What will become of us?

I’m sitting in my hotel room with some time to kill, my flight doesn’t leave for another six hours. It’s okay I guess, I’m a bit overwhelmed with all the stimulus I’ve had. It was a young crowd, a different environment that has me mulling the continuing changes in the industry. I am concerned but I’m not entirely certain why. In some ways, this newest generation represents hope but not without a lot of trouble to boot. I don’t know where we’ll end up.

The following is not true of all of the Generation Me kids, just most of the ones that were there. Still, this must be indicative of the future. Overwhelmingly, my first impression is that they don’t read, not like we do. They must read to some extent but my impression is that it’s opportunistic. Anything readable should be free, otherwise, why would one bother? Pay to read? How absurd. Even free is no guarantee they’ll consume it. I had books out. Very few were curious enough to even walk over. I didn’t see anyone even cracking a cover although some must have since I did sell 5 books (or rather, Andrea did). The thing is, if people crack the cover, they buy it. I brought another text I like, not one I wrote that I recommended highly but no one asked to see it or asked where they could buy it. This sends shudders down my spine. What will become of us if no one’s a learner?


Or are they learners? Perhaps their absorption methods are different, the outcome of their upbringing. I’m wondering about podcasting. I wonder if they’ll listen to those. I spent several hours this morning reading (of course) about it so I think I’ll try it. Otherwise, I may be just another grey hair destined for the dust heap. A friend mentions statistics that show that over half the people who graduate from college, never read another book in their entire lives. Frightening. Can we reclaim or redeem them somehow?

Then I wonder if podcasting my entries would be enabling them, catering to them. They’ve been so privileged thus far that their sense of entitlement seems to know no bounds. Even here, many have complained of their cynicism and arrogance. But I know they’re not all like that. I’d been feeling a little out of joint about many of their snarky responses here (all of the kids at the seminar were very nice and polite) when they choose to comment, to the point I thought I was going to blow up and write a really nasty post about it but I held off until I could read Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled, that I intended to write about here but never did. After reading it, I’m less angry about their sense of entitlement and can even feel sorry for them (yes, pity) in some respects because they’re screwed. How many of them will be able to buy homes as we have, on incomes such that are available to them? And yes, many are profligate, unnecessarily saddled with debt of their own construct. They are a cynical generation. While I envy the horizon of the span of their lives, unable to see the edge of what society will be at their ends, I do not envy the substance of what their lives will be. More choices in low fat lattes but fewer frogs and bees.

Opportunistically, I wonder where my business will go. If they’re not reading, am I cooked? If they’re all making tees from blanks, they won’t be needing patterns either. I thought I could focus on the now, those who still read with the means to launch lines but these numbers will become more sparse. Are those that will succeed in the business be like Danielle and Christy, or like these disaffected cynical entitled youths? Mindy and I continually mentioned how this industry is a relationship industry so many will find too late they won’t make it but some must make it. Cockroaches managed to survive the last ice age. I don’t mean to use such an ugly analogy but nothing else comes to mind. Reconsidering, it may be we who are the cockroaches. Will their new paradigm triumph in the end? They’re building relationships with each other, someone must follow us. I’ve always said that many of us need to die off and can only hope I’m not one of them but many are guilty of business practices too archaic for survival today. Yesterday’s event leaves me with the impression that we’re on the cusp, or maybe it’s a midway point of two diametrically opposed points. A teeter totter vacillating tightly, which way will it go?

With another twenty years of work life ahead of me, it’s not too late for me to get my electrician’s license.

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33 comments

  1. piloteminuit says:

    I think that each generation gets “worse” according to the generations that preceed it. I don’t say that with malice, as I am a Gen-Xer who thinks that much (not all) about Gen-Y is totally ridiculous. I’m sure they feel the same about my generation.

    In a simplistic way, if each generation didn’t change somehow, we’d probably still be an agrarian society. The farmer’s son going to the big city to get in on the boom of industry has become the businessman’s son starting a web business from the comfort of home. I’m not sure whether the shifts in what is considered culturally or economically important are good or bad, but I think the think constant through the generations is the desire to do something different than preceeding generations. Who knows, maybe four generations from now, Gen-Green
    will be disgusted by their grandparents’ decadance and and want nothing more than to own their own farms and live in a fully sustainable manner.

  2. Katy says:

    I think there is a benefit to podcasts, but I’ve been on your site reviewing CAD systems and I’m not sure I’d know how to search audio files. Plus, I can scan articles a lot easier than I can scan audio.

    I am probably what you’d consider a member of the “me” generation. I consume literature, news, etc. So, what is that other book you recommend?

  3. Kathleen says:

    Hi Katy, I’ll be writing about it, don’t worry. I really really like it. It’s not really a book that’s “written” (if that makes sense), it’s more of a utility item. I wish it were on CD.

