Generation Gaps: What a difference 50 years makes

The concept of a “generation” is attributed to social scientist Karl Mannheim (1920s). A generation is a group of people who are programmed by events they share in history while growing up. The result of this "programming" are cohorts of people who share a common set of memories, expectations, and values based on headlines and heroes, music and mood, parenting style, and education systems.

We're all familiar with the common generational clashpoints involving attitudes toward work, communication (the personal handwritten note vs texting), and expectations (immediate vs delayed.)  But just take a few minutes and read these scenarios to remember-way-back-when (for you geezers) or to put current events in perspective (for you geeks).

Scenario:  Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.
– Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.
2009 – Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.   

Scenario:  Jeffrey won't sit still in class, disrupts other students.
1959 – Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2009 – Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.
Scenario:  Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.
1959 – Mark shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.
2007 – Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.
Scenario:  Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary.  Mary hugs him to comfort him.
– In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2009 – Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.  
How times have changed! What will they be writing about in 2059? Do you have other examples you'd like to share?  Please add them to the comment box below.


Ira S Wolfe


  1. Ira S Wolfe April 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm -

    I certainly don’t agree corporal punishment is or was an acceptable alternative to Ritalin….just as I don’t believe that every child on Ritalin should be taking it either.
    As far as the other scenarios, exaggerated? Maybe. Ridiculous? Absolutely not. Maybe SWAT doesn’t show up but the police do. If you don’t believe there is some truth in these scenarios talk to parents or do a search on Google. You’ll find plenty of examples of students being expelled or arrested for bringing vitamins to school and carrying water pistols!

  2. Adam Snider April 23, 2009 at 3:35 pm -

    PS: While I don’t agree with the way that schools/doctors throw Ritalin at every kid who happens to be fidgety in class, do you really think that having the principal hit the kid is a desirable alternative?

  3. Adam Snider April 23, 2009 at 3:33 pm -

    Oh, come on! I agree that we have developed a real tendency to over-react these days, but your 2009 scenarios are all completely ridiculous. The last one, sadly, probably could be true, but the rest are so hyperbolic that it’s not even funny (you were trying to be funny, right?).
    SWAT team shows up for a fistfight? Riiight…
    Drug charges for bringing aspirin to school? Not likely. In fact, if anything, the school would probably prefer that. Where I live, teachers aren’t allowed to give kids aspirin without parental permission because they can’t “administer drugs without consent.” I mean, it’s aspirin for god’s sake, unless you feed the kid the entire bottle, nothing bad is going to happen.

  4. Matt Angello April 22, 2009 at 7:31 am -

    You left out scenario #4-
    Johnny wants to play baseball.
    1959 – He and a group of his buddies pick the teams, the location,keep score and resolve conflicts.
    2009 – From age 6 he’s on a team, wears a uniform,told by his coach if he’s any good, and is watched by his over-involved “soccer parents” to ensure he’s getting enough exposure to play at the next level…