OK, that’s a slight exaggeration – but as with all hyperbole, it contains more than a pound of truth.
We Boomers started the whole “sex is fun so let’s have lots of it!” sexual revolution in the 70’s – and whether we choose to recognize it or not, the values our generation instilled to the collective consciousness continue to dictate our nation’s cultural morés to this day. Hey, no one knows more about lack of impulse control and the consequences of it than we do!
So, in fact it’s our attitudes about sex that are being played out by young people far and wide to this day, many of whom, by the way, are not just influenced by our Boomer ideals like the rest of society, but are in daily contact with these not-always-healthy inventives as actual children of Boomers. Who better, then, to tackle this dilemma with our teens than us?!
We can start with being much more honest with ourselves. Meaning, we can stop pretending that we haven’t been there done that, and that we don’t understand both the drive to have sex with less than a discriminating eye for commitment and the consequences many of us have endured as a result (personally, I knew three “women” in college in the early 70’s who had more than one abortion, and so far have had two friends die of AIDS). We have hardly been advocates of abstinence in our own lives (and for those Boomers who are single again, my guess is you’re probably not engaging in an abstinence-based dating experience as we speak…), so it’s just a tad ingenuous to preach it to our children – and they know it. I mean, really: telling our kids to abstain is about as ingenious as having opened the barn door 35 years ago and admonishing the fillies to not go out and play in the meadows….
Then, we can move on to having much more honest discussions with our teens – “discussions” being a two-way concept – starting with a clear recognition of our part in what they’re doing. What was our lifestyle in college (and for those considered less than pure in high school) is now the norm in high school – and unfortunately for some, middle school. I’m not saying this is a good thing – I’m saying it’s a fact. We can let them know that we fully understand the “pros” of sex without commitment, and are therefore completely qualified to preach the “cons” and teach alternatives. In return, we must give them a substantial role in determining what will work and how to go about it. Our kids will only listen to us when we’re being honest with them, and will only change their landscape when they are asked to be a part of designing it.
We can finish it off with changing our part in the way we help them to grasp the multiple “cons” of indiscriminate sex. That means discontinuing the clinical or old school castigations about diseases that didn’t work with us, and “waiting for love” that we didn’t do either. Besides, teens think it’s all about love each time they have sex, and by their very nature consider themselves impervious to danger and omnipotent in judgment. Instead, we must honestly assess what would have changed our behavior when we engaged in the exact same thing in our youth. AIDS wasn’t around in our day, but all the other STD’s were in full swing, pregnancy was invented by then, and it was for us that birth control became as accessible as aspirin (well, almost…). Keeping our own experiences out of the conversation is a waste of an excellent resource – making it the foundation is an anchor for super-credibility, particularly for parents. No, I’m not suggesting we share with them the details of our escapades; I am recommending we be honest with our own experiences as a teaching tool, just like we do with everything else from driving to career decisions. It is the most powerful one in our arsenal.
Bottom Line: we started this, and only we have the generational street cred to correct it. It’s time to start using it.
Although I’ve never been a huge fan of the media influencing kids hysteria, and given my choice of words, you can tell that’s because I believe too much of the discussion is overreactive, I have been a proponent of the aspects that are accurate.
It is not whether media – tv shows & commercials, print ads, radio shock jocks, etc. – can influence our kids’ behavior (or at least some of their attempts to emulate the less the healthy things they see/hear), it’s to what extent we as their parents allow it to.
The release of research by the Rand Corp. appearing in today’s issue of Pediatrics and reported by the Associated Press, indicates that teens ages 12-17 who watch “a lot of tv with sexual dialogue and behavior” have the following statistically likelihoods:
2X more likely to get pregnant (those who watch the “raciest” shows)
58% of girls became pregnant
33% of boys said they got a girl pregnant
3% increase in teen pregnancies in 2006, the largest increase in 15 years
Millennials, those born between 1982 & 2003 are the children of (mostly) the youngest 1/3 of Boomers (that segment born between 1959 & 1964), and are taking up where we left off (or, more accurately, where we got lost…see my explanation of this: http:www.bethebest-now/terrisboomerblog.html).
These kids reflect one of the things we Boomers got right, in some very important ways. They are the soul of us that we forsake for the sake of self-aggrandizement and materialism, when we became “the man” we so disparaged (and rightfully so) in our youth.
So, to highlight what’s to come as these young people begin their daunting task of cleaning up the messes we, let’s face it, made, I have reproduced for you below an article by Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, co-authors of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics (Rutgers University Press: 2008)
Posted on Sun, Oct. 05, 2008
Special to the Star-Telegram
The 2008 election marked more than just a change of administrations in Washington. It also signaled the beginning of a new era for American society, one dominated by the attitudes and behaviors of Millennials, the largest generation in American history. Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, comprise almost one-third of the U.S. population. There are about 15 million more Millennials than Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, and about 1 1/2 times as many as Generation X, sandwiched between those two dynamic, outward-focused generations.