    Another thing I meant to mention about this new generation that I like a lot. First, they’re not prejudiced racially or sexually. Racially, they don’t care and it makes sense, they’re the most genetically diverse generation yet. Maybe it won’t be too long before we’re all mocha. Pretty color and skin cancers should decrease -assuming we don’t continue to tear through the ozone. Sexually, they don’t care about one’s preferences or the power balance btwn men and women. Maybe they’ll change things. More girls are getting degrees now than men, they should help with pay inequities soon. Lastly, they vote and most of them for progressive candidates. If I’m not mistaken, this generation by age group, has voted in greater numbers than any other generation in US history. Let’s hope they keep it up. Optimism balanced with cynicism.

  4. Karen C says:

    But to not know the beauty of a well turned phrase or word is a heartbreaker. Before we had the written word, all the information was passed to new generations through stories and drawings. We all know how well that’s working now, as no one seems to have the time to really talk and listen (unless that’s what they are doing in their cars or walking with that cell phone permanently stuck to their ears).

    But Kathleen, maybe they didn’t buy your book because they are going online to see if they can get it cheaper. Now that’s something I do all the time, because I buy so many books. Hmm…..

  5. Danielle says:

    Gen Xer’s call us Gen Y. Baby Boomers call us the Me generation to which I gotta say… look who’s talking.

    Whatever my generation is called, we are priviliged, we are cynical, and we are accustomed to borrowed abundance. We are aware that payback is within our lifetimes and that we can’t afford the bill.

    I thought Kurt Vonnegut hit the nail on the head when he said “don’t spoil the party”. My generation is not idealistic.

    Don’t dilute your output and waste your energy to cater the the lower 80% Kathleen, they don’t recognize the value anyway. Just because we aren’t the majority doesn’t mean there aren’t learners out there. Energy focused on that top 20% will effect a far greater influence on the future.

  6. Mike Dismuke says:

    This generation no longer reads books, by and large, in part because of the visual over-stimulation from the entertainment industry. Then there is the matter of the internet serach engines that bring practically anything imaginable to your fingertips. In my day, the most useful thing you could learn in college was how to navigate a good library to mine info. This involved books, naturally. And I have a special affinity for them. But today this would be considered archaic, perhaps rightfully so. They may not read books, but then again they may not need to. I think your comment about them assimilating info in different ways hits the mark. The simple pleasure of reading a good book, for business or pleasure, is simply lost on them.

  7. Jamila Tazewell says:

    I just wanted to say that i was at the talk yesterday and am a Gen Me ( i guess? i’m 28..?) and i really ( really alot, thank you!) appreciated the info you were/ are providing Kathleen. I also LOVE to read and have lots of friends who also love to read, though we may be in the minority…which i do believe is due to the times we live in…that said, i do beleive we are on a cusp ( HUGE) and its greater and more hopeful than any of us can fathom, though it looks rather bleak at times

  8. victoria says:

    I was also at the seminar yesterday. I came specifically to see Kathleen talk. I did not look at her book, because I already have it. I also wrote down the name of the book that Kathleen recommended so that I could research it later. Maybe others did the same?
    Thank you to Kathleen for talking at the seminar!
    I am sorry, that I didn’t introduce myself….I am painfully shy :(

  9. Christy B. says:

    I agree with Danielle’s comment about the majority and say focus on the Danielle’s, Christy’s, Jamila’s and Victoria’s of the world and ignore the rest of our age bracket! Maybe that’s harsh, but I’ve told many of that type how much I appreciate the wealth of knowledge on your site and they just look at me as if to say, “you read for fun? About work stuff?” While we’re trying to better ourselves and in turn, the apparel industry, they’re sending poorly worded comments back and forth on myspace. There are a fair number of people who have the best qualities of our generation but the work ethic and knowledge appetite of our parents… I’m sticking with them!

  10. nadine says:

    Howdy –

    I teach this age group on a regular basis and finding what “lights their fuse” can be challenging. I don’t like to overgeneralize but as a group they have a very short attention span and are easily distracted by peripheral stuff. Being a talking head in the classroom is the kiss of death. They want to do things themselves but they don’t have the patience to learn slowly – they want it NOW! It’s funny because I teach highschool age too and that is the main characteristic of highschool kids which is appropriate and wonderful. However my college students seem perpetually stuck in that kind of mode even into their mid-20’s and later. Maybe because they were raised to be so competitive they don’t understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process and is necessary to be a good designer and that they don’t know it all. So I feel most of my job as a teacher is deprogramming these students. I spent my youth playing around with things, observing the cause and effect of materials, working out problems for the joy of it. I also wasn’t raised with a lot of electronic or passive entertainment. All the kids on my block used our imaginations to make stuff, hold theatrical events in the yard etc. As a teacher I found that my evaluations go up if I present the material in a showy way – with lots of WOW factor that leaves students with “how did she do that”. Like a Las Vegas magic show. If I explain things from a more intellectual point of view everyone is asleep or texting their friends. I thought by putting all my info and weblinks online that would be interesting but only the videos were watched and everything else was avoided. Go figure.

