Generation Y: Educational Considerations Research Paper Starter

Generation Y: Educational Considerations

The majority of Generation Y-ers come from parents who are members of the latter half of the Baby Boom Generation. This article provides a brief synopsis of personality traits from each generation within the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on Generation Y. A succinct overview of Generation Y's educational and parental influences is provided, as well as the manifestation of adult characteristics such as narcissism, multitasking, open-mindedness, and technological expertise and the ramifications of such traits. Furthermore, educational implications are broached regarding the merging of Generation Y's qualities against academic institutional values.

Keywords Baby Boom Generation; Generation X; Generation Y; Higher Education; Mature Generation; Narcissism; No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB); Student Populations; Technological Influences


There have been many historians, scholars, and political experts who have substantiated the existence of collective traits that are shared by any given generation, including sociologists Mannheim (1936) and Feuer (1962). Likewise, Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset (Esler, 1974) spoke on behalf of this matter by purporting that people's values, interests, repulsions, and hindrances often follow patterns similar to others within the same generation, as is depicted in the following passage:

At one time I pictured a generation as a caravan within which man moves a prisoner, but at the same time, a voluntary one at heart, and content. He moves within it faithful to the poets of his age, to the political ideas of his time, to the type of woman triumphant in his youth, and even to the fashion of walking which he employed at twenty-five. From time to time he sees another caravan pass with a strange and curious profile; this is the other generation. Perhaps celebrations on a feast day may bring the two together, may blend them; but as the hour of normal living approaches the somewhat chaotic fusion divides the two organic groups. Each individual mysteriously recognizes each other by a peculiar pattern of odor (Esler, 1974, p. 6).

In the twentieth century, there has been a significant amount of research highlighting the divergent standards found between each generation (Kipnis, 2004; Norum, 2003; Patterson, 2007; Sujansky, 2004). Although discrepant names have been used to categorize these generations (e.g., "Generation Y," "Millenial Generation") as well as differentiation among some experts regarding the onset of each generational bracket, for purposes of this article the following names and timeframes have been assigned accordingly:

• Matures, born between 1900–1946;

• Baby Boomers, born between 1946–1964;

• Generation X, born between 1965–1982;

• Generation Y: born between 1982–1991 (Skiba & Barton, 2006).

Characteristics that have been attributed to each generation reflect various social, political, economic, and entertainment ideals. For example, influences that shaped Matures included the Depression, the New Deal, World War II, and the GI Bill, whereas the Baby Boomers reaped the benefits of an affluent economy within the precincts of suburban life as they dabbled with sexual, substance, and musical experimentation (Smith & Clurman, 1997). Matures were instilled with the value that diligence, reverence, and adhering to authority figures yielded favorable results, while Baby Boomers were encouraged to rebel against such established norms (Weston, 2006).

Members of Generation X, on the other hand, saw the introduction of many societal patterns that remain evident at the present time, including the advent of technological innovations (e.g., computers, video games), and modern-day conveniences such as microwaves. As children, Generation X-ers experienced high rates of parental divorce and were exposed to female role models who pursued advanced educational degrees and adopted professional identities that had been previously reserved for men. The inception of the "latchkey" phenomenon originated within this generation, whereby single mothers worked extended hours at the office and left unsupervised children at home to fend for themselves. Lonely, these Generation X-ers found solace among peers who were undergoing similar arrangements and thus formulated strong friendship networks that often superseded their family relations. This, among other relationship-oriented trends within a depressed economy, contributed to a conglomeration of Generation X traits that include cynicism, laziness, and apathy (Holtz, 1995).

The focal point of the current article is that of the subsequent generation, Generation Y. Other names that are often affiliated with this group include the Millennium Generation, referencing the timeframe in which many members of this generation graduated from high school, and Generation Net, alluding to the substantial use of technology found among such individuals (Neuborne & Kerwin, 1999).

