Thursday, July 30, 2009


A friend recommended Generation Me to me for the few snippets which it might provide for columns on education or associated issues. So I bought a copy.

Books that receive rave reviews should always be suspect of shrewdly appealing to the zeitgeist of the times. A book as over-rated as Catch-22 is an example from yesteryear; Generation Me is one from today (or a few years ago). Of course, the standards for judging fiction vary enormously from those for judging non-fiction, but, in this case, Generation Me invites the reader to blur the distinction.

Not that Generation Me does not have lots of data and lots of instances. Unfortunately, almost all of them appear based on middle-class and upper-middle-class whites of both genders. And they get applied to both sides of any issue at all, just in different places.

What it does not have is much sense, like a lot of pop sociology. I do not expect such a book, even from an associate professor, to get heavy with its methodology. But I do expect it to provide some historical and cultural backgrounds which place even the sequence of Boomer and Gen-Me cohorts in a broader context.

I also expect it to be conceptually clear enough to be consistent. Instead, Generation Me collects data which prove almost anything at all. Gen-Me-ers have parents who focus on their demands and involve them in decisions affecting them, and they have parents who do not accept their demands in the decision-making process. They both disregard the opinions of others and seek fame (as well as fortune). They believe not only that they can be anything that they want to be, but also that they have no control over their lives. In short, the data in one place support one view, and data in another place support a contradictory view.

Make of such a book whatever you want. Generation Me is the perfect book for these times; it gives all readers something as they wish to receive it, without troubling them to think much about anything seriously—which may be the most widespread characteristic of Generation Me.

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