    This is college level. It is really depressing to me to have to perform “tricks” but it is more depressing when students don’t have the attention span to learn either. I personally feel that these kids are very casual in their lives. They want to make everything as easy as possible rather than understand the nobility of setting personal challenges and striving for the most difficult thing. I’m not so worried about the future of the industry because I feel my students are justifying me to raise my rates. I do a lot of freelance work in the industry and I’ll only get more calls to fix problems and work out prototypes that this generation can’t handle.

    I don’t want to be negative and wagging my finger at this age group. I don’t think it is their fault. Like I said they are very casual about their lives. I think it is great that young women are raised to be confident but that doesn’t mean “know it all” at age 19. Many of them are very big on this whole DIY thing which is something that I think is great in teenagers but not great in future serious designers. Not to go off on a tangent (so don’t get me started on what I think about DIY). But being a designer is about creating a good product that represents your creative vision while DIY is just about feeling good making stuff. The quality is not as important as feeling happy you recycled a tshirt or hand knitted something. In my class I try to get people to leave the “happy hands at home” out of the classroom and bring the couture standard in. I fight with my students about that. However I always get big thankyou’s at the end of the semester when they see that they achieved a much higher level and that they didn’t know it all.

  11. MW says:

    This generation no longer reads books, by and large, in part because of the visual over-stimulation from the entertainment industry.

    Well, I’m a Gen-Xer and outside of Harry Potter, the occasional pop culture piece of fiction and the occasional runaway non-fiction best seller, I don’t read many books. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that Gen Y doesn’t read, better yet, they’re very new-school about how they get their information. I rarely buy a business book because in many instances the book is either dated by the time it gets to print, or the information I need is so specialized, it’s hard to find in print. So I have a librabry (okay database) of articles, information, a stash of ebooks, magazine and newspaper clippings and what not.

  12. Kathleen says:

    I’m returning again and again to the whole learning thing. They are learning, they’re pretty bright -but how are they learning? What are the mechanisms? Anyone, anywhere would be jaded if you taught them in an inappropriate manner, inappropriate to their learning style. As fuddy-duddies, we don’t want to change our instruction delivery methods either. Of course we think it’s best. That’s not to say that they don’t need to relearn how they learn, I’d agree with Nadine with regard to their lack of iteration strategy. I wonder if that’s owing to a “do-over” mentality, created by templates and video games. Their idea of how one goes from zero to sixty is a much shorter cycle of expectations. My point being that we can’t expect them to commit to longer iteration learning and practice cycles until we can successfully convey the significance of why they should. I think it’s a little arrogant of us to expect them to just do it and know the value of it.

    This whole learning strategy problem reminds me of how the learning disabled were taught in the past. Being severely learning disabled, I wasn’t a good student, labeled lazy and diffident. I clearly remember resenting how I was instructed, from my perspective, my hardwiring, it was stupid and I couldn’t see around it. In the end, I had to reteach myself in learning how to learn even tho it was so different from everybody else and in spite of people thinking I was stupid. How can we expect people to learn in a negative environment like that? I know better, I don’t want to be guilty of committing the same sins used against me. I don’t know the answers to these questions but I’m willing to work on finding solutions.

  13. Taylor says:

    I just read your article and everyone’s comments, and felt the need to say something. I’m a 20 year old fashion design student. I’ve been raised around fashion and the industry all my life. My mom owns a store and I’ve worked there since I was little. I agree alot with what you said about kids not wanting to read these days and for me I feel as if any possible way I can further my knowledge about fashion and how it all comes together I’m there. I see alot of the problems with kids entering the feild of fashion it’s just like they don’t care, like an instant gratification. It’s like they think that “well I like shopping so I’d be great a fashion design I think thats what I’ll go to school for,” and it doesn’t work like that. Then they graduate and are all disappointed because they expect to get instantaneously a head designer position or start their company up right away with mommy and daddy’s money and it will be just a breeze. Truthfully I’m ashamed of my genreration and how we feel as if we have to have things handed to us, and that we can depend on everyone else to make decsions for us, it’s really pathetic. But you shouldn’t pity us were just different than your generation and every generation has found there own method and we will to, it’s what brings change and what moves us foward in the world. Wether it be for the worse or the better I’m not sure.

