That’s the generation many of us on this blog belong to, according to an interesting piece by Neil Howe in today’s Washington Post. Americans born in the early 1960s apparently lag behind both older and younger Americans in standardized test scores and educational achievement. Howe calls us “early Xers” — though I must say I prefer the “Generation Jones” moniker Howe attributes to another writer. According to Howe,
Early Xers are the least bookish CEOs and legislators the United States has seen in a long while. They prefer sound bites over seminars, video clips over articles, street smarts over lofty diplomas. They are impatient with syntax and punctuation and citations — and all the other brainy stuff they were never taught.
The possible causes discussed here range from birth order to Vietnam to the open classroom craze of the 1970s.
But wait: If it’s true that we’re the dumbest, isn’t it our parents’ fault? And if the kids that came along later are smarter, don’t we deserve some credit for that? Exactly, according to Howe. He says one of the reasons those of us in our 40s are so focused on our children’s education is because we’re bound and determined to see our children educated better than we were. That strikes me as a little far-fetched, but I do find the test data on which Howe premises his argument fairly provocative, particularly as we prepare to inaugurate the first president from Generation Jones.
As always, I invite reasonable minds to articulate dissenting views. But this time, let’s pay more than the usual attention to syntax and punctuation. The whole world’s watching.