Dueling Perceptions of "Kids These Days"

October 2007

Not to quash the cross-continental conversation that’s been going on in the last two posts (especially given the recent press that it’s received), but there are two interesting columns in the New York Times from two very smart guys. The columns are currently jockeying for position on the most emailed list - since David Brooks is in the lead right now he goes first here:

The Odyssey Years

Of the new [life phases], the least understood is odyssey, the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood…During this decade, 20-somethings go to school and take breaks from school. They live with friends and they live at home. They fall in and out of love. They try one career and then try another…Young people grow up in tightly structured childhoods, Wuthnow observes, but then graduate into a world characterized by uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering. Old success recipes don’t apply, new norms have not been established and everything seems to give way to a less permanent version of itself.

And in the other corner, weighing in at a hefty 201 pounds (200 is his actual weight, the mustache adds the extra pound):

Tom Friedman with “Generation Q”

I’ve been calling them “Generation Q” – the Quiet Americans, in the best sense of that term, quietly pursuing their idealism, at home and abroad…Generation Q would be doing itself a favor, and America a favor, if it demanded from every candidate who comes on campus answers to three questions: What is your plan for mitigating climate change? What is your plan for reforming Social Security? What is your plan for dealing with the deficit – so we all won’t be working for China in 20 years?