Generalization XYZ

March 31st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

I guess the story goes like so: Us Gen Y’s got duped by the Boomer cult of academia into an endless state of dependence that we long to escape but never will for lack of initiative; that we’ve barely left the womb, just substituting one form of guardianship for another with each gradatory token of progression; that even our success stories are narcissistic whiners seeking supervisory approval.

Whew, I’m glad someone else finally said it.

Seriously, though, I don’t put too much stock in the X-Y-Z-Boomer trope, yet I completely buy into it. I enjoy the narrative that well-intended parents of every generation do their best to correct for the last, never knowing their fatal flaw until the offspring overcompensate when their time to procreate rolls around, so continuing the cycle. It’s simultaneous proof of the importance and futility of parenting, and I think that’s fascinating.

It’s taken way too long to realize that the exaggerated thresholds of our education and credentialing systems have a downside, but we can’t change the past. Still, it’s a travesty that so many of my peers went into extreme debt to do little but raise the prestige of Boomer values—well-roundedness and self-discovery and all that—and I even feel sympathy for the Boomer parents saddled with much of this debt. They were only following advice, but I wonder why so few advisers threw cold water on the “more education means more earning potential” mantra before the surplus of unskilled grads and humanities PhD’s grew out of control. Now they’re hopelessly broke; many do regret their education, and being well-rounded is at best small comfort, at worst a blatant lie.

But now I’m just slinging clichés.

Eye on the ball: We’re clearly moving toward intelligent adolescents having the choice of freedom-plus-risk over formal academia, and if this is the path ahead of Gen Z, I envy them and someday hope to employ them. By then, a little reflection and a little more power should give us Y’s the confidence to openly acknowledge how we really feel about college education and hire uncredentialed Z’s without reservation. Whereas our college degrees signal commitment, compliance, and—ha!—responsibility to our current employers, self-teaching will signal to us the initiative we wish we’d had but never found.

That said, I may be too optimistic to think that us team-playing Gen Y’s will ever ascend to management level; Gen X may have to pass that baton straight to Gen Z, though grudgingly, I suspect. Whereas the shared collectivism of Gen Y’s and Boomers bond us together, the individualism of Xers and Z’s may lead to stubborn confrontation. And when that time comes, where will the Z’s find their cogs? I figure us Y’s will produce kids squishy enough to fit the role, even if credentialism is passé. Of course, by then I expect credentialism to be on the comeback; whether by necessity or fear, I’m not sure.

All that said, it’s absurd to look so far into the future, and I think these generational differences are just tools that charlatans use to sell management seminars and life-coaching services. And stripping charlatans of their professional titles and esteem is what this is all about.

So tell me again why I wrote this post?