Raised in a high-tech, information-saturated world, many of these young adults know how to tap into an unlimited knowledge base. They have at their fingertips the equivalent intelligence of every Nobel Prize winner rolled into one. They are just-in-time experts in nearly any subject.
The house lights dim. The curtain rises. Enter about 64 million young people. No, they're not the cast members of the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway extravaganza. They're the cast members of the Baby Boomlet - a.k.a. "Generation Y" - the group born between 1977 and 1995. And they're on their way to a workplace near you.
What do the critics have to say? Early reviews are mixed. A recent survey of Baby Boomer teachers (ages 32-50) panned the current crop of K-12 students, with the majority describing them as disrespectful and unmotivated. Some experts, however, discount those findings. Notes Concordia College professor Jim Ollhoff, "Virtually every generation says the next generation is
going down the tubes."
Indeed, initial claims that the slightly older Generation X - or Baby Bust - is a collection of loners and "slackers" are being proven largely groundless. Now that they've moved out of adolescence into young adulthood, many Xers are showing themselves to be just as hardworking and family-oriented as their older counterparts.
Quite a few observers reject the concept of applying identifying tags to an entire generation. "It becomes detrimental when general culture buys into these labels and suggests that there's a group of people who all have these attitudes," explains Thomas More College professor Amy Cassedy. On the other hand, every generation demonstrates some sort of collective attitudes
and behaviors. As long as it's understood that those collective attitudes and behaviors will hold true for individuals to varying degrees, generational designations can provide a useful framework for discussion.