I have seen the new face of America, and it is troubling.
According to an expansive study by the Pew Research Center, the Millennial generation is the so-called "new face of America." Comprised of 50 million young people between the ages of 18-29, the Millennials have been so dubbed because they are the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. However, the study, which aims to shed light on what America might be like in the future, raises some provocative questions about this up-and-coming generation of citizens and leaders and what they might mean for the future of our nation.
For example, Millennials are "less religious, less likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated generation in American history. Their entry into careers and first jobs has been badly set back by the Great Recession, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures as well as about the overall state of the nation."
This group of tweens and twenty-somethingers is also history's first "always connected" generation. Yet as the report points out, what really sets the Millennials apart is not merely their exceptional use of technological gadgets but the manner in which they've fused their social lives into them. "Steeped in digital technology and social media, they treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part-for better and worse. More than eight-in-ten say they sleep with a cell phone glowing by the bed, poised to disgorge texts, phone calls, emails, songs, news, videos, games and wake-up jingles."
And while many Americans are concerned with freedom, civil liberties and the encroaching government, it seems as if the next generation is primarily concerned with the freedom to be on their gadgets. According to Pew, although two-thirds of Millennials say "you can't be too careful" when dealing with people, they are less skeptical than their elders of government. They (41%) are also more satisfied than their elders with the way things are going in the country.
Yet with everyone from the right to the left talking about how bad things are in this country - we're moving into a surveillance state, unemployment is skyrocketing, increasing numbers of children are in poverty, people are losing their homes, and the country is on the verge of economic collapse - how could a generation that has had more access to information and education think the state of the nation is pretty good?
First of all, this is one of the first generations to come of age that was completely institutionalized. From daycare through college, they have spent most of their waking hours away from their homes. Locked away in unreal environments, they've generally been pampered and shielded from what's happening in the real world - a world filled with corruption, greed, murder, chaos and mayhem.
Second, they are a narcissistic generation with an overblown sense of entitlement. As Newsweek writer Raina Kelly observes, "we've built up the confidence of our kids, but in that process, we've created a generation of hot-house flowers puffed with a disproportionate sense of self-worth (the definition of narcissism) and without the resiliency skills they need when Mommy and Daddy can't fix something." Used to having someone else solve their problems for them, it should come as no surprise that more than half (53%) of Millennials believe government should do more to solve problems. That's just a short step away from a compliant citizenry that allows the government to call the shots.
Third, the Millennials have been exposed to an educational system that lacks in the basic rudiments of education as it's been classically understood. Although they may know more about math and science than previous generations, they know very little about their own history, their Constitution, or their rights. Studies show that only a small percentage even know that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence or that George Washington was the first president. Very few of them are even acquainted with the great struggles of history such as the American civil rights movement. And virtually none of them have even read the basic freedom writings of Martin Luther King Jr. I would venture to say that the greatest disservice done to this generation has come through the educational system and its imposition of mind-numbing conformity beginning with draconian zero tolerance policies in middle and high schools through political correctness in modern universities.
Fourth, although the Pew survey shows them to be the "always connected" generation, upon closer examination, it would seem that the Millennials are not so much connected to their technologies as they are addicted. They're generally consumed with themselves and not the world around them, a behavior reinforced by technology, which reduces the world to you and your hand-held inanimate object of choice, whether it be a cell phone, an IPod or a laptop computer.
Fifth, it would be more apt to describe the Millennials as the disconnected generation. Physically in the world, they are lacking in community, mentally alienated from each other, unable to reach out to other people in any meaningful, intimate fashion. There will come a time when you walk into a family room and each family member will be in their own world, with their own ear buds, in a virtual world of their own making.
Sixth, the Millennials are oblivious to much of what is going on around them as far as current events, public policy and world affairs. Then again, it's almost impossible to stay well-informed by watching television, because television packages everything - including the so-called "news shows" - in the form of entertainment. Thus, raised in front of television screens and computer video game consoles, this generation is accustomed to being entertained - a service largely provided by the internet today. While previous generations received their basic information from newspapers and books, this generation tends to surf the internet. But as studies show, internet readers generally read those things they agree with and are lost in trivia like Facebook. In other words, they're not avidly studying opposing points of view and thus learning to think critically and analytically.
This is not to say that all Millennials are disconnected and oblivious. But collectively, they're shaping up to be a generation of compliant, uninformed citizens who will be inclined to go along with most things as long as the corporate state can keep them happily hooked to their gadgets.
We have come to a crossroads generationally. We've lost our identity as a people and as a country, and the Millennial generation has no idea who they are. The torch will soon be passed to the next generation. If the trends continue as they have, I fear that the next generation will be a lost generation and freedom as we have known it will be lost as well.