Matt Towery

I'm often struck by the generation gap in the many public service opinions I review. The age of 30 seems to be a rough but real dividing line. The worldview of those younger than 30 looks generally different from those who are older.

 Generation gaps are nothing new, but the current one may have new significance. Our society is apparently in the initial throes of transferring power from Baby Boomers and those slightly younger to a new breed of Americans. This younger set is evolving as communications and other technology does.

 The result may be an existing or emerging divide between older and younger Americans that is even greater than it was during the infamous culture wars of the 1960s.

 As one example, twenty-somethings today have never known a world without cable and satellite television. To them, black-and-white TV seems as antiquarian as an outhouse.

 And the notion that news, sports scores, entertainment gossip and the like might not be instantly and constantly available on computers is inconceivable to them.

 This emerging generation has a hazy understanding of World War II, a vague realization that there was another world war that preceded it, and, in most cases, no awareness at all that Americans once fought in Korea.

 Those under 25 look upon the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the battle against global communism as musty stories in history books and not as comparatively recent events that have made the world they now live in.

 Their sense of presidential history extends to Bill Clinton. And as columnist Thomas Sowell pointed out in his column this week, most young people think the good works of Jimmy Carter since he left the White House mean that he was a popular and accomplished president. (He wasn't.)

 Conveniences like ATM machines and cheap airfares to virtually anywhere are considered as much a birthright as oxygen and drinking water. And the idea that students once relied on slide rules to solve complex mathematical operations seems to them as quaint as writing on parchment paper.

 Few in this age bracket would look upon the concept of a military service draft as anything but an exercise of intolerable government tyranny. To them, Vietnam appears to be as much America's comeuppance for sins committed as it was a misapplied but noble attempt to save the world from communist expansion.

 Other changes are less significant but still telling. Younger Americans have never watched live television drama or variety shows. They've never seen hard liquor advertised during television commercial breaks, or watched newscasters or talk-show hosts smoking cigarettes on the air.


Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
 
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