  14. Jess says:

    I would be interested to know how many people ignored your book because of the cover design. I’ll have to admit when Josh bought your book I judged it on the cover. My first impression was, oh a book about selling clothes at craft shows, quilted vests came to mind. It didn’t speak to me specifically. After I read it of course I was blown away. I didn’t expect that from what I saw on the cover.

  15. Benita says:

    Great topic Kathleen.
    I do believe I am a gen-xer bordering on the gen-me. I think what has affected at least myself and my friends is the pace of the world. It just keeps getting faster & faster, cheaper & cheaper enabling lower incomes to get anything they want so its assumed they deserve it, and with the internet, people ‘socialize’ without becoming socialized, removing worldly boundaries making the world available in seconds. Combine all of this, and you get generations of people who are taught that they need info fast & “right now” or they can never stay level with their peers let alone get ahead of the game (eg. kids/teens have “crackberry’s” what for? really?), and at the same time the media bombards us by telling us that we “need” these things (eg. here in Canada, a TV & computer is considered a necessity..soon the cellphone will follow, what next?). So reading a book is considered a luxury, and thus we turn to audio books so that we can multitask, &/or pdf’s & html where we can search for the information we need now and not a few hours later after we finish reading a book. (By the way…I love your book)

    There are always exceptions to the rule…so I don’t think you need to podcast to cater to those that in the end won’t care as much. The people who care and are worthwhile will find your book and your expertise on their own and buy it. ( I did, and now I recommend it to all my DE friends)

    As for learning…like you said you learned to re-teach yourself another way…for those that really want it..they ‘ll take your information and reshape it to suit themselves. ;D Sometime the best part of knowledge is the search for it.

  16. Oxanna says:

    I speak as one hovering around the two-decade mark, and I have to say that my generation is indeed self-centered, feels entitled, and has a short attention span. (And if you think *we* have short attention spans, take a look at the even younger group. Ack!) I like to read, but then, I learned to read young and enjoyed it, and didn’t watch much TV. I’d say that that’s a *huge* problem – people don’t really care to read, or to put a lot of effort into learning, whatever the method. How many times have I heard fellow students say, “I don’t know why you put so much effort into that project, it’s just a project and (by inference) the class is pretty stupid anyway.” Makes you feel like a ridiculous over-achiever, when all you were trying to do was to do it *right*. :/

    On the podcast front, I really prefer the articles. I don’t really listen to podcasts unless they have something that I can’t get with the written word. Besides, articles are searchable and browsable. :)

  17. Birgitte Mutrux says:

    Hi Kathleen,
    I wish I could have made it to the seminar, you were in my thoughts. Maybe that’s why your post this morning is so striking to me. I just returned from ‘parent’s weekend’ at my daughter’s boarding school in Oregon… She’s 13 and reads somewhere between two and five books per week. This school is very unique in its approach to learning, and that’s why we chose to send her there. You said … I had to reteach myself in learning how to learn … This school has a mandatory course called “Learning How To Learn”, and also “How To Use A Dictionary”, among many others, and they’re not allowed to watch TV or use electronic games during the week (not that they would have time anyway- they keep them busy up there;-), and the internet is only used in the course room to aid in research. I brought your book up with me to read on the plane (I hate flying (nervous) and needed something to take my mind off it), and as my daughter greets me, one of the first things she says is how popular the book we donated to the library is (Nine Heads). Needless to say, they received another donation right then, and there’s no doubt in my mind you will soon become a must-read. I may just have to make the ultimate donation, and fly you up there for one of their business seminars. Kathleen, you’re a true winner, in so many ways, and and I’m forever grateful that I found you.

  18. sahara says:

    As someone with no kids of my own, I am blessed to see both sides of the coin. But, I also see a class difference.

    The parents of these priviledged kids, are my age. What are they so scared of that they have to hand everything to them and protect them? From what? It only breeds insecurity, masked as false confidence.

    On the contrary, my young underpriviledged and immigrant co-workers, are MUCH more adult, handling their finances, work, and maybe a child; despite the stress, they still step up to the plate. A lot of them came from sewing backgrounds––they love clothes, not shopping. They want to learn, and be the best, because NOTHING has been handed to them yet. They’re also less ageist––not everyone grew up in a youth-worshipping culture. The BEST for me, is that we learn from each other––I stay current, and they get wisdom and introductions. This is the true benefit of a diverse workplace.

    It’s also where the racism and classism, (basically jealousy and politics) comes out. On the surface, everyone LOOKS like one big group. The drama comes when I hire or promote––actually based on merit and social skills, and not who you know, or whether I knew your parents. If this is a relationship business, what skills can you have, if you spent most of your life online, and with only people like yourself? Relationships help determine who’s gonna make your clothes; trust me, not everyone cares about your daddy’s money.

