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Generation Z or Generation Zzzzz?

Forget the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials. The latest generation to come under the media microscope is “Generation Z.” Typical of mainstream coverage of Generation Z is a recent Washington Post opinion piece telling us, “Millennials disrupted the system. Gen Z is here to fix the mess.”

I’m not so sure. Generation Z is the population cohort born from the mid-1990s to 2010,estimated to be larger than surviving Baby Boomers and comprising about a quarter of the population. Generation X is loosely defined as those born between 1965 and 1980. Millennials, next in line, are part of the 1981-1996 population tier. These designations, though, are flexible, overlapping, and sometimes contradictory.

On the basis of what information we have, however, Generation Z isn’t likely to “fix” any political “mess.” A recent Harvard poll of young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 found that, while three quarters of them claimed to be registered to vote, a massive 70 percent said they were “not politically engaged or politically active.” As for prospects of a Generation Z-led “Blue Wave” in this November’s midterm elections, even billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer, who has committed $31 million to turn out the youth vote, concedes that recent history isn’t on his side. In the last midterms (2014), only 15 percent of eligible 18- to 20-year-olds bothered to vote. When it comes to politics, Generation Z may be Generation Zzzz.

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While Democratic politicians and left-wing activists still hope to exploit recent school shootings to energize this apathetic voting bloc, their efforts to date haven’t been successful. Despite the use of cadres of paid organizers and free transport, the much-heralded “March for Our Lives” in Washington, D.C., on March 24 failed to live up to its own expectations. Organizers set a goal of half a million and afterwards claimed a turnout of 850,000. CBS News reported, however, that a digital imaging analysis using aerial photos revealed that the real peak attendance was only about 202,796.

And consider the findings of Professor Dana R. Fisher of the University of Maryland’s Sociology Department. She headed a research team that attended the rally and interviewed a statistical sampling of marchers. Her findings? Less than 10 percent of the crowd was under 18, while “the average age of the adults participating was higher than at any other event that I have studied since the Resistance began after Donald Trump’s Inauguration.” And since only 16 percent of marchers identified themselves as “moderates,” many more of them may have been aging Bernie Sanders fans rather than newly engaged members of Gen Z.

Part of the reason could be that the Z cohort is not all that into organized group activities and has spent too much time glued to electronic devices and too little time interacting with fellow humans. A Cigna Health study released this past May found that Generation Z represented the loneliest cohort of Americans. Interestingly, Americans over 72—including members of the so-called “Greatest Generation”—were the least lonely, despite the infirmities of age and the toll of mortality. Washington Times reporter Laura Kelly explains that the Americans of Generation Z have displayed “key social behavior patterns…predictive of increased feelings of loneliness.” She adds that these include “less frequent and meaningful in-person interactions; spending less time with family and the feeling of having poor social skills or relationships.”

Sadly, this could help explain much of the causation behind recent school shootings, almost always carried out by Generation Z killers targeting Generation Z victims. The same social deficiencies that make Generation Z lonely may, at a more chronic level, be one of the driving factors behind Generation Z mass killings, many if not most of which have been perpetrated by people from broken homes, often identified as alienated and potentially dangerous long before they turned violent. All of which leads us to the question of how Generation Z got to what most would agree is a rather bad place.

What’s different now? It certainly isn’t large classroom size, a favorite excuse used by the education lobby. In the public school classes I attended throughout the 1950s, there were always more than 30 students per class, and yet school discipline was never a problem. Why? For one thing, there were few if any feral students. From kindergarten on up, students entered the classroom with a modicum of self-control and basic social skills acquired at the hands of parents and siblings in stable families living in civilized neighborhoods.

Religion still played a positive role in most families, and divorce was a relative rarity, as was illegitimacy. Drug use was virtually unknown, and the pop culture as purveyed by Hollywood, television, and the music industry avoided the obscene, the morbid, the treasonous, and the blasphemous. Another big difference was the fact that most of the money was still in adult hands. Teen and pre-teen spending was only beginning to pick up with postwar affluence. The grown-ups were still in charge.

Less and less so today. We may have reached the point anticipated in the old Noël Coward song that asked, “What’s going to happen to the children when there aren’t any more grownups?”

The answer, for better or worse, may be Generation Z.

Aram Bakshian Jr. is a former aide to presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. His writings on politics, history, gastronomy, and the arts have been widely published in the United States and abroad.

14 Comments (Open | Close)

14 Comments To "Generation Z or Generation Zzzzz?"

#1 Comment By kimp On August 13, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

Considering the world the “grown-ups” have left them, who can blame them? They certainly can’t do worse.

#2 Comment By b. On August 13, 2018 @ 1:38 pm

“Recent school shootings, almost always carried out by Generation Z killers targeting Generation Z victims … What’s different now?”

Generation Z is in school, the others are no longer? Unless we expect 9-year olds and younger to do the shooting?

This is the kind of lapse that reeks of bad faith or incompetence, and it makes it hard to take other assertions by the author at face value.

#3 Comment By collin On August 13, 2018 @ 1:57 pm

And Generation Z have the highest High Graduation Rates than ever before! Can we maybe view some of the good things as well with the Generation.

1) In reality, teen pregnancy and sex have been dropping significantly. Again, they appear to be making good choices here as well.
2) Yes, they a fair amount of charity time although this could be argued to be College Application work.

