When I was pregnant with my daughter 15 years ago, I was on the eternal hunt for a good parenting book. Dr. Spock and the rest of the child-rearing industry just weren’t cutting it for me, resistant as I have always been to formulaic solutions. I knew my own upbringing had not provided me with nearly enough of a foundation to raise my daughter in the way I wanted to, so I was in pursuit of information to fill the gaps I was sure existed in my parenting skills. I found that book in Rudolph Dreikurs’ Children: The Challenge. Dreikurs’ work is built upon that of Adolph Adler, a Freud protégé who was kicked out of Freud’s inner circle for having better ideas. To quote from the wiki on Adler:
Adler emphasized the importance of social equality in preventing various forms of psychopathology, and espoused the development of social interest and democratic family structures as the ideal ethos for raising children.
Here was a parenting style I could get on board with. If I understood anything about life at the age of 22, it was how my life was shaped by the justice system, operated under the auspices of government. And I knew how government worked. For the four years I was a ward of the state, I was constantly reminded of my rights, and they were rarely violated within the system. Of course it made sense that I would utilize those ideas first before reaching for newer, often pop cultural solutions or new age trends. I later found out this approach is the essence of something called Republican Motherhood, which has nothing to do with Republicans, and everything to do with inculcating the up-and-coming generation of Americans with constitutional values. This was important work post-colonial period, and many mothers took this responsibility seriously.
That this obscure, out-of-print parenting book appealed to me in 1993 (it was published in 1964) should give you some insight into my character and my values. I’ve shared a lot about my past with readers because my experiences have shaped my admittedly odd word view. Yet another aspect of my development as a human being involved the public education system of the 1970s. It was, even in conservative Houston where I attended grades K-4, a liberal paradise. Literally. During the 1970s hundreds of thousands of radicalized boomers, mostly women, graduated from colleges and took up careers as teachers. And they brought a lot of those radical ideas with them. This phenomenon, by the way, is the root-ball of the low opinion conservatives hold for both professors and teachers. It continues to blossom like some gnarly, fearsome rosebush.
So enter hundreds of thousands of formerly screaming Beatles fans who were by then blissed out and beaming, talking about history and current events. Rainbows and flags and chains of cartoon people of many different colors were all the rage in classrooms. Instead of pronoun drills, we passively learned via posters with fantastic art that a pronoun is “anyplace that you can go.” I admit it was a paradise, and I soaked it up, especially the parts about stories: language arts, social studies, and history. I sailed through elementary school to a chorus of voices that instilled a sense of pride in my state, my country, and myself as a human. Opportunity was the constant refrain.
A lot of people of my generation, Generation X, had that experience. Not all, of course, but I think that personal story pretty accurately reflects dynamic changes that were occurring in public education in the 1970s. I don’t think it’s an accident that those years seemed to be the last high mark either. Mulling over this topic has prompted me to consider a rather unusual thesis, however. Bear with me while I try to flesh this one out.
I suspect that Generation Xers have more in common with Depression era children, aka The Greatest Generation (I do hate that title, ftr), than they do with baby boomers, who are their parents. My girlfriend Beth and I have been discussing this theory for years. If that is true, then is it also true that Millennials, aka Generation Y, are more like baby boomers than like Gen Xers? Imagine my surprise when I googled the term “Millennials” and the early returns showed the term “echo boomers.” Apparently I’m not the first to stumble down this particular path. Not that there’s anything new under the sun anymore.
Obviously it has occurred to someone that there is an “echo” of the boomer in the millennial. Is there also an echo of the depression in us xers? If so, what accounts for this leapfrogging of values and norms? That exploration is way too big for one post. I just thought I’d throw those ideas out there for fodder as I figure out how to articulate the rest of it. I have ideas, but I need support. That means research. More on this topic later.