Graduations are going on all over the country. Most families will have someone graduating somewhere either from high school or college and this is the time when we all go to show our support for our young people. Having been a graduation speaker multiple times I always marvel at the effort of those so anointed to find something new to share with the young people and their families.
A look around most auditoriums should give a hint at a major national issues and yield pertinent information for both young and old to contemplate. The people that fill the auditoriums at graduation range in age from the younger brothers and sisters of the graduates to the grandparents and great grandparents who have come to participate in what has become an annual spring ritual important to families. Among the things that are most obvious in those auditoriums and our society is the growing distance between the generations.
When you and I were young, several generations often lived together under one roof. We ate the same food, had the same sort of entertainment, and lived a similar lifestyle. That is a rare happening today. Note the waiting lists to get into our overpopulated assisted living and nursing homes.
In school we were taught the same things in similar ways, and often to the tune of a hickory stick. We did not have to learn algebra, foreign languages or the new math in grade school. However, history, geography and government were definitely a part of the curriculum. School opened each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and in music class we were taught to sing the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Watch the generation gap in play at your next ball game and see who can repeat the pledge or sing the anthem.
The most usual controversy at our local churches is the style of music. During a recent church service our pastor pointed out that the younger population in the worship service did not sing the old hymns so we needed to sing more contemporary songs. I found myself thinking that if we went to contemporary music the older folks would likely be the group not joining in during the song service.
How many different ways does the “gap” show itself? Choice of automobiles, fast food, style of clothing, travel, spending patterns, fewer children, computers, cell phones, TiVo, etc. The list is endless.
Two major things are obvious. There is a much larger segment of society today that is older. The fastest growing age group in our country is the group over 80 years of age. And, the birth rate continues to decline. Both of those factors exacerbate our situation. It means that as we age there are fewer to share the financial burden and the gap between young and old is just going to become greater.
Accepting the generation gap as reality and as part of the increasing diversity of 21st century life will help us to navigate the future with more understanding. It is a part of life that isn’t going to go away. Incidentally, my four-year-old grandson asked if I ever killed a dinosaur in the olden days.
— Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at email@example.com.