But unlike Boomers, Millennials are a “civic” generation, closer in belief to their GI Generation great-grandparents then their “idealist” Boomer parents. The Millennial Generation and its ability to use Internet-based social networking technologies to implement its beliefs will shape the nature of America’s response to the challenges we face over the next decade.
American history indicates that about every 80 years a civic generation emerges and sets about the task of making over the country after a period of upheaval caused by the fervor of an idealist generation.
Reared by their parents in an indulgent manner and driven by deeply held values as adults, members of idealist generations attempt to enact their own personal morality and causes through the political process, embroiling the nation in debates on divisive social issues.
In 1828, Andrew Jackson’s Democrats gave rural traditionalism a victory. In 1896, Mark Hanna, the Karl Rove of his day, turned the tables, directing the presidential campaign of Republican William McKinley that defeated William Jennings Bryan and his agricultural allies on behalf of industrial age companies and the urban workers they employed.
In the decades after the 1828 election, the country was pulled apart over slavery, an issue that ultimately could not be compromised, leading finally to the Civil War.
In the nearly 40 years after the 1896 campaign, America was unable to develop a way to fully permit blue-collar workers and farmers to share the wealth generated by the Industrial Revolution.
In 1968, it was once again the Republicans’ turn to take up the cause of traditional values and end an era of dominance by a Democratic Party that seemed increasingly unable to maintain “law and order.”
But while each party has come out on top in one idealist era or another, the end result of all such realignments is a weakening of governmental institutions and political gridlock. Because idealist generations are unwilling to compromise on moral issues, major societal and economic concerns pile up during the four decades of ideological combat that follow realignments produced by such generations.
Reacting to personal agendas
Civic generations react against the attempts of earlier idealist generations to use politics to advance their own personal moral causes. Instead, they focus their efforts in re-energizing societal, political and governmental institutions to solve more pressing national issues.
Previous civic realignments occurred in 1860, with the election of Abraham Lincoln, and in 1932, when the GI Generation overwhelmingly elected Franklin Roosevelt. It’s not coincidental that both of these civic presidents are found, along with George Washington, at the top of all lists of our greatest presidents. All three led America as it resolved its greatest crises. They did so by inspiring and guiding new generations and by revitalizing and expanding the national government.
Today, issues such as the availability of affordable healthcare or quality education have been endlessly debated, without resolution by two sides unwilling to set aside their ideological agendas to advance the common good.
Once again America is due for another makeover, one produced by the emergence of its most recent civic generation, the Millennials that will change every aspect of our governmental institutions.
The Millennial Generation will create a new paradigm of governmental policy with guidelines for behavior established at the national level, but with implementation left to each individual interacting with others in their peer-to-peer networks to make a choice on how best to comply with those national rules. The Millennial paradigm will shape federal policy on issues as varied as the environment, healthcare, education and foreign policy.
Drawn to service, voluntarism
But beyond the specific changes in public policy that Millennial activism will cause, this generation’s interest and participation in America’s civic institutions is likely to be its most important historical contribution to the nation’s future.
With more than 50 percent of the federal work force ready to retire within the next few years, the desire of Millennials to find a job that delivers not just a paycheck but a purpose will make them eager recruits to fill those vacancies.
Many senior managers in the federal government have bemoaned the coming loss of institutional knowledge that will accompany the retirement of the Baby Boomers who have brought their idealism to work with them every day since the 1960s. But the arrival of Millennials, with their facility in the use of the Internet, their insistence upon transparency and inclusion, and their dedication to getting things done, will more than compensate for the government’s loss of experience.
The knowledge and experience of retiring Boomers will be replaced by the enthusiasm and energy of young people dedicated to changing things for the better. As Millennials arrive to staff agencies, advise legislators and introduce new forms of communication, they will set a new, updated standard for not only what government should do, but also how to get things done.
A few key issues
Environmental and Energy Policy: Keys to a Millennial Economy. When faced with a choice between exuberant economic growth and the preservation of the environment for future generations, Millennials will choose environmentalism every time.
A unilateralist approach on global warming, as with any other foreign policy issue, does not appeal to Millennials, who have been taught to find win-win solutions that benefit the entire group since they were toddlers. They will want the United States to get involved in processes that include as many countries as possible in finding an answer that benefits the entire world. Solutions that synthesize this new emphasis on the importance of the larger community with processes that involve everyone in achieving the goal will find the most favor with the public in a Millennial civic era.
As suggested by former Vice President Al Gore, consumer-based “carbon” taxes and corporate incentives to reduce the production of greenhouse gas emissions will be enacted during this era with the support of a generation passionate about the environment.
Using this new source of taxes to reduce the burden of payroll taxes for individuals and companies will further enhance the political attractiveness of this policy.
Indeed, the linkage between the country’s use of energy and its misuse of the environment will become the central premise for the changes in America’s economy in the decades to come.
Energy and environmental policy in a Millennial era will be linked through policies that provide tax incentives along with moral persuasion from the bully pulpit of the presidency to ensure America finally ends its dependence on foreign oil.
