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gen me

Page history last edited by marielle frattaroli 12 years, 1 month ago

     Everyone's had that talk with their parents. In fact, it's probably part of most family’s daily conversations. Now I know what you’re thinking; what in the world kind of family talks about sex on a regular basis? A very open one, and that's not very many. All families have had the success talk before though. You know, the one where the parents tell their child that he is very special and can grow up to be whatever he wants, as long as he studies hard, graduates the top of his class, and gets into the best college out there. After all of that praise and encouragement, the child walks away annoyed saying, "Yeah, right. Whatever."


     This isn't an uncommon situation today. Kid's part of "Generation Me," born in the 1980's and 90's, constantly have their self-esteem boosted, believe in themselves more than any other generation, but turn out to be quite the cynics, hence the 'whatever.' Jean M. Twenge’s book, "Generation Me," explains this incident. The very cover of the book itself states that today’s youth is becoming more and more confident, assertive, entitled, and more miserable than ever before. In a rhetorical analysis of the book, we see that Twenge implies this through ethos  using several scientific studies and research, the pathos of her own personal experiences as well as others ideas and thoughts and the logos of naturally advancing with time. 


     “Generation Me” is clearly about, yes, you guessed it; Generation Me, more often called the Millennials or Generation Y.  For this purpose let’s just call them GenMe.  Throughout the book Twenge explains how GenMe has grown to become such a strong generation as a whole.  Collectively, they are more motivated, confident, accepting towards others and have a higher sense of self-worth than other generations.  Although this is all very true, GenMe is also the generation filled with misery, angst, depression and loneliness.


     All of these qualities have to do with how us GenMe’ers  have been brought up.  Ever since we were children, maybe only three or four years old, we’ve been having our self-esteem boosted on a regular basis.  Our parent’s would tell us just how special we were even when we thought it would be funny to flush a whole roll of toilet paper down the toilet and watch it overflow.  Even in school, kids are repeatedly encouraged to love and believe in themselves.  There are special self-esteem classes, assemblies, and workshops in every elementary school across the country now-a-days.  Being taught this is exactly what leads them to be so miserable, depressed, and lonely. 


     After being told time after time that we are special and that we can do whatever we want with our lives, we start to believe it.  When GenMe’ers start college and leave the protected world of “You can be anything you want to be,” everything changes.  In college, graduate school and especially in the professional world, it’s all about competition.  No one is going to go around and constantly say “you are special” and no one is going to wait for you if you are lagging behind.  Because of this, GenMe is more stressed out about grades and work so they can get into that perfect college or land that perfect job.  Being so stressed over school and work only leads to loneliness since you are always preoccupied studying or going on interviews.  And when things don’t go your way and you get a rejection letter or don’t get a promotion, you start to feel depressed.  We were told that we could do anything we wanted to but the competition set into today’s economy doesn’t really let us do that, does it?


     Twenge takes time to explain many of these points.  One of the rhetorical techniques she uses throughout the book to explain those points is logos.  Twenge, as well as most of the United States can clearly see that GenMe is different from every other generation.  She uses logic when comparing GenMe to older generations to show how GenMe has naturally advanced with time.  Twenge most commonly compares us to the Baby Boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964 and are the parents of GenMe children.


      In a section about GenMe’ers who don’t conform to society’s rules, she gives an interesting example.  Trying to teach her (Lynne Lancaster) young stepsons better table manners, she said, “You see, when you’re part of a family system, in which all the parties have mutual respect and caring, it’s important to recognize the cultural norms and behave appropriately.”  When the kids stared back with blank looks, their father-who knew how to relate to this generation-barked out, “Dammit! You both need to use a fork!”  It worked (p 40).  This family shows one of the major generational gaps between GenMe and the Baby Boomers.  The stepsons, part of GenMe, obviously have horrible table manners, whereas Baby Boomers would never dare but act proper at a meal around their parents. 


     Since many of her studies and comparisons compare GenMe to older generations it is easy to see how much things have changed over time.  It is only logical that over time certain traits are more likely to be acquired.  For example, GenMe is more accepting to other races, religions, and even sexual orientations because that’s what we have grown up around.  Kind of like evolution, huh?


