Generation Me and Christ

August 27, 2009

I’m gearing up for my first year of teaching.  Part of this is anticipating what my students are going to be like.  It got me thinking about how Christ fills the larger needs of our generation so well.  Here are a few thoughts I hope are encouraging.

Romans 8:28 is a reassuring truth that generation me needs. In the book Generation Me, Twenge notes that this generation is more likely to think that circumstances are driving each person’s lives.  Many believe that they may have little effect on the outcomes of their efforts.  Most speak of luck as a major determinant to success.  Twenge says this is a pessemistic view and should be reversed, but I wouldn’t agree.  I know that resting in Jesus is a good thing.  The truth that God works all things for good should be a pleasing thought to those who feel like their life is out of their control.  And, quite frankly, our lives are not in our control.  We do not gain more days of blessing by being good- we gain blessing by being God’s children through Jesus.  There could be so much relief to depression and anxiety through giving Jesus our burdens.

Generation me is increasingly more aware of the deceitfulness of riches and worldly things. They have witnessed a near-depression brought about by financial irresponsibility.  They are starting to evaluate their inflated expectations for education, careers, salaries, and ability to buy large and expensive things because many are graduating and finding the job market too competitive and saturated.  (This may become even worse with the sudden flood of people going back to school in response to the market crisis.  Let’s see what happens in 3 years or so when they graduate with even more debt.)  This generation is heading toward, if not already in, disillusionment.

Jesus asked what good it was if a person gain the whole world yet lose his soul (Mark 8:36)- an assertion I have yet to see someone disagree with.  He also said the deceitfulness of riches choke out a Christian and make them unfruitful (Matthew 13:8).  There is an avenue for our generation to come to Christ agreeing with the need to emphasize the Spirit, and I would also say they may be less likely to let the world choke them out once they believe in Jesus.  Wealth and things will always be a problem.  I’m saying that the understanding that wealth, power, and things will not give satisfaction has become clearer to this generation than others.


The Tornado, John Piper, and Keith Ellison

August 20, 2009

I woke up this morning to read this tweet from John Piper:

Tornados do have a voice. They talk to Lutherans. And the rest of us. They talk about sexual sin. Stay tuned.

You will find, if you read his blog, that he believes that “The Tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.”

I’m not one who quickly grasps for this kind of explanation.  Saying that God used natural disasters to warn his people about problems in lifestyle or doctrine seems to be a really obtuse way to speak to us.

On the other hand, I know God has run the gamut of ways to judge or warn His people- both harmless and very fatal ways.  He disciplines us for sure.  Just take a look at Hebrews 12:7-12.  So I won’t rule it out.

What do you think?

On another note, about a month ago I e-mailed Keith Ellison and requested that he consider some legislation that would require smaller class sizes in public schools.  I included some examples of overcrowding in our schools right now such as in Anoka-Hennepin, where, when I toured the high school, the normal class size was getting close to 40 students.  This was compounded with the fact that they had just laid off  many teachers.  (A teacher normally gasps a little at the prospect of 30-35 students.  It’s a tougher gig.)

Here is beginning of his response:

Dear Ms. Schofield, [my emphasis]

Thank you for contacting me about improving our nation’s public education system.  I am honored to hear from you and proud to represent you in the United States Congress…

He then talks about certain bills he voted for that would increase education funding for increasing class sizes for preschools, which is slightly related to what I was talking about but not the issue I talked about.  He also talked about some bills that would allow schools to be waived from No Child Left Behind regulations if the government doesn’t give them the promised amount of money for their budget.  This has nothing to do with what I e-mailed about.

The e-mail then ends with a friendly “This is an unmonitored email account.  Please use our webform at http://ellison.house.gov to contact our office.  Replies to this email will not be read.”

So I’ve been called a woman and brushed off.  Thanks, Mr. ellison!