So, it might wise to applaud some of the young generations choices and not focus completely on still rare school shootings.

3) I do agree with your too much electronics and not enough church. How do suggest we improve that in today two income families.

#4 Comment By Frank D On August 13, 2018 @ 2:16 pm

Kids today…

#5 Comment By Nelson On August 13, 2018 @ 2:50 pm

Kids today…

For all the changes the world has seen, it’s comforting to know a few things never change.

#6 Comment By Q On August 13, 2018 @ 5:55 pm

I think it’s actually a good thing if it’s true that Gen Z are not as interested in politics. Look at what the millennials gave us–Obama elected not once, but twice! The last thing we need is yet another cohort of young, idealistic socialists delivering a guy like Bernie Sanders or worse, Ocasio-Cortez to the WH.

#7 Comment By Louism On August 13, 2018 @ 6:09 pm

First off, thank god generation Z is not politically engaged. Have you ever talked to someone from generation Z and found out what they believe. Their head is filled with all this equality and social justice nonsense like their previous Gen Y and Gen Naught. They know nothing of global politics, nothing of global economics, nothing of global competition of resources or how much a threat Russia China and other nations are to global war. They know nothing of terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. They live in a utopian suburban college campus where inequality is the greatest crime facing our country…which it most assuredly is not. Gen Z doesn’t appreciate what 911 was and they think school shootings can be easily solved by giving up personal freedoms…and hurt feelings can be prevented by giving up freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.

Maybe I should be fair and say that every generation of youth doesn’t really understand the larger context of the world BUT IT HAS GOTTEN WORSE AS ADOLESCENCE HAS BEEN PROLONGED. THE LEVEL OF MATURITY OF TEENS AND EARLY 20S WHO FOUGHT IN WWII, KOREA AND VIETNAM IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THAN THE LEVEL OF MATURITY OF TODAYS LATE TEENS AND EARLY 20S. ID SAY THERE IS ABOUT 10 YEARS OF DELAYED ADOLESCENCE.

WE GAVE THEM THE VOTE AT 18 BECAUSE THEY COULD BE AND WERE DRAFTED TO SERVE OUR NATION IN TIMES OF WAR. NOW THERE IS NO DRAFT AND ITS TIME WE INCREASED THE VOTING AGE TO 21 OR OLDER…AND INCREASED THE RESTRICTIONS ON VOTING.

#8 Comment By Ken T On August 13, 2018 @ 7:03 pm

Shorter Aram Bakshian, Jr.:

“Get off my lawn”.

#9 Comment By jp On August 13, 2018 @ 8:49 pm

you are 74 years old, and you’re complaining about teenagers and people in their early 20s. And you know as little about them as the Victorians did about the World War II generation. Spend your remaining years trying to help them, not disparage a whole generation based on a couple of surveys and a Washington Times opinion piece. You are a member of the luckiest generation possibly in human history, and you need to just stand down if you can’t add anything besides caviling.

#10 Comment By Auguste Meyrat On August 13, 2018 @ 10:22 pm

This is sad news, and it’s something I mentioned in my article for The American Conservative a couple of months ago, Unfortunately, I was largely criticized for my comments about the link between internet and school shootings (just as this article might be). I’ll say it again though, the way kids socialize and behave is different from past generations, and it’s something adults should act on before it’s too late. This article and many others are coming to the same conclusion.

It’s silly to say that all generations have received some such criticism from their predecessors. The spread of smartphones coupled with the development of the internet has had a huge impact on kids growing up. Sure, some kids have strong social bulwarks like family, church, and a decent neighborhood, but the majority lack these stabilizers, especially in diverse populous America (comparing Americans to tiny homogenous clusters in Scandinavia doesn’t prove anything). In many ways, we’re entering unfamiliar territory, and we need to bring our kids back to the real world.

#11 Comment By William M. On August 14, 2018 @ 12:10 am

In all fairness, the Dems couldn’t have picked a worse issue for mobilizing young people than Gun Control. The Right won that culture war. If they wanted to get young folks onside, the best policy proposal for that would be legalizing marijuana. Even that wouldn’t be very effective.

#12 Comment By E. J. Worthing On August 14, 2018 @ 10:17 am

@Ken T: Gen Z is the best generation of kids. Since they are always on their phones, the neighbors never have to tell them to get off their lawns.

#13 Comment By mrscracker On August 14, 2018 @ 12:19 pm

Auguste Meyrat says:
“I’ll say it again though, the way kids socialize and behave is different from past generations, and it’s something adults should act on before it’s too late…”
***************
I agree. I’m not sure what the outcome will be going forward but it’s certainly something we should look at carefully. I don’t like what I’m seeing so far.

#14 Comment By Anne (the other one) On August 15, 2018 @ 9:11 am

“I’ll say it again though, the way kids socialize and behave is different from past generations”

It isn’t that kids are focused on the smartphones and not socializing. The problem is “hyper”-socialization.

They repeated go to the same posts to see how many “likes” their classmates’ posts got and how many “likes” their posts got. There is a constant, very public display of social hierarchy.

Years ago, if you were popular everyone knew it. If you weren’t you could slip by unnoticed. Now it is all in full view 24/7. Who is invited, who was left out, is all done with group selfies – posted for everyone to see. Bullying is now etched in posts or withholding “likes.” Worse, thing that wouldn’t ever be said out loud are now typed out in group messaging.

There is simply no way to hid.