Posted by: Staff | 10.23.2007

Editor’s note: Defining a Generation

DANIEL KATZ ’08

We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.
– Anne Lamott

In an op-ed piece from the May 26th issue of the Boston Globe, author and journalist Thomas Friedman attempted to define our generation of youth. He eventually referred to us as the “Quiet Americans.” I suppose the label itself seems a bit harsh, so he went on to clarify his thoughts: “They are young people who are quietly determined not to let this age…take away their hopes or steal the America they are about to inherit.” Yet, even after his explanation, I was left oddly bewildered. I suppose that I would never characterize our generation as passive.

The whole idea of defining a generation is often overdone. It is human nature to feel the need to put a label on every aspect of life, and organize it chronologically. When we locate something that may seem indefinable, meaning it does not fit into any of our predetermined manila folders, human nature forces us to identify it as either supernatural, misunderstood, or religious. The fact is that it is comforting to state an identity: despite how superficial and unauthentic labeling generations may be.

I have heard our generation branded in a handful of ways: from generation 9-11, to generation-X. Recently, I even heard it referred to as generation ADD, which makes more sense than I would have initially expected. However, the idea that our generation is “quiet” seems a bit out of line. Perhaps we are not parading in the streets, burning effigies and bras, but I believe that our voice as a collective youth is stronger than any generation before us. A simple search on the internet (arguably the most significant identification of the generation) proves how lively we truly are. Showing discontentment and civil disobedience has never been so simple, neither has sharing and promoting ideas. We are a generation of Americans defined by our redefinition of the norms. We are undoubtedly, and notably, open to new and innovative choices. We push the limit, and we disregard timidity. We crave additional knowledge. Considering the record size of America’s graduating high school class, I believe we have come to view education as the gateway to progression. It is becoming more and more the norm to move on to a higher education after high school, which logically results in a brighter and more knowledgeable generation. But quiet? No, we are not quiet.

When walking through the halls of this school, it is clear just how loud we truly are. We all have opinions on how this school, and every aspect of this world, is run and we are not afraid to allow our voices to peak through the cracks. While all of the opinions may not be productive, it is important to open our minds to every angle of a subject. Perhaps there is a point to the entire ADD generation philosophy. We get tired and bored by systems and robotic protocols almost instantly, and we struggle to pursue positive progression because of our restless nature. Our hands shake at the sight of a policy we choose not to comply with, and we act – often in a collective force of some sort. A teacher of mine recently stated that her only complaint here at Beaver was that the students do not take assignments and grades passively and quietly; instead, Beaver students question the authority of the teachers, and choose to argue in order to attain academic satisfaction. She seemed discouraged by the characteristic. I was proud, and I still am proud of the ideas our student body promotes, and the actions that result.

It is because of that very pride and recognition of the potential of our student body that I take great pleasure in introducing you to the new Beaver newspaper. Together with Co-Editor in Chief Jessica Penzias, I am proud to dispatch to the Beaver community a safe and effective medium for expressing discontentment and debating issues. If something bothers you, write an editorial about it. If something interests you, convince us why we should care at all. This is your chance to have a voice, and acknowledge the voices of your fellow peers. Take the initiative to show just how loud and insightful you can be. Inspire, and allow yourself be inspired. Respond to other student’s opinions, and learn from other student’s experiences. Complain if you feel the need, but explain to us why the matter is worth whining about. Embrace this new addition to the Beaver community. Define your own generation.

Welcome to The Beaver Reader: Student run, student written, and student fueled.

Quiet generation? We’ll just have to see about that.

Daniel Katz
Co-Editor in Chief

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Responses

  1. To Dan, Jessica, all the debut issue contributors, and Mr Lieser — you’ve done a superlative job putting together this yet-to-be-named (but none the less readable for lack of a moniker) online journal. I look forward to reading it regularly. You certainly aren’t the quiet generation by this measure. Bravo!

  2. I second Ms. Devereux’s sentiments. Thanks to your enthusiasm, vision, and leadership, we will soon have a new forum through which to express our voices. Thank you to all involved in putting this project together–our community will be richer for it!

  3. Although I would agree with you that the concept of defining a generation is ridiculous. Yet, I can see Anne Lamott’s argument. You mention that we have been called, “generation 9-11” and “generation add.” These are characteristics; they do not actually define us. We are the quite generation because we have yet to, as a generation, distinguish ourselves from others.

  4. Jeff,

    First of all its not Anne Lamott’s argument, she is just an author whose quote I introduced to start the piece. It was Thomas Freeman who made the claim.

    Second, I agree with you. We are defined by the inability to define us. In other words, it is impossible at this point to correctly label us.

    But does that make us quiet? Just because you can’t define us does not mean that we have not made a big enough impact on society. In another op-ed piece by Freeman, he says that a negative example of the “quiet generation” is how we campaign. He frowns upon online campaigning through facebook and other means (mind you this is the guy to wrote ‘The World is Flat’ saying that everything will inevitably become electronic).

    Campaigning on the internet, while perhaps more passive, is not quiet. We are simply moving with the times.

    It is fine not to define us, but my point in all of this is that indefinable does not mean “quiet.”

    So in the end I agree with you. Don’t characterize us. Let this generation define themselves.


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