Leaderless

August 17, 2009

After reading Generation Me, I got to thinking about leadership in our generation.  I don’t think we have leaders like we used to.  I’m not sure our generation will accept leaders.  Here are some ideas I’ve been thinking about since being disheartened by Jean Twenge’s book:

Living In Criticism

If a leader does emerge, count the costs, make a decision, and point a direction, our generation will be unhappy with it.  Our country loves to criticize, to satirize, and to tear down.  Already the country is getting upset with President Obama because he’s withdrawing troops next year instead of immediately.  They’re getting upset that a national health care bill is has not arrived by now.  The news actually spent the time to criticize President Obama’s jeans when he pitched the opening pitch at the MLB All-Star game, saying they did not look fashionable.

I don’t think our generation will slow it’s hyper-active, critical spirit.  This would be mostly because technology (Ipod, internet, credit cards) is allowing us to have what we want, when we’d like it, and it’s taught us that we don’t have to be measured, reasoned, or patient in our lives.  This also means that when we’re tired of something, or we don’t like it, we have plenty of options.  Example: how many countless times have you clicked on a link in a google search to find that the link was loading slowly.  Then, instead of waiting, you quickly hit the back button and try the next link.  If a Youtube video doesn’t load quickly, we get irate.  I’m going to extrapolate this type of response as an explanation to what I see in my students today.  Students repeatedly ask me questions and, while I am mid-sentence explaining the answer, interrupt with another question.  It seems to me that the students are getting bored with the complete question and want to back up and try a different route to get an answer without me talking nearly as much.

This bleeds into how we view religion, also.  We’re built to criticize, to deconstruct, and to take apart claims of the religious.  Any decision made by a pastor or leader will soon be criticized because it’s not perfect, as no plan will ever be.  We’re trained to distrust anyone but ourselves and our feelings or comfort- a dangerous thing when our hearts are deceitful.

Criticism is no longer something that we would base in fact or reasoned explanation.  We may criticize now purely based off our personal tastes about anything that is in our scope.  If we don’t like how our President dresses, we aren’t slow to complain.  We are slow to think if even discussing the matter has any consequence.  And I’m not sure if this has always been the case, but I feel like our leaders suffer more from destructive criticism today.

Too Much to Think About

This has been an issue with the church for a long time.  There are so many religions on the worldview market that many people don’t know how to differentiate different worldviews and make a decision on what they will reject.  Now, however, most are tired of critically thinking and having to deduce what might not be true and decide that as long as a person is an okay person, they’ll go to heaven… or whatever the good reward is after death.

This apathy might be from the conflict that arises between our desires and feelings and a tenant of a belief.  This is most apparent while we cross-walked.  Out in Dinkytown, with a giant cross at our side, we saw hundreds of drunk students walk by and claim allegiance to the Catholic (or Lutheran) church.  After being asked about what they believe, most would say that drinking isn’t bad, Jesus himself drank wine, and as long as you’re an okay guy, you probably will make it to heaven.  A great majority believe it didn’t matter what you believed, because all worldviews were basically the same.  Many went on an on about their friend who wasn’t the same religion, but they thought that was cool.  The distinct feeling you may get from listening in on these conversations was that most didn’t want to commit seriously to an idea.  Most wanted to be okay with everything.

Good luck to the next revivalist.  Maybe I’m saying this a cynically, but I honestly believe it is tougher now to have meaningful discussion about religion.  The general public, on the surface, doesn’t want to be inspired by meaningful ideas or by moved by God.  Most are happy being moved by anything that’s easy- alcohol, TV, music, movies…

Everyone’s a leader on the internet

It’s funny how quickly some become experts on subjects.  We’ve all had the experience in college or high school where students would argue relentlessly with a teacher on any point they could, even though the professor or teacher was completely qualified to give sound judgments in their area of expertise.  This sense of the grand self makes our generation more willing to speak out about anything, and, with the advent of blogs, everyone can see your opinion.

This is deliciously ironic that I’m writing this on a blog.  There are a few things I can say in my defense.  Blogs as a communication or discussion tool are not what I’m (hopefully constructively) criticizing.  I’m criticizing the idea that all have equal say now.  I’m also criticizing the now-oft-applied rule that popularity is the new measure of importance.