Healthcare Becomes a Joint Effort. In the Millennial Era, American’s healthcare system will move from a mostly private enterprise undertaken by medical practitioners and healthcare professionals for personal gain or satisfaction to a system in which everyone involved will participate in deciding the best way to treat each person’s medical needs.
America will increasingly witness the participation of patients in deciding the treatment that best meets their own needs. Just as “user generated content” created a generation of videographers capturing and uploading everything from yoga lessons to hard partying to share with their friends on YouTube, “patient-centered healthcare” will become the mantra for Millennial healthcare reform in the next decade.
Databases containing vast amounts of information on the efficacy and cost of different procedures will become the source Millennials search to find the healthcare treatment they want.
Key players in the healthcare industry, specifically providers and insurers, will have to adjust the way they do business in reaction to this demand.
For providers this will mean joining “groups” on Facebook and other social networks that might be interested in their services and discussing online treatment options and costs. Insurers will be forced through legislation to abandon current practices that attempt to restrict their policyholders to only the healthiest. Leading-edge insurance companies will instead embrace a wide range of customers of different ages and backgrounds.
This will simultaneously enable the insurance companies to mitigate their risk and also to ask policyholders to use peer pressure to encourage “wellness behavior” on the part of the rest of the company’s other customers.
A completely revamped American healthcare system will emerge from these Millennial-inspired initiatives that will assure affordable, accessible healthcare for everyone.
Education for All and All for Education
Every generation in America is determined to raise its children differently than the way it was raised.
Millennials are friends with their parents and, unlike many Boomers, are not likely to reject their parents and the wonderful experiences they had at home while growing up. But, the experiences of Millennials in school will not be nearly good enough for their own children. The full force of this generation’s desire to change that experience will be felt by America’s system of primary, secondary and higher education in the years ahead.
The Millennial Generation’s “one for all and all for one” ethic will eliminate most distinctions between public and private education. This will create a more level educational playing field. Both public and private schools will be required to follow the same rules, spend about the same amount of money on each child, and use the same democratic values in how schools are run.
Millennials will create an educational system where those who pay for schooling, those who deliver educational material, the children who receive an education, and those that decide the rules by which schools operate are all intertwined — with each group enjoying the benefits from the participation of the other. Within this framework, Millennial parents will create an educational experience customized to the needs of each child, firm in their belief that education determines a child’s economic destiny.
Nonprofits: the Best Place to Work in a Millennial Economy. Boomers often made work their only life. Gen Xers countered that behavior by separating family from work and then demanding a “balance” between the two. But Millennials want work to contribute to an overall vision of what they hope to accomplish in life. Doing work with meaning, which they define as personal growth and development, is one way this belief is manifested.
Working for an organization with a purpose they can believe in is an even more appealing way for Millennials to add meaning to their daily life.
Seventy-four percent of Millennials say they are more likely to pay attention to a company’s overall message if the company has a deep commitment to a cause. Nearly 80 percent want to work for a company that cares about society, while more than half would refuse to work for an enterprise they consider to be irresponsible.
As a result, while the private sector struggles to embody a purpose or cause, such as eco-friendliness, into its corporate values statement, the nonprofit sector comes already equipped to make this type of offer to the next generation of employees.
As Millennials seek to “tear down the walls” that divide American society, they will bring new energy and enthusiasm to the nonprofit sector and its traditional focus on that cause. Nonprofits will attract many of the best and the brightest Millennials, giving them a long-term advantage over the private sector in this new era. And, those companies that build a purpose into their brand reputation, such as ending outsourcing to improve prospects for American job seekers, will also succeed in both hiring Millennials and in the marketplace.
Millennials Will Create an Activist, Multilateral Foreign Policy. Because of the defining events of 9-11 and the killings at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech, Millennials are especially concerned over issues of safety and security.
They are neither pacifists nor isolationists. In a 2007 survey, 24 percent of Millennials cited the war in Iraq as the most important foreign policy issue, followed by 17 percent who wanted the United States to first deal with the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. While only 6 percent named the war on terror as their highest-priority global concern, 40 percent felt Muslims were more prone to violence than believers of other religions and almost half were unsure of the loyalty of Muslims living in the United States.
The Millennial Generation’s orientation toward the group and their preferences for win-win solutions to problems is reflected in their foreign policy preferences. Millennials favor a multilateral, reasoned approach in dealing with the nation’s enemies, rather than a more unilateral, militaristic strategy. By a 3-1 ratio, they believe the United States should let other countries and the United Nations take the lead in solving international crises as a first resort and whenever possible.
By a 61 percent to 13 percent margin, Millennials believe it is important for the United States to be respected in the world, and most believe that goal can best be achieved through moral leadership, not military force.
Only 14 percent are in favor of the U.S. incurring significant military casualties in order to spread democracy and freedom.
As a result, Millennials will bring their strong beliefs in the importance of working things out in ways that take into account the needs of each member of the group to America’s foreign policy.