Monday, October 11, 2010

Generation Know

By Sally Schilling

Generation Me, Generation Y, Generation Q, iGeneration, Echo Boomers, Millenials, etc…

If you were born between the years 1980 and 2000, you belong to a generation that has been very difficult to define.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has labeled this generation Generation Q, the “Quiet Americans.” Friedman argued that while students are increasingly engaged in service programs like Teach For America, they are not getting loud about our current crises.

“America needs a jolt of the idealism, activism and outrage (it must be in there) of Generation Q. That’s what twentysomethings are for — to light a fire under the country. But they can’t e-mail it in, and an online petition or a mouse click for carbon neutrality won’t cut it,” wrote Friedman in his weekly column.

Author of the book Generation Me, Jean M. Twenge wrote that the “Generation Me” label is not to say this is a selfish generation, but instead that their upbringings encouraged high self-esteem.
“Generation Me has never known a world that put duty before self and believes that the needs of the individual should come first,” wrote Twenge.

Conversely, others have labeled this the Civic Generation. Michael Hais, co-author of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics said, "Other generations were reared to be more individualistic. This civic generation has a willingness to put aside some of their own personal advancement to improve society.”

There have been passionate debates about the overarching characteristics of this generation that was born with the Internet. These charges of apathetic and self-promoting are surely characteristic of some young people of this era; however there seems to be no single way to define my diverse generation.

One thing is for certain though, The Commonwealth Club is a huge resource for those who are a part of Generation Know: the portion of this complex generation that wants to learn and be involved in the world around them.

Unfortunately, many younger people in the Bay Area who are a part of Generation Know just don’t know about these fascinating speakers or realize how accessible they really are for students. Most programs, even high profile speaking events such as Hillary Clinton, are very cheap for students to attend. Almost all Club programs are $7 for students. Hillary Clinton’s sold-out event is $10 for students, $25 for Club members, and $50 for non-members.

There are all kinds of Commonwealth programs that are of interest to students.

Hosting speakers on the environment, politics, art, food, writing, photography, playwriting, the Internet, business, journalism, health, economy, race, psychology, international relations and history, The Club most likely is hosting someone who is interesting to college students, and maybe even someone that many students aspire to be some day.

Though some people argue that young adults are only looking for entertainment value, others argue that all you need to do is talk about something that young adults care about to grab their attention. The Daily Show host Jon Stewart said that getting younger people to engage in mainstream news shows is “not a question of a host being too old or too young, or the material having a driving soundtrack; it’s putting out material that they come to.”

Some examples of “material” for young adults are the upcoming Club programs featuring the founders of Twitter, Marijuana Economics (Prop. 19), the founder of The Darwin Awards, and Condoleezza Rice.

The Club provides the material that students and young professionals are looking for. Generation Know, come and get it.


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