Steve Chapman

Growing older has many drawbacks and one unalloyed pleasure: passing judgment on the younger generation. Lately, people have been scrutinizing the members of Generation Y and finding them deficient.

What's wrong with the kids? A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that because they have been told since infancy that they were special, they believe it and expect to keep hearing it. "Bosses, professors and mates are feeling the need to lavish praise on young adults, particularly twentysomethings, or else see them wither under an unfamiliar compliment deficit," it said.

To critics, this generation is an army of self-absorbed narcissists with a swollen sense of entitlement. In my house, I have tried to prevent this outcome by reminding my kids, "The world does not revolve around you. It revolves around me." But apparently some parents didn't dispense that wisdom.

Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University, reports that college students increasingly agree with statements indicating oversized egos, such as "I am an important person." Marian Salzman, a senior vice president at the advertising agency JWT, told The Christian Science Monitor, "Gen-Y is the most difficult workforce I've ever encountered," because they "are so self-indulgent."

But before Gen Y-ers start to feel bad about themselves, they should know that worse things were said about their parents. Back in the 1960s and '70s, it was universal wisdom that the kids of that era suffered from too much coddling. Vice President Spiro Agnew blamed student unrest and other problems on "spoiled brats who never had a good spanking." Best-selling author Norman Vincent Peale, author of "The Power of Positive Thinking," complained about youngsters whose parents felt a duty to "satisfy their every desire."

It's a hoot to hear modern kids described as self-indulgent by the generation that created its own culture out of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Talk about a sense of entitlement: When the baby boomers came along, they (we) got the voting age lowered for their benefit. They also demanded that the drinking age be lowered, and it was -- only to be raised once they were safely into adulthood. Narcissism? Not for nothing were boomers dubbed the "Me Generation."


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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