Academic journal article et Cetera

Two Generation Gaps

Academic journal article et Cetera

Two Generation Gaps

Article excerpt

I lived through one generation gap back in the 1960s and '70s. I am living through another one in the 2010s.

Back in the 1960s and '70s, the metaphor of a "gap" applied very well to the differences of opinion and action between Americans of different ages. Most older Americans, who had fought in World War II, were in favor of our military action in Vietnam. Most younger Americans, in their late teens and twenties, who were being told to go fight in Vietnam were opposed. Of course I am generalizing. Plus, as time went on, more and more former supporters came to oppose the war.

But the "gap" between supporters of Vietnam and opponents proved to be a powerful metaphor. It helped news media describe the dramatic protests, marches, and campus-building takeovers staged by opponents. It also expanded into other areas of difference between the generations, such as smoking marijuana, and rock and roll music. Gaps abounded.

Finally, in 1973, a peace treaty was signed ending the Vietnam War, and the draft was suspended, on the same day, as I recall. Suddenly, the main causes of the generation gap were made to disappear. And while the generation gap did not entirely go away, the tension eased a good deal.

We have not really had a "generation gap" since. Pro-war politicians have gotten away with staging several wars by having an all-volunteer military. Marijuana is slowly creeping toward some form of legalization. Rock and roll is now on Muzak.

But as I write now, in 2012, the "generation gap" metaphor is starting to be reborn. It applies to the digital natives and young people growing up in the world of computers and cell phones. This time, I am the older one. I am now on the other side of the generation gap.

I am a college teacher, and every year I see more and more of my students become absorbed in their computers or in their cell phones. I allow students tc have their laptop computers open in class, and they say it is for taking notes. …

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