     Another way Twenge proves many of her points is through pathos.  She uses quotes and memories that connect to the readers because they are from normal everyday citizens.   For example, this quote comes from a young girl part of GenMe, Erica, age 18: “I have gotten down on myself for not trying as hard or doing as well as I should have.  I put all the pressure on myself.  I knew I needed to do well to get into a good college.  It seems to be very difficult to get a decent paying job now-a-days without a college education" (p 117).  Thousands upon thousands of people can relate to Erica, no matter what age they are.  Today’s economy is growing so competitive that even the most qualified people can’t live their life how they wish to because they can't get a job or get into college.


     The book also contains many quotes from some of today’s most popular movies or even short summaries of those movies.   One of the movies she references is the classic ‘Back to the Future.’ When Marty McFly travels from 1985 back to 1955, he finds that his father George lacks assertiveness and mumbles a lot.  Marty teaches George to stand up for himself, and, in a fit of sudden self-confidence, George punches the local bully and gets the girl who will become Marty’s mother.  When Marty returns to 1985, his parents are now successful, rich, and still in love with each other (p 21).  


     'Back to the Future' was a hit throughout all of the generations.  There have been multiple times when my sister who is now almost 30, my mom who is a Baby Boomer and I have sat down and watched it together.  Since people of most every age group has seen the movie, more people can relate to it.  Not only can they relate to it because they’ve seen it, but the situation is very common.  People from older generations didn’t have that sense of self-confidence or assertiveness that Marty taught his father.  After George gained those qualities, he felt “invincible.”  It just goes to show that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible. 


     These movie quotes do not only apply to pathos, but ethos as well.  When Twenge relates one of her arguments to a famous movie, the audience relates to the movie as well as feeling a sense of credibility.  After seeing one of her arguments shown in a movie, the audience isn’t going to doubt her.  After all, no one is going to doubt a film maker, actor, or any other celebrity of the sort.


     Twenge most commonly references scientific studies or surveys to show that her arguments are valid.   For example, a section on self-confidence said: A report from the Tarrant County, Texas, school district found that 93% of 39 schools agreed kindergartners have “more emotional and behavior problems” than they did five years ago (p 76).  Another poll in 2000 said: 70% of high school seniors said that race relations at their school were good, and 72% said that they have a close friend of another race (p 184). This is in a section about equality. 


     Some of these studies are even done by the author herself.  Jean Twenge has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan which is a very prestigious school.  Since she has a Ph.D. and has done countless amounts of research and surveys, she can use herself as a source of credibility. As a part of my doctoral dissertation, I gathered data on 40,192 college students and 12,056 children aged 9 to 17 who completed measures of anxiety between the 1950’s and 1990’s.  Anxiety increased so much that the average college student in the 1990’s was more anxious that 85% of the students in 1950’s and 71% of the students in the 1970’s.  The trend for children was even more striking: Children as young as 9 years old were markedly more anxious than kids had been in the 1950’s (p 107).  Can’t argue with that!     


     She uses these tools very strategically throughout her book.  For example, the first chapter of the book is entitled ‘You Don’t Need Their Approval: The Decline in Social Rules.’  Here, the title says it all.  GenMe obviously doesn’t need anyone’s approval for anything; they do what is good for them.  In this chapter Twenge brings up the issue of dress code.  GenMe’ers no longer wear business suits, girdles, gowns, and white gloves every day.  Over time, the dress code has changed to what it is today.  It is only logical that over time, people have realized that it is ridiculous to wear clothes that suck in their belly so much they can barely breathe and make them terribly uncomfortable.   Today, there is no need to conform to a certain model or stereotype.  GenMe’ers wear clothes to make themselves comfortable, to express themselves and most importantly, they wear whatever they want.  To support her argument, Twenge uses many different quotes and pictures of normal everyday people.  On page 18 and 19, she shows a picture of two different Christmas cards; one from 1955 and one from 2004.  The one from 1955 has the family in not only formal clothes, but the posing and demeanor is formal as well.  The picture taken in 2004 has the family smiling, hugging each other, and has a happy get–to-the-point message.  This shows that it is more important to be comfortable and happy with yourself than to be socially accepted and to follow society’s rules.  In this chapter, she also uses the results of many research projects, experiments and surveys to argue point.  In a recent study conducted by one of Twenge’s students’ and herself, it was found that the need for social approval has slid downward rapidly since the 1950’s.  ‘The average college student in 2001 scored lower than 62% of college students in 1958.’ (p. 42)


       Gen me will soon grow up and will run the nation.  This book, through the use of these rhetorical tools, show just how great that nation will be if we keep raising children like we are today.


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