    There is a need to focus on the un-priviledged; a lot of those kids have a real desire to learn and read, as they still think it is the key to success. And they are also more cooperative, having learned to share, instead of manipulate.

    As for the entitled: older people need to stop being judgemental, and reticent. Interact more, and hell, sometimes confront. Because after 21, I don’t care what your folks told you; you’re in the real world with ME now, so deal!

    This is shocking, but they soon learn that reading, history, listening, and cooperation is important to grow UP, and not just OLD, which scares them terribly. After all, the world won’t get better, if you’re not prepared to handle it. And parents don’t live forever.

  19. Kevin Carson says:

    You’re surely right that the new generation is more racially and culturally libertarian, Kathleen. On the downside, they’re also more prone to accept generic authority as legitimate. Their leisure has probably been more programmed and scheduled, and more adult-supervised, than that of any generation in history. I look back on my own childhood of unorganized play, just kids wandering around the neighborhood finding stuff to do, self-organized sports, and the like, something like Winston Smith looked at that bit of coral in the paperweight.

    Likewise the Japanese-wannabe, cramming-oriented, hyper-steroidally meritocratic public school curriculum. There’s enough homework to absorb every waking hour away from school, and an internal culture of “zero tolerance” and all sorts of programs to teach kids to “help” their peers by informing on them to the kind and benevolent authorities.

    I don’t see how you can get out of twelve or more years in the human resources processing factory without absorbing these central lessons: that the way to get ahead in life is to find out what the authority figure wants and then do it, in order to get a gold star on your paper or an extra line on your resume; that the “important” tasks are those assigned by someone behind a desk, whether teacher or boss, and any independent learning or self-directed activity is to be trivialized as a mere “hobby”; that the proper thing to do when faced by any atypical or anomalous situation is to report it to “the authorities” and await instruction. In short, as Ivan Illich might have put it, that learning, achievement, and productivity concern goals established by proper authority, and are commodities dispensed within professionally controlled institutions.

    Is this too pessimistic? I hope so.

    As for reading, I’m more worried about how they manage to *think* with the constant texting and cell phone conversations and the other array of buzzing, beeping personal electronics everyone is wired into 24/7. In “Harrison Bergeron,” people of above-average intelligence were handicapped by devices that, by constantly interrupting them at random intervals, prevented them from pursuing a coherent train of thought. Now people line up to buy such handicaps. Some of the best writing I’ve ever done was composed in my head while I was just walking around in uninterrupted peace and quiet. Who ever does that anymore?

    Ah, well–back to my cave.

  20. Jasmin says:

    What fantastic thought provoking comments, I’ve been inspired to reply. I am in my mid/late thirties, and I find myself despairing of the younger generation(s). The peripatetic nature of their lives almost seem to be a form of avoidance. A majority of those under thirty seem to be glued to earphones/ipods/cellphones, and the concept of actually being in the ‘real’ environment and interacting with it as it is, rather than creating your own ‘reality’ seems to be non-existent. A willingness to actually engage with another human being and be fully present seems to be missing for a lot of people.

    Personally, I grew up without television, walking to school alone at 5, playing in an uncontrolled way with other children, getting bullied, sewing some truly hideous clothes, reading a lot, and generally learning to interact with a world that was not under my control. This gives a necessary humility I believe, and made me understand that I, as an individual, was not the centre of the universe.

    I would suggest a key element of learning is failure. My biggest question is – has a large segment of this generation been deprived of the ability to experience decision making and the resulting success or failure? Has this resulted in a lack of resilience, and an unwillingness to try really hard and risk falling flat on your face? Is this the cause of the clustering into self re-inforcing groups, and the excessively high expectations – nothing in their experience has prepared them for ‘real’ lives.

    In physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction – if you remove risk, you also remove the ability to respond to risk. A greater problem builds up as this continues, for without a framework of experience, the likelihood of making a ‘bad’ decision increases. If you start out making minor decisions (climb this tree or not) and outcomes occur (falling out or making it up) your skills and decision making improve. Is there anything crueler than not allowing decision making, risk, and failure experiences to occur at a young age, and then expect people to be able to make good decisions without any experiential framework?

    Are we simply looking at a generation who have not been allowed to make decisions, take risks, or fail, and hence have learned to constrain themselves with a greater fear of failure than any that could have been instilled by experience? If you have never been ‘allowed’ to take risks, and fail, how can you develop the strength to do so as an adult? If you have not failed, survived, and learned from the experience, what template for risk taking do you have? Does this lead to drug, alcohol, sexual and social risk taking rather than efforts that require sustained effort and intellectual/emotional activity?

  21. nadine says:

    Just wanted to thank everyone for the wonderful insights. I’m preparing my curriculum for Fall semester and over the summer I always try to understand what works well and what didn’t work well and make some changes. I feel this topic gave me some understanding on the learning issues of this group from various points of view. Thanks to the younger writers for their inputs too.