Background of Generation Y

The majority of Generation Yers come from parents who are members of the latter half of the Baby Boom Generation, otherwise regarded as the "Me" generation (Weston, 2006) based upon the cultural endorsement that encouraged their self-growth, expressiveness, increased educational opportunities, and material gain. These Baby Boom parents delayed family and child-rearing endeavors, partly so that they could nurture their personalized developmental interests and professional strides. When the time drew near for them to give birth to the current generation, i.e. Generation Y, they approached their parental duties with tremendous enthusiasm (Hira, 2007).

Baby Boom parents were often criticized for indulging their children with lavish amounts of attention and praising them for being exceptional and unique. During their younger years, these Baby Boomers were encouraged to voice their opinions on relevant social issues such as Vietnam War involvement, the Civil Right movement, and women's equality. As parents in the 1980s, these Baby Boomers re-directed their "cause" as they channeled their energies toward advocating on behalf of their children. Baby Boom parents rallied behind their offspring as they displayed "Baby on Board" signs in their car windows and donned bumper stickers that passionately proclaimed their children's honor roll status.

Some experts speculate that the motives behind the fervent Baby Boom parenting techniques and material indulgences served as a guise to mask their underlying feelings of guilt surrounding excessive involvement in the workforce, since two-parent households continued to be a societal norm. However, in contrast to the latchkey movement that categorized many Generation X-ers, Baby Boom parents ensured that their Generation Y children were closely monitored, enrolling them in daycare centers to provide custodial supervision during the day as well as a variety of other organized group associations that offered skill (e.g., piano lessons) or sport development, as well as hobby maintenance. Generation Y-ers were highly involved with such extracurricular affiliations since the goal of many Baby Boom parents was to expose their children to a broad range of activities. Whether or not these Generation Y-ers demonstrated a natural proclivity for such endeavors, they were oftentimes rewarded with trophies or certificates that emphasized their effort and participation rather than whether or not they possessed any skill.

Concurrent Shifts in Public Education

During this time period, there were significant paradigm shifts within public education such as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) that mandated the standardization of school curricula (Ogden, 2007). Proponents of NCLB felt that teachers would be held accountable for their instructional methods, and students would exit high school with consistent educational frames of reference. Critics of NCLB feared that such a uniform approach to schooling was mechanistic and the promotion of rote memorization discouraged the development of creativity and abstract thought (Arce, Luna, Borjian, & Conrad, 2005).

Paradoxically, schools at this time sought to adhere to each student's individualized needs through the advent of Individualized Educational Programs (i.e., IEP) (Tennant, 2007) and involvement in various programs that focused on behavioral modification and/or learning disabilities. The pervasiveness of certain diagnoses, including attention-deficit related disorders (i.e., ADD and ADHD) was rampant (McGinnis, 1997). This contrasted with previous generations of students that were required to adapt to the institutional norms that dictated conduct and learning styles and often overlooked those with special-education needs.

During their formative years, Generation Y youth were confronted with many large-scale acts of violence including the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine High School shootings, and the tragic events that took place on September 11th, 2001 (Weston, 2006). Pervasive media coverage on these events familiarized Generation Y-ers with many of the details, dynamics, and contributing factors surrounding such episodes.

Further Insights

Generation Y Characteristics

As Generation Y students are entering college and/or the labor force, many of their personal qualities have been scrutinized by professors, supervisors, and older-generation colleagues who seek to understand their distinctive personality blueprints. There are many traits embodied by this group, one of which is the possession of strong family ties (Leo, 2003; Murray, 2004). Perhaps this is a by-product of the intense parental involvement that was bestowed upon them throughout their upbringings, or possibly it is a result of the existence of societal violence (e.g., September 11th) that served as a platform to encourage open discussions between Generation Y-ers and their Baby Boom parents about their fears and vulnerabilities, thus forging meaningful bonds. Indeed, the impenetrable connection that Generation Y holds toward their parents can be illustrated by their living arrangements, in that many of them reside with their parents for extended periods of time (Hira, 2007; Koss-Feder, 1998), whereas previous generations initiated more autonomy by moving out shortly after entering into adulthood and pursuing higher levels of self-sufficiency.

Attitudes toward Diversity

There are many positive attributes that are often associated with Generation Y-ers such as their open-minded attitudes toward ethnic, religious, and...

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