I’m sure you’ve heard that term before. I’ve heard it all my life, but mostly during the sixties when I was a teenager. There was a definite “them” vs. “us” feeling in the country, especially since our numbers were so significant. I’m told that in 1965 half the U. S. was under 25. Now we are all aging and changing sides.
Research tells us that there are two major indicators of gaps between generations: language and use of technology. Then of course there are the minor differences of clothing and hairstyles, etc. Each new generation seems to create a few new words and phrases that set them apart from their parents. They adopt ways to communicate that seem unique at the time. They strive to look and act like members of a totally new tribe.
And of course technology so dominates our society that only those of us who are old realize how much communication and entertainment has changed. No one feels the need to memorize a phone number or read a map or solve a problem because “there’s an app for that!” There are members of my own family who seldom bother to communicate directly with me because I still do things the “old-fashioned way”- email, letters, and phone calls. Who would have thought just a few years ago that “technical skills” would be a requirement for relationships or that email would be considered passé? I guess if you don’t tweet or skype you just get left behind. It’s one thing to understand the concept of a generation gap. It’s quite another to live it and feel it in your very soul.
As a teacher of young children I witness changes in our civilization each and every day. Our children have lost words and concepts and skills that were once part of my daily life, and replaced them with words and concepts and skills that I don’t understand or even want to acknowledge. If there is one change that I deplore it is how much “adult” conversation and behavior our children hear and see. Many of my students know more about sex and violence at the age of six than I did at sixteen. And most of that knowledge is a perverted version obtained from television and video games.
Last week I had to identify the word and explain the concept of “safety pin” to my students. The little picture was on a rhyming word page and most of the children had never seen one- no clue as to what it might be or how one might use it. This happens over and over. Only a couple of my students have ever seen a whole ham, so that picture was also a mystery to them. Each set of alphabet cards prompts at least one “what’s that?” response. On the flip side, my students have a technical vocabulary related to their multiple devices and games that sounds like gibberish to me.
Of course the media would have you believe that ours is a much more blended and harmonious society thanks in part to technology. I agree, to some extent. Even I appreciate many of the changes and benefits brought about by new discoveries and devices. The fact that I’m writing a blog shows that I’m not living totally in the past. Old people and young people and every age in between have computers and cell phones and iPods and any other new gadget that hits the streets. Just think about those two old guys on the commercial playing chess on their phones. But think also of the thousands of people who don’t have any of those because they can’t afford them or can’t use them. We still have people in this country that can’t read or write!
There will always be some sort of gap between the generations. I suppose it isn’t a condition that is either good or bad. It’s just interesting to think about. Of course there are also the gaps between city and country dwellers, between men and women, between professionals and laborers, between….