Please compare the Greatest Generation to the 1960's generation.Compare the Greatest Generation to that of the 1960's.  What are ways in which these two periods of "coming of age" are similar and...

Please compare the Greatest Generation to the 1960's generation.

Compare the Greatest Generation to that of the 1960's.  What are ways in which these two periods of "coming of age" are similar and in what ways are the dissimilar? What role, if any, did the 1950's have in the differences between the generations? And please explain at least three examples for both similarity and difference.  --Thanks for your help.--

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "Greatest Generation" is the generation who, as adults  came of age in the Great Depression and served or endured through World War II.  This generation is the one about whom Tom Brokaw wrote: people of strong moral values, conservative economically, patriotic, ethical, responsible. They were the America in which one could walk anywhere safely, leave open their doors in Smalltown, USA.

Because they had suffered through the Depression the veterans and survivors of the Depression tried to pass on their values of frugality, patriotism, and responsibilty to their children while at the same time ensuring that their offspring would "have a better life."  They bought their children nice toys and later sent them to college so that they would not have to work in a hot, dirty factory or steel mill--so that their sons could be gentlemen who had professions, while hoping that their children would marry someone "better."

However, in the 1960's when the "Baby Boomers" (called this because of the huge "boom" in number of babies born after WWII) finished high school and went to college, they were exposed for the first time to more liberal ideas and broader social concerns than their Depression parents could have been concerned with.  Away from home, in a "fantasyland" of thousands of others of their own ages, these college students found social and political causes around which they rallied or protested.  Influenced by the liberal political climate of the college campus--or simply not wishing to be drafted, unlike their fathers,---male students burned their draft cards and ran to Canada to keep from serving.  (Of course, Vietnam was unlike WWII as it was a civil war in another country; years later, officials such as Robert MacNamara admitted to the mistakes made there.)

Comfortable enough in themselves, students became concerned with the less privileged and the Civil Rights Movement was aided by many college students.  A counterculture burgeoned with the Baby Boomers and thrived, according to scholars from 1965-1974.  Sexual mores were questioned and women began the feminist movement, burning their bras in protest.  There were change and experimentation in many areas, including the use of psychedelic and other drugs became prevalent.  The Baby Boomers were a generation who wished to free themselves from the corseted way of life of their parents, who worked and worked and saved and saved and vacationed little.

The social anthropoligist Jentri Anders has observed that a number of freedoms were endorsed during the sixties:  freedom of expression, freedom from traditional roles, freedom from racial oppression, freedom from rigidity in education, etc.  More emphasis was placed upon the aesthetic, with music, art, love of nature, meditation, etc. gaining popularity.  The concept of the American Dream even changed, moving more to consumerism.

The 1960s generation reacted to the conservative attitudes of the generation before them, the generation who knew the horrors of war and the terrible pangs of hunger.  Indeed, the two generations are proof of how environment can shape one's perspectives.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We're instructed to try to keep answers around 90 words, so I can't answer this whole thing for you...

Similarities: both occurred in the context of a war.


the "greatest generation" came of age right after/during the worst time (economically) in US history whereas the 1960s generation came of age in boom times.

WWII was a war that just about everyone supported where the Vietnam War was not.

WWII was also a total war that required the mobilization of all of society where the Vietnam War was not.

I'd say the '50s did help cause the difference because they allowed the '60s Generation to grow up in material comfort but with parents who were perhaps single-minded in their pursuit of economic security.  This, in my opinion, made them more likely to rebel against the way their parents lived.

Please note that these are gross stereotypes, though.  It's not as if everyone of these generations had these experiences.