Generations and the Adult Learner [ID Blog]

I found this week’s readings on generations and our discussion of the same, to be very interesting. What was most interesting to me as a baby boomer were the perceptions of the younger generations (why do I sound like my grandmother when writing those last 2 words, LOL)  about us. My sister was born in 1949 and I was born in 1963. Both of us are baby boomers. When asked about defining events that shaped each generation they said World War II was that moment for baby boomers. About the only impact the WWII had was really the creation of us. The beginning of our generation came about from the reuniting of soldiers and their families. Thousands of little houses (e.g., Levittown, NY) were built to offer homes to the GIs. Having been born in 1963 I have no memory of WWII other than my brothers watching the movie Patton. My only taste of the Korean War was watching M.A.S.H., and yes, I lived through Vietnam but as I was only 7 in 1970, I don’t really remember much of it. Except that on the soap opera All My Children Erica Kane (the character played by Susan Lucci) had a fiance who was presumed dead, so she remarried and, true to soap opera tradition, returned once she’d remarried.

Technologically we are thought to be inept. Part of my job is handling social media where I work and I’ve never had an issue with it. In fact, my biggest problem has been trying to get the parents of our daycare children and teen program to connect. Many of them are younger, their connections online tend to be with friends, families, stores at which they shop, or entertainment sites.  I am not alone. My high school graduating class was close to 1200 students and most of us are online, whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram. We had to learn more than other generations as we had manual typewriters, then electric typewriters, followed by dedicated word processors, then personal computers, laptops and tablets, and now smart phones. To suggest that we aren’t online, that we can’t figure things out, or are afraid of technology, is wrong. I would say that applies more to those of the Greatest Generation, or the early baby boomers. I think that the baby boomer generation is too long, that we should be divided into two. Again, my sister was off to college at 18 whilst I was still 5 years old. I think our experiences are vastly different. I hate to argue with SMEs in this department but to call us the same generation and think we have the same mindset and that we were affected in the same way by events is erroneous.

NOTE FOR THE FOLLOWING SECTION: I am in no way fond of stereotyping. Just as I’m fine working with technology and social media, the boomer stereotype is that we need our children to log us on. So what I write about the other generations below is based on experiences I’ve had or what my friends/coworkers have experienced. It is in no way meant to say that this is how a whole generation is, only my perceptions.

One way in which I am alike with other boomers is the way in which we perceive the younger generations. I admit that I never knew where Gen X ended and Gen Y began, or into what generation my 12 year old daughter fell before this week’s reading. Just as teenagers grow and try to own their self-identity and separate from their parents, it seems each generation seems to find some of the previous generations sociological ideas “not cool” anymore.

It was shocking to me to realize that millennials won’t have lived through the attacks of 9/11 and therefore won’t have been individually affected. Even though my daughter is only 12, because she is named after my best friend, Chantal Vincelli, who died at the World Trade Center, and because I have shared my own experiences of that day, she’s acutely aware of what happened and very sensitive about it.  I can’t watch TV that day or be on social media. It’s fine to see memorials or services or flags flying but the actual footage – people forget that for some of us those are the last moments that our loved ones were alive. They’d never want to see footage of their parents dying each year on that anniversary yet they (unthinkingly) share that footage on social media over and over that day. It has given me a whole new perspective of what the Kennedy family has had to go through with JFK, RFK, and JFK Jr. footage on the anniversaries of their respective deaths.

I don’t think of those born in 1965 as Gen X as that’s two years after me and so they aren’t that young anymore either (sorry if I’ve just insulted anyone). The tail end of Gen X melds with Gen Y. I think of this group as one. The biggest difference that my peers and I have noted is that they are less likely to work late or come to work functions. They also have a modest tech knowledge.

The millennials that I’ve worked with have been tech savvy and fun to work with, but socially lacking proper etiquette. Various functions, both professional and social, they’ve failed to RSVP and then have shown up, or signed up to attend things and then not shown up nor did they let anyone know they weren’t coming so that classes were held up, events juggled to accommodate people they didn’t expect, etc. I even had a millennial coworker who had just been hired “ghost” us. She decided that she no longer wanted to work there but rather than telling her boss or anyone else (and she did our payroll!) she slid the key to her office under the door on a Friday afternoon and never returned. She was quite angry when we called the police to do a wellness check on her a week later after she failed to respond to emails, texts, or calls.

Although we all go through the phases of the life cycle I admit that since my 30’s I’ve had a hard time sitting in a restaurant or bar listening to the conversations of undergrads. Often they have this jaded “I’ve seen it all ” attitude and think they know everything (clearly they don’t but there’s no convincing them of that) and their dismissal of everything suggested by others (older or younger) is dismissed with this cynical attitude. I’m sure I was the exact same way at that age. In your 30s you become much stronger in your sense of self, by 40 you don’t care what others say and by the time you reach 50 you’ve reached the wonderful place where you can do what you want, say what you want (within reason, I don’t meant threatening to kill anyone) and people will chalk up the weirder stuff to being eccentric. It is a bit freeing. I wander out to get the mail in outfits that horrify my daughter and I remember the same thing happening to me at her age.

Which leads me to believe that when thinking about the adult learners in your upcoming class, it’s best to ask ahead of time for a simple bio. That way age and location can be taken into account. The Millennial in Iowa may not approach the class the same way the Baby Boomer in NYC does. The course must be designed to be interesting to all and to incorporate technology that will work for all.

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