The Mother of all Generation Gaps!

The generation gap between the net-generation, generally considered to be under 28 year-olds, and their parents, is qualitatively different from any previous generation gap. Past generation gaps were gaps in time. As children grew up and began to face the same realities their parents did, the gap narrowed. The gap between the net-gens and their parents is a gap of cultures, not a gap of years, and no amount of time will narrow this gap. If the gap is narrowed, it is parents who will learn more about their childrens' world rather than children learning to adapt to the adult world. People born into the internet era are "wired" differently from older people and experience the world differently too. An interesting resource Marc Prensky's work from as long ago as 2001, especially his paper, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.

Key to the uniqueness of this generation gap is that for the first time in human history, an entire generation of children hasmore of the skills needed for success in the future, than most of their parents and teachers have! Think of the skills you would want to see in a team of people you hire to design and prepare your business for the future, and consider whether you are more likely to find these skills in under 25 year-olds, or people older than that.

So I am completely with Jim Coyle, a feature writer for the Toronto Star, who wrote an optimistic article, "New Kids on the Centre Block" about the crop of nine university students and recent graduates barely in their 20's recently elected to Canada's Federal Parliament (see TIME magazine's report). Pierre-Luc Dusseault, a 19-year-old student at the University of Sherbrooke, is the youngest member ever elected to Canada's parliament. Coyle shows how much greatness in the past few centuries has come from extremely young people, and argues that this phenomenom of very young members of parliament could be one of the best things for Canadian lawmakers.

Coyle quotes Don Tapsott in Grown up Digital:

They are bringing their demographic muscle, media smarts, purchasing power, new models of collaborating and parenting, entrepreneurship and political power into the world.
These optimistic descriptions of the "new generation" don't reflect a lot of the experiences of older people trying to educate and manage the net-genners. Why is this? What is the new model of leadership needed to unlock the brilliance and human energy of these young people, and what is the new model of education we need to move to? Stay tuned to the next blogs and meanwhile please share your own views with us.

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