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The third chp of Jean Twenge’s book, Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before, concerns this theme: “You can be anything you want to be.”

Her concern is research on the growing primacy of the individual. Her study was on 81,384 high school and college students and dealt with “agency” (measures assertiveness, dominance, independence, and self-promotion). “Between the 1970s and the 1990s, both young men’s and women’s agency increased markedly, with the average 1990s college student scoring higher than 75% of college Boomers from the 1970s” (74). (I wonder what such numbers do to those who are 65 and older — who thought the Boomers had too much assertiveness.)

Are you seeing a lack of realism in today’s youth? In what realms?


So, she says, “GenMe not only has high self-esteem, but we take pride in being independent actors who express our needs and wants” (74). She illustrates with examples where parents are giving children individual choice about things they may not (she thinks are not) ready to make decisions about. Like going to grade school.

This leads to a study that has this conclusion: “In a recent survey, a stunning 98% of college freshmen agreed with the statement, ‘I am sure that one day I will get to where I want to be in life’.” 70% of late 1990s high schoolers thought they’d work in professional jobs; in the 1960s that number was 42%. There won’t be enough professional jobs. 3 out of 4 college freshmen think they will earn a graduate degree … something like 11 out of 12 who think they’ll get MDs don’t get them.

Their expectations of how much money they will earn is also way out of line with reality. In 1999, teens predicted they’d earn 75 grand by the time they were 30; the average 30 year old earning was 27 grand.

Of course, there is youthful hope here but Twenge’s studies lead her to conclude that iGens have bigger dreams than previous generations. Her warning: “Most people are not going to realize their dreams, because most people do not dream of becoming accountants, social workers, or trash collectors…” and she points to the four most common dreams: acting, sports music, and screenwriting. They hold on to these dreams longer than previous generations and this helps explain why many don’t find their career until they are in their 30s.

William Hung. Funny.

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