    BTW – Thanks to Kevin for the “Harrison Bergeron” (Kurt Vonnegut) reference. I read that when I was in High School being a beyond avid reader until I changed my career to go in Fashion. I appreciated the reminder it gave me a flash of inspiration.

    Another BTW – I read somewhere that visually artistic people do not process their creativity with words. I noticed when I started making more visual objects I stopped reading as much. Now I never read for recreation, I only read in the summers when I have time and those are technical books to catch up on. When I was young, reading was a huge escape for me and now that I love what I do, I never have time to read “stories”. So maybe that has something to do with it all.

    Thanks again to everyone!

  22. Bobby&KristyB says:

    My wife and I are very new to the industry, new to this website, new parents and basically green on every level but we are determined and focused.

    I found this website, because I was searching for a book and found Kathleen’s book. I read it cover to cover the first weekend I had it. I like books especially Kathleens book, because I make notes in margins, mark pages, highlight items and ask myself questions about the material and how it applies to our business while reading and I just can’t get that level of interaction while listening to Podcasts.

    I would love to find more reading material; a scan of the forums lead me to the “Designer’s Guide” which I purchased over a week ago and would have read by now but I haven’t received the book yet.

    We don’t have a sense of entitlement to be sure, I’m more worried about being taken seriously, and the only way I see that happening is through educating ourselves on the industry and the proper way to do things. This website has already become and invaluable resource. Thank you for everything so far Kathleen.

  23. Lynara says:

    As a 25 year old student of fashion I have noticed these trends you speak of in the younger students I attend classes with. Personally, I love the library and reading, but I also grew up loving to read. I do not currently own a tv (by choice), but I love the internet and couldn’t live without it. Since I didn’t go to college with my peers, I don’t know about their learning styles; I do know that my friends and I love to read for leisure and for learning. I also know that there are benefits to learning in other ways as well, especially in our fast paced world. My classes are fast paced, and sometimes we are forced to use faster methods of information input to turn things in on time. On one hand, studying at the library is suggested and reinforced as a good idea, on the other, deadlines often make it impossible for meaningful learning to happen through reading. This is something that I am struggling with, and I basically have no life outside of school because of it. Anyway, I just wanted to support the previous comments and say: we are not all the same, and those of us who are different will hopefully prevail.

  24. For better or worse, I’m a Gen Y-er, and although I’ve noticed many of the trends you speak of, I think that it’s really not as bad as previous generations think.

    Reading – we still read, just in different ways. The internet is a huge factor here (cool book alert: check out Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times for a collection of essays on how the net has changed publishing). There’s definitely still a market for useful/interesting books though – both as a source of knowledge and as a tangible piece of literature.

    Entitlement/Obnoxiousness – yes, it’s there, but I know tons of people around my age who’ve started nonprofits, are active in the political and volunteer communities, and really care about the world and how they can make a positive impact. We’re not all instant grafitication junkies, but everything does move at a much faster pace nowadays (mostly thanks to the net, I believe) and everyone needs to keep up.

    Granted, I can’t speak for everyone, but parents could be to blame for the some of the sense of entitlement of my generation. Personally, I’ve had at least a part-time job since I was old enough to work and have managed to support myself since I’ve graduated from college (and as a writer, no less – clearly somebody’s reading something*). My parents taught me to work hard for what I want and I thank them for it.

    I second all the people who commented about my generation’s lack of caring about ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. Yay for us.

    Thanks for making such a thought provoking post, Kathleen!

    *Fashion is just one of the many topics I write about (web media and how it’s changing virtually every industry is another favorite topic – technically I also do web media consulting, but it’s really just writing by another name). That said, your site is one of my favorite examples of quality writing/blogging content on the internet.

  25. Ayanna says:

    Kathleen,

    GREAT post!!!

    I am in the Gen-X era (which is really not too distant from Gen-Y) and I blame my own generation (just a little) for “creating” the current generation. It was Gen-X who grew up with the first Atari and played video games for hours on end. It was Gen-X who saw and applauded the transition from brick phones (remember those?) to cell phones. And it was Gen-X who always craved a quicker, faster computer processor. Instant gratification began in my generation and has never waned.

    I grew up immersed in some book or other reading material and can not imagine absorbing information any other way. I never embraced audio books because I am not an auditory learner. Podcasts may work for some, but never for me. I have found over the years that I am a visual learner and need to see it in black and white/color before it will make a bit a sense to me. I agree with a previous poster who stated that maybe those who were in attendance were making note of the book and planning on purchasing it from you later. However, you can’t deny that there may be a few who cannot learn from reading a book. It MAY be helpful to offer your book in an ADDITIONAL format (e.g. Podcast, E-Book, Audio, etc.) for those who have difficulty staying focused with a book in their hands.

