Throughout history, society has felt compelled to devise labels for nearly every category or trait. People may be given a specific label based on their age, economic status, education level, ethnic background, geographic location, occupation, political beliefs, religious beliefs, and various other factors. Although the use of labels based on one category may dominate at certain time periods (i.e., ethnicity-based labels dominated in the early 1950s), labels based on age seem to be common regardless of the time period.
Individuals ages 20-29 are commonly referred to as "Generation X" Other names for Generation X include "Gen X," the "Generation Without a Conscience," the "Lost Generation," the "Me Generation," the "Slacker Generation," the "Twenty something Generation," or the "Yuppies With a Conscience But Without Fat Paychecks." While labels may be useful in distinguishing members of various categories based strictly on age, labels are most often used in a divisive and pejorative manner.
This paper analyzes and examines various contentions regarding Generation X Part II outlines arguments in support of the contention that stereotypes regarding Generation X are untrue. In Part III, arguments in support of the contention that stereotypes regarding Generation X are true are presented. Lastly, this paper concludes with suggestions for presenting a more balanced view of Generation X
II. REASONS WHY THE STEREOTYPES CONCERNING GENERATION X ARE UNTRUE
There are several arguments that may be made as to why the stereotypes concerning Generation X are untrue. First, while some "Gen Xers" may fit the stereotype of being less motivated than their parents academically, occupationally, politically, and socially, this is not true for most members of Generation X In any generation, there will always be individuals who stand out more than others or who receive more accolades than their peers. While these accolades and successes are sometimes due to hard work, high intelligence, and superior motivation, these accolades and successes are often due to "connections" that an individual receives based on his or her parent's economic status. Thus, while some "Gen Xers" may be perceived as being "slackers," there lack of accolades and successes is most likely the result of the fact that their "connections" and opportunities are more limited than others.
Next, unlike the "Baby Boomers" who gave birth to Generation X, "Gen Xers" have not experienced the same type of unifying events that inspired the political and social activism found during the 1960s. For example, Generation X has not been raised in a nation of war (at least not on the scale of the Vietnam War), presidential shootings (for while President Reagan was shot, it was not comparable to the killing of President John F. Kennedy), university shootings (i.e., Generation X has not faced a Kent State type of incident), or numerous other high-profile events which gave the "Baby Boomers" cause to rally and unite. While it is impossible to "re-do" the 1960s, it is highly unlikely that the "Baby Boomers" would have been as politically and socially active or united as they were had there not been any of the above-mentioned events. It is also worth noting that once most "Baby Boomers" graduated college (or entered the workplace if they did not attend college) and started raising families, most of their political and social activism completely disintegrated. Likewise, it is worth noting that members of Generation X increased their political and social activism during the 1992 election of President Clinton and the infamous "Rock the Vote" campaigns.
III. REASONS WHY THE STEREOTYPES CONCERNING GENERATION X ARE TRUE
While there are many arguments why the stereotypes concerning Generation X are untrue, numerous arguments may be made as to why these stereotypes are true. First, while there have not been any high-profile events such as the Vietnam War to unite members of Generation X, the fact is that "Gen Xers" have been and are far less politically active than the "Baby Boomers" and other preceding generations. Evidence of this may be seen in the fact that while Generation X has faced certain "hot" issues such as affirmative action, AIDS education, condom distribution in schools, gay rights, etc., once these issues have been decided, any political or social activism Generation X may have expressed on such issues quickly disappears. Likewise, unlike during the 1960s when nearly "Baby Boomer" was politically and socially active, frequently, only a small percentage of "Gen Xers" unite on certain issues and once that issue has been resolved or fallen out of the media's attention, the once united "Gen Xers" splinter off.
Next, Generation X arguably lives up to its stereotype of being apathetic, lazy, and unmotivated when you examine their response to (or lack thereof) certain serious issues that have faced their generation. For instance, during the mid-1990s, tuition at the California State University and University of California (California's public colleges) skyrocketed by approximately 500%. While a few "Gen Xers" initiated campus "sit-ins" to protest the tuition hikes and petitioned the CSU and UC Regents to end (or at least temporarily halt) the tuition hikes, the vast majority of Generation X sat back idly, showing little or no interest in the issue. As a result of the "Gen Xers" lack of activism or unity on this issue, CSU and UC tuitions consistently rose for several years, resulting in many members of Generation X being "squeezed out" of the CSU and UC systems due to the fact that they could not afford tuition (or because their parents could not afford their tuition). This lack of activism also resulted in the "5-year rule" becoming increasingly common, i.e., in order to obtain a four-year degree, many "Gen Xers" and members of the subsequent "Generation Y" took and now take 5 years.
Third, the behavior of Generation X is the direct result of the "sense of entitlement" most "Baby Boomers" bestowed upon "Gen Xers." Evidence of such "privileges" include "Baby Boomers" who gave their Generation X children new cars once they turned 16 without expecting them to obtain a part-time job in order to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance, or registration; "Baby Boomers" who paid for their "Gen Xer's" college tuition without expecting them to obtain a part-time job in order to pay for books, food, rent, etc.; and "Baby Boomers" who gave their Generation X children nearly every other materialistic possession their "Gen Xer" desired without question.
While not every "Baby Boomer" instilled such "sense of privilege" in their "Gen Xer" children, many "Baby Boomers" did, engaging in the "keeping up with the Jonses" game in order to maintain their own social status. Though it is not wrong for a parent to offer their children use of an automobile or assistance with college tuition, the "free handouts" many members of Generation X received from their parents has resulted in a society in which an individual's "worth" is judged primarily on the cost and number of material possessions he/she has or may obtain. Such "sense of entitlement" has also resulted in an increasingly "disposable society" in which "old school" values such as hard work, honesty, loyalty, monogamy, and respect have fallen to the wayside in pursuit of the next "hot" thing.
As is the case with most questions, there is no clear, uniform answer regarding whether the stereotypes concerning Generation X are true or untrue. Though there are members of "Gen X" who fit the beliefs and lifestyles portrayed in the movie "Slackers," there are also numerous members of Generation X who do not fit such stereotypes and who have obtained everything they have through hard work and independence rather than relying on handouts from "Baby Boomers." Whether "Baby Boomers" created a "sense of entitlement" in Generation X by offering them numerous material possessions that their parents could not or did not give them is open to debate, much like the…