Look at Digg.com or  Answers.com.  The thing that drives them is the populous.  Digg relies on word of mouth to develop its content.  Those who think something is cool simply “Digg” it.  The crowds decide what is important.  Similarly with answers.com- when a question is asked, the populous responds and the best answer is given by the number of approving votes.    We’re removing the discerning editor and replacing it with the discerning people to deliver content.  This isn’t bad!  What is bad is if our generation mistakes popularity with importance, meaning, or truth.  What is bad is if we make the mistake of erasing any distinction in understanding or qualifications, such as having a Ph.D. in the subject.  If I we were to ask on answer.com: “Which worldview is correct?”  Would a popular response be a truthful or a meaningful, or even a coherent one?

I would really like to hear what people have to say.  I think are things to be thankful for and positive about, but that’s for my next post, I think.


Generation Me Highlights

August 13, 2009

I read Generation Me by Jean M Twenge, Ph.D.  I would recommend reading this book simply for the wealth of data that shows Generation Me (those born after 1980) is extaordinarily self-absorbed and yet extraordinarily unhappy because of their unrealistic expectations and inflated self-entitlement.  I find this book interesting because it lines up with what teachers around me are saying and what I see in different schools as I teach.

Here are some nuggets:

  • “In the early 1950’s, only 12% of teens aged 14-16 agreed with the statement “I am an important person.”  By the late 1980s, and incredible 80%- almost seven times as many- claimed they were important.” Pg. 69
  • There is a general agreement among professors and teachers that (according to Professor Stout, pg. 70) “students learn that they do not need to respect their teachers or even earn their grades, so they begin to believe that they are entitled to grades, respect, or anything else… just for asking.”
  • In a recent college survey, 98% of freshman agreed with “I am sure that one day I will get to where I want to be in life.”
  • In 1999, teens expected to make around $75,000 by the time they were 30.  The average income for a 30-year-old that year was $27,000.
  • There was a study that noticed a 42% greater drop in marital satisfaction after having children.  The study concluded that “children seem to be a growing impediment for the happiness of marriages.”  How unfortunate.
  • It is noted that 57% of men and 43% of women 22-31 agreed to live with their parents in 2002.  The author attributes this to shrinking salaries, crippling student debt, and the extended period of adolescence that people have now dubbed the “twixter” years.
  • In 1967, 45% of freshman agreed that having lots of money was a life goal.  By 2004, 74% agreed.
  • The book claims that before 1918, 1% to 2% of Americans experienced a major depressive episode.  Today, the figure is around 15%-20%.
  • Using a standard test that measures anxiousness, Twenge compares children from the 1950’s to today.  She found that regular schoolchildren in the 80s reported higher anxiousness levels than child psychiatric patients from the 50’s.
  • Twenge notes that now relationships before college are generally characterized as one night stands called “hookups” that are focused on sexual activity with no level of commitment.  This, the author considers, is a reaction to the emotional breakups that are tied with “going steady” with someone.  Generation Me has no qualms with divorcing sex from romantic entanglement.
  • The author notes that while Generation Me has a romantic expectation gap that leaves them depressed and unfufilled.  94% of single women in their twenties agreed that “when you marry, you want your spouse to be your soulmate, first and foremost.”  Yet, Twenge details that women will claim they are not looking for the perfect husband , yet in the same breath will detail their idea of a good husband that is unrealistic.
  • Generation Me believes, much more than the previous generation and with a strong correlation of .7, that external factors affect their circumstances more than their internal factors such as hard work or ambition.  This leads Twenge to theorize that Generation Me is apathetic about political and religious endeavors, as they agree that “you can’t change things. “
  • Similarly, this belief that life is uncontrollable is making Generation Me more and more willing to blame circumstances for their own problems.  This is seen in an 86% increase on product liability cases from 1993-1996.  There are anecdotes that drive me crazy, like the one on page 153, “One young man sued the Wake Forest University Law School because his professors used the Socratic method to question him and his classmates, which, he says, caused him fatigue and weight loss.”  What a joke.
  • Pg.155: “One set of parents sued a school that expelled their kids for cheating, saying that a teacher had lef the exam on a desk, making it easy to steal it.”
  • There are some upsides, the author states, such as this generations willingness to accept differences.

Please check this book out if you have the time.  I’m sure I’ll have much more to say along these lines in the near future.


Garfield Without Garfield

February 14, 2009

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