    LOVE your blog and your no-nonsense posts. Keep it coming!!!

  26. Vivien says:

    If no one in my generation reads, then why are there so many blogs that are making success?? I am 24 and I think that i read more than anyone that I know… I also bought your wonderful book and I truly enjoy this blog. Yes there are lots of brats but they are the ones who scream the loudest and gets a lot of attention. There are many who are entrepreneurs, who have the reality check that ss and the conventional wisdom of getting a job isn’t going to cut it and etc… I agree with the other posts that it may be your marketing because I didn’t think much when I first saw the cover and title.

  27. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Wow! I (at least mostly) agree to the above comments.

    My husband and I are 35. I read to his 2 kids (7 and 10) almost every night that they’re here. Plus they have to read in school and both will read stuff on their own (the younger one loves the Digimon books, but hey, at least he’s reading something). I do find it not very cool that my husband almost always wants to watch movies when his kids are here and lets them play computer games for hours. Well, summer vacation is almost here, so ha ha! :-)

    When my sister was in her teens (she’s 12 years younger), she would often sit in the back of the van we had (I drove) and put her headphones on. I found it annoying that she wouldn’t talk to the rest of us or listen to the same music (which she usually liked).

    I was in school for apparel design, my 2nd degree, from the ages of 29 to 32. Most–but not all!–of my fellow students were the “college age” of 18 to 22. They all displayed the previously mentioned characteristics of Gen-Y; however, not all the time and not all of them displayed every one or the same ones. Sometimes it was annoying. The rest of the time it was ok. We all had to read.

    I love reading, but I think somewhat more important, or at least on equal footing, is that parents of these 20’s and younger people need to teach them to be respectful. I look like I’m in my 20’s and sometimes I feel people don’t want to take me seriously. Also, I see kids pushing past people instead of saying “Excuse me” or not giving up their bus seat to an old person and other stuff like that. Just because your parents were strict with you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t discipline your kids (both + and – ) and teach them some manners.

  28. Mindy Wiener says:

    It’s Mindy from Pool. I just have to point out that we did have a great representation of new blood at the seminar in addition to some very talented, seasoned veterans. In hindsight, I only wished we would have had everyone go around & introduce themselves so that we all fully understood who was present & what background they were coming from. One thing is certain; all were there to better their knowledge & understanding of the industry. All were there because they wanted to learn. After 5 hours of so much information, I think many people besides you were on sensory overload (I know I was). In reading your excerpt insinuating that because they did not buy your book, they were not interested, I think that’s an unfortunate assumption. As I had mentioned on the way to dinner, I forcasted that many people would get back to their offices, digest all the info & hit your site. Once they saw what you had to offer, it would probably lead to sales of the book. I knew for a fact that your book is something that would be helpful to all people regardless of their tenure in the industry; this is why we wanted to introduce you at the seminar. Pool recognizes that fashion-incubator.com is a great resource for people wanting to learn that might not otherwise know where to go. I would hope all that are reading this specific topic can separate your comments & thoughts about the future youth generation & prospective shifts in business as a general commentary rather than seeing it as a personal attack on the people who came to our seminar with the best intent. We at Pool apologize to anyone who feels attacked by Kathleen’s comments. I know this was not her intent.

  29. Eric H says:

    Kevin, where are these schools? Because having watched two go through the locals, I observed almost the opposite. The teachers told us they don’t assign homework because parents call to complain. The kids don’t bring books home because they’re too heavy to lug around all day. Too heavy? Why don’t they use the lockers? Because the school bans locker access during school hours because *someone* might sell dope. So everything is done with disposable copies and predetermined lesson plans.

    I’m going to caveat this by pointing out that I don’t have any research to back this up, and my observational scope is limited. Thus, there is probably much bias to it (and probably to many of the other comments on this Rorschach post).

    If anything, I think there may be a failure to recognize appropriate authority among this latest generation. The classes are marketed by college-based consultants to high schools; no external material is introduced; the speed is dictated; the teachers are probably out of their area (especially in math & science); and nobody is allowed to judge the students. So the class is set to the pace of the dumbest guy there and mostly consist of free-for-all discussions in which everyone’s comments are equally valid. From this, they get the impression that you can be just as expert on literature after scanning My Darling, My Hamburger as any teacher is. After 12 or so years of that, just try and explain something to them – they believe that your years of experience and study are no more valid than their 12 seconds of reflection on the matter.

    It’s a generation that has been taught that 5 minutes with Google is equivalent to 5 hours in a library, training videos are better than an apprenticeship, and that smarmy talk show hosts with good one-liners trump thoughtful scholars. No wonder teachers feel they have to entertain as much as educate. These kids are so hyperstimulated from watching TV while texting and from playing MMORPGs while making 3-way phone calls that they can’t bring focus to a single task for sustained periods of time. We have given them ADD.

