It's open season on young Americans.
So begins a piece in last week's New York Times Sunday magazine titled "The Why Worry Generation," which tells us that, far from being the generation that would finally make America all better, blending the optimism of the 1960s left with the can-do spirit of the 1990s tech boom to solve all our problems, the millenials, born between 1982 and 2002, are self-important narcissists. Oh, and we're often rude and turn our music up way too loud.
Judith Warner writes:
For the record, I don't wear flip-flops to work, though I am writing this with a pair of earbuds in.
But in general, I think the millenials' critics -- and there are many -- are mostly right. But here's the question: These days, when uncertainty is about the only certain thing and seismic events occur with alarming frequency, isn't that self-assurance (no matter how out of proportion with actual talent) actually an evolutionary advantage? It's a sort of forcefield to cushion kids from the unpleasant reality checks that seem to keep on coming.
Just got laid off? No worries! You'll find another job, a better job, and now that you think about it, that old job was stupid anyway. Global warming? A troubling trend, but hey, you have some pretty smart friends and they have some pretty smart friends and surely one of them will figure out how to solve it.
The children of the Depression never really recovered. They turned into the grandparents who sent you a check for $9 on your birthday and told you to spend it wisely, or the ones who made you lick your plate clean. Maybe this is the millenials' way of avoiding that?
Warner nods in this direction:
But -- and here's the but -- there's a tipping point at which this worldview becomes self-destructive. There's a fine line between encouraging our kids to reach for the stars and fostering a sense of entitlement, between helping them develop a sense of self-worth and the "irrational exuberance" Warner describes. And that, as always, comes down to parenting.