushing.

My Mom, who was both a high school teacher and a professor throughout her long career in education says she's noticed the changes as well since starting to teach in the mid 70s. She said the main thing she sees today is that we have exponentially more choices and opportunities in life and a lot of people are getting lost along the way. She remembers back in the 70s where mediocre students were streamlined into the workplace or community colleges - basically everyone was encouraged to pursue an education and a profession which corresponded to their abilities. From each according to his need.... (thank you Marx). But these days we're encouraging all kids that they can have the world if they put their mind to it. Nothing is out of reach for anyone, and sometimes I wonder if we're boosting self esteem at the cost of realistic expectations. Sometimes it's important to realize your own limitations and the fact that this doesn't make you a worse person - why is it so bad to recognize that you are gifted at some things and not at others. The reality is, we can't have it all, but we are being told that we can and sometimes I know I bought into that as well. That's where any of my youthful misery came from - one day waking up and wondering where this promised land was.
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Old 04-20-2006, 04:00 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram

But these days we're encouraging all kids that they can have the world if they put their mind to it. Nothing is out of reach for anyone, and sometimes I wonder if we're boosting self esteem at the cost of realistic expectations. Sometimes it's important to realize your own limitations and the fact that this doesn't make you a worse person - why is it so bad to recognize that you are gifted at some things and not at others.
We are struggling with this issue at my school. The school board/district administration would like every student to be enrolled in college prep classes. (including special education students) The thing is, our school offers little to no vocational education. Not every student is college bound and there is nothing wrong with that. As teachers, we continue to push for funding for vocational education.
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