    But I seriously doubt that these problems are insurmountable or drastically different than those faced by earlier generations. Google can be useful. Sometimes journeymen are full of it and may teach bad habits. Smarmy talk show hosts occasionally knock scholars out of their ivory towers. Past generations are perhaps not cynical enough and carry lots of racist, jingoist, and culturalist baggage. Still, I worry that the “strong thumb generation” needs a reality check: “can be”, “sometimes”, and “occasionally” are different from “always”, everyone’s opinion is not equally valid, and — despite what your parents and teachers have been telling you for the past 18 years — you are not so friggin’ special that I should thank you for the opportunity to sit at the crosswalk while you saunter across the street at a pace that makes tectonic plate shift look NASCARian in comparison.

  30. J C Sprowls says:

    Right on Eric! I think you’ve addressed how this problem has been introduced into the learning system. The solution, however, is beyond the scope of (or, at least it should be) the employer and his/her HR department, which is my issue with the condition of the workforce supply pool.

    In any event, I have a different bone to pick:

    Mindy Wiener says: We at Pool apologize to anyone who feels attacked by Kathleen’s comments. I know this was not her intent.

    Are you commenting on the same article I’m reading? I don’t see attacks. I see social commentary aimed at understanding the newest generation entering the workforce.

    In her statements:


    Perhaps their absorption methods are different, the outcome of their upbringing.
    Are those that will succeed in the business be like Danielle and Christy, or like these disaffected cynical entitled youths?
    Yesterday’s event leaves me with the impression that we’re on the cusp, or maybe it’s a midway point of two diametrically opposed points. A teeter totter vacillating tightly, which way will it go?
    how are they learning?
    What are the mechanisms?
    Anyone, anywhere would be jaded if you taught them in an inappropriate manner, inappropriate to their learning style.

    Kathleen poses the questions of how the current generation is learning. She asks this as a concerned educator and professional. She wants to know how she needs to be prepared to handle a younger DE population that is culturally different – specifically in the way they acquire, absorb and process information (i.e. scanners v. processors). There may be some observations in her article which could benefit from additional citation. However, if her observations are similar to the experiences of some 23 other commenters, I can’t see how she’s far off the mark.

    My perception is that she is using emotional devices to impel (impale?), compel, poke, prod and cajole the reader into action, which is the crux of the social commentary genre. Not only is she asking educators and employers to adjust their training and advancement strategies, but, she is also asking the incoming workforce to adjust its behaviors and expectations, too. In short, she is encouraging both parties to establish common ground.

    Her observation – which I agree with – is that students of the “myth-information age” scan the contents of a screen or page and accept it as true without debate and without engaging conscious thought or due process. In effect, their learning process has been reduced to (or, reinforced to be) little more than a download of information. Perhaps it is my “old school” upbringing (wait! is 1988 really “old school”?) but, I cannot see any other way than for information to be digested, processed, practiced, criticized, validated and eventually accepted into the genetic code, if you will, of the worker – even data entry clerks. If the latest generation of worker expects to bypass mastery of the bench in order to lead it, I’m sorry to say that my company cannot (and, likely never will) support that expectation.

  31. Dara says:

    Kathleen,
    Have you considered making your book available via Kindle? I know many of my friends would never buy a “real” book as it takes up too much space, but make it available for download via kindle so they can have it on their iPhone and they will do that all day long without a second thought. The words still matter, just not the paper as much.
    An author is still an author, just a different medium. And I do enjoy reading you and am planning to buy your book when I’ve caught up the blog you’ve written. :-)

  32. sfriedberg says:

    Dara, I find the thought that one book “takes up too much space” extremely creepy, especially for a book which is a professional tool, not a piece of disposable entertainment.

    I do confess to being at the other end of the spectrum. My house is filled with thousands of real books. (My last reasonably comprehensive inventory was over a decade ago and came out to roughly 1,800 paperbacks and 300 hardbacks.)

  33. Kathleen says:

    Hi Dara, this has come up quite a few times and I’ve answered it many times on other entries.

    The book isn’t suited for epub technology at this time, epub still has a way to go. It doesn’t handle extensive images, forms, schematics -all matters of formatting. If it were a non-fiction book that was primarily text, it would be much easier to format it for electronic consumption. I am planning other projects that may be more conducive to evolving reading consumption habits. To my way of thinking they will not be as robust or approaching the same value but then, value is in the eye of the beholder. Like Stu, I don’t think digital format is optimal for some reference books.

    Fwiw, you’d get a lot more out of the blog if you had the book to refer to. Consider borrowing it from the library as a tool to accompany your blog reading.

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