In the historical world, there seemed to be fewer choices in life for many, and roles as adults were more stringent -- and defined as adult meaning very structured cultural templates. There must then be a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to the advances made in gender thinking, family, and actualization since the end of World War II. Improvements in education, lifting of the gender-based glass ceiling at work, in politics, and in academia; goals towards equalization of pay and responsibility; and even more opportunities for both sides to consider jobs and careers that have been essentially gender decided for decades. Too, the process of globalism -- in terms of communication and sharing of ideas -- has changed culture to one in which defined roles are seen as old-fashioned rather archaic paradigms of rural or under-developed society.
The Workplace- Contemporary working age Americans fall into four main generational groupings, a generation being defined as an grouping by age, geography, and commonality of significant events while growing up. Depending on the scholarship, and sometimes the age of the researcher, differing views emerge regarding generational differences within the workplace. A major presumption holds that the events individuals share influence and define the manner in which they react as they age and become part of the workplace. These may manifest as cultural values, thoughts, and even behaviors based on the climate they shared during formative years. (Zemke, Raines and Filipszak, 1999). Furthermore, one assumes that these values, reactions, and behaviors presumably differ across generations. The alternative view holds that although there might be some variations throughout an employee's life cycle or career stage, ultimately employees are far more "generic" in what they want from their jobs and trying to bifurcate employees by generations may be misguided (Jurkiewicz and Brown, 1998, 29).
However, the two generations identified by Hymowitz and others that seem to carry a different attitude regarding roles and responsibilities, particularly by gender, are Generation X and Y. - Generation X, or those born roughly between 1968 and 1979 (Gen X). This generation is also called the "Baby Busters," because of its smaller size in comparison to the Boomers. Some of these Xers are children of older Boomers who grew up in a period of insecurity -- social, family and financial. They witnessed a stagnating job market, corporate greed and then downsizing, and are the first generation predicted to earn less than their parents. Most grew up in single parent homes or, because of the economy, homes in which both parents were forced to work, had high divorce rates, and had to fend for themselves. They were heavily influenced by MTV, the AIDs and STD epidemic, and a conservative backlash. They also became accustomed to continual and instant feedback -- the kind they receive when playing video games (O'Bannon, Karp). X'ers saw what work did to their family and will have nothing of it -- they strive for balance, but are also more self-reliant and autonomous than their parents. They are not overly loyal to their employers, but are to family and friends. They do value continuous learning and stimulation and have strong technical skills (they grew up with computers). Money is not the motivator, but absence of money is -- even though most say they are more rewarded by a sense of accomplishment than fiscal bonuses. They are more adaptable to change than the previous two generations, prefer flexible schedules that allow them family time, and insist that work remain fun (Zemke).
Generation Y, those born after 1978-1980, are also known as Generation www, Millenials, the Digital Generation, and the Net-Gens. These individuals are definitely anti-nuclear family, little is sacred, and the idea of searching for the feel good identity. Shaped by cell phones, the Internet, and dramatic technological improvements, they embrace diversity like no other generation and have far less prejudice about race, religion, or sexual preferences. They are independent and strive for a balanced life. Because of their upbringing, they are multi-taskers. Most employers believe this generation is rather selfish, demanding to the extreme, and rarely loyal. However, they are also educated, entrepreneurial, and love training. Data does not yet exist on how this generation will characterize itself during middle age, but these decision makers of tomorrow will likely change the fabric of modern business (Glass, 2007; Kersten 2002).
These basic generational differences actually typify the argument about postponing adulthood, at least based on how society tends to define many of the differences between adolescence and adulthood. For instance, many see the typical "post-adolescent" worker as someone who is rarely impressed by authority, who works "when the spirit moves them" who wants their opinion noted at all times, prefers peer interaction, and insists on a number of breaks, extracurricular activities, and even wishes to change jobs and tasks more often based on the degree of boredom they feel (Leading the Four, 2007).
The Paradigm of Lifelong Learning? One of the changes in the literature regarding the postponement of adulthood is the idea of the cycle of learning. Traditional cultural modicum of the past had learning only for the elite (up until at least the 1930s in the Western World), then limited degrees or professional training, when the "adult" decided on a career. What is education? A seminal question that has been raised since ancient times. Certainly, the ancient Greeks (Athenians) had an idea of how education worked -- take your upper class males, teach them to read, write, quote literature, play and instrument, and become a proficient athlete. The purpose was to study to become an effective citizen, not for a trade. Females learned basics enough to manage a household, rarely more (Konstam, 2003, 94-5). Educating became the way to ensure the status quo of the elite; women were given only what information was necessary; others, only what would perpetuate the system. Trades were apprenticed; education was for those who were destined for more. Of course, as the population increased, so did the desire for education, and after the Industrial Revolution, the great Socialist and Democratic Revolutions, the philosophy of pedagogy changed as well (Robinson, 2006). Traditionally, education in the United States holds that it is facts that are important, as opposed to a way of thinking and utilizing those facts. The teacher lectures, the student reads, the student regurgitates, passes, and the cycle continues. Are there alternatives to this approach that will push educational theory beyond the bounds of such a narrow focus? And if so, why are these theories seen as delaying adulthood?
In the modern era, it is the process of education that must be continually reinvented to be relevant for society. These demands are more robust that those of a century ago -- workers at most levels must have not only basic skills but technical acumen, flexibility, creativity, independence, judgment of quality, and certainly subject matter knowledge. This theory is actually based on two basic assumptions: 1) all learning includes two different types of processes -- external interaction between the individual learning and the environment (social, individual, etc.) and 2) an internal psychological process of internalization and cognitive acquisition in which past knowledge, present stimuli, and future possibilities are all connected (Illeris, 2001). globalism has had a profound effect on the central theme of lifelong learning. Not only are developing nations being asked to rethink and revamp their economic and political systems; their populations are finding that in order to be more successful within the developing global economic paradigm, they must acquire skills throughout their adult lives. What has not necessarily changed is the manner in which learning is imparted from the educational system. Similarly, there is a paradigm shift in the type of learning that is necessary and desirable for global citizens or to improve at one's career. Instead of simply being competent in a subject or a technical skill, managers increasingly want individuals who are able to think outside the box, sometimes even have so-called thinking skills that are not always seen as marketable (humanities, etc.), and general personal and life skills that are often missing with technocrats (e.g. empathy, timeliness, loyalty, interpersonal communications). This becomes even more important when one looks at the changing demographics in the job market. This tends to produce people who are able to learn new job skills quicker, to perform their jobs with a higher degree of acuity, and to have the skills to train and develop others as well. Because technology and communication so rapidly changes, this is the type of worker needed that will both allow the organization…