Generation Y – a Huge Baloney Sandwich

baloney-sandwichLast week I experienced one of those keynote speakers that makes me shake my head in disgust – both at what she had to say and at the probable fact that she gets paid a handsome sum of money to say it. I don’t want to call her out personally for a few different reasons, so I won’t mention her name or company – but some people will probably figure out who I’m talking about.

A major part of the presentation was subtitled: “Generational Overview.” She starts out by identifying five different generational groups. Out of those five groups, she felt compelled to make up her own names for four of them. Even Baby Boomers were not called Baby Boomers. To not give further credence to much of her baloney, I will not use her made-up generational names. I will refer to the target generation as Generation Y, although I prefer my own made-up name of Digital Net-Gennials (it is tongue-in-cheek, rest assured).

She starts out by talking about the youngest generation (some (not her) would call them the unimaginative name of Generation Z) and detailing several traits for the group that she identifies as being from 0-13 years old. These traits include:

  1. their brains are different – “physically different!” (forget all that evolution stuff, it doesn’t take millions of years for brains to change, it’s taken less than 13 years to happen)
  2. they are being raised with robots (not by robots, just with robots)
  3. they are THE smartest generation (gee, and they’re barely out of elementary school)
  4. they are the first creative class (does this mean the first group born after Richard Florida’s books were published?)
  5. they dream differently than the rest of us
  6. they’ve already become consumers who demand “do it my way”
  7. they can multi-task at 4 or 5 levels (she hasn’t read Medina’s Brain Rules, has she?)
  8. the sagging economy is causing kids to share bedrooms (where does this crap come from?)

She then shows about 5 or 6 examples of new kinds of schools (some specific such as Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Kirkland, Washington and the Microsoft School of the Future in Philadelphia) as well as how schools are teaching with Web 2.0 tools, SMART board and SMART tables. What an incredible overstatement. Sure this is happening, but at an incredibly low rate of adoption. However, many people in the audience left with the opinion that this whole generation is being immersed in new learning technologies in the elementary and middle schools.

Next she moves on to Gen Y. This section begins with Michael Wesch’s video: “A Vision of Students Today.” Then her slides (fully copyright protected, you won’t find them on the net) go into great detail (err, baloney) about this generation.

  1. They will live 5 to 7 years less than Boomers. (Yep, forget all those advances in medicine, health knowledge, etc.; their average life expectancy has decreased significantly in no time at all- “it’s irreversible!” due to ingested hormones and antibiotics)
  2. This will be a “hero generation” because every fourth generation is one (“research shows”)
  3. Understanding this generation means you understand the future (they are the experts about the Net and all things digital – oh, please!)
  4. They share their knowledge on Wikipedia (really, how many of them write articles on Wikipedia?)
  5. They share their thoughts on Twitter (bull, Twitter users are older)
  6. They share their fantasies on Second Life (again bull, very small % use SL)
  7. They are natural collaborators (natural? as in DNA?)
  8. Innovation is a part of life (they will be innovative heroes, apparently)
  9. They insist on integrity
  10. Kids are now the authority on how to interact with a personal computer (gag me with a two gig stick of RAM)
  11. They think money comes from a wall (I’m not making this up, but she is)
  12. They do not read from left-to-right and from top-to-bottom (really? none of them?)
  13. The last song they listened to on their iPod continues to play in their mind even when they should be listening to you. “Believe me,” she says (I don’t believe her)
  14. They have 4 times the sleep deprivation of previous generations (wow – that’s the average per person for the Gen Y-ers?)
  15. Gen Y has been raised by looking down all the time (Nintendo and other hand-held devices, apparently). Their vision is terrible, especially peripheral vision which has caused more side impact collisions for this generation (where’s this research to be found?)
  16. They are vitamin D deficient
  17. Their immune systems are creating “superbugs” (she cites that the MRSA rate has doubled, but I can’t find any evidence that makes this relevant to the lifestyle choices of young people)
  18. Forget chairs and desks – “They should be learning on the floor – they love it!”
  19. 93% is the magic number – they spend 93% of their time inside and household pollutants are 93% more damaging than outside pollutants (and this presentation is 93% baloney)
  20. This generation believes that the car companies are getting what they deserve for helping to ruin the planet (even Gen Y-ers who grew up in Michigan believe this, according to her)
  21. The whole world (except the island of Fiji) is breathing “China Dust” (Fiji must be well located)
  22. This group will return to the 60s mentality and create a revolution (over green issues, I suppose)
  23. “Their brains are wired differently. There’s tons of research available” (although she doesn’t cite any)
  24. They have a narrow visual field, but “they will see 10 times more things than I will within that narrow field”
  25. “Their jobs will change often, so you should too” (that’s a direct quote – I guess I’ll get my resume’ in order)
  26. They use digital technology 20-30 hours per week. “It’s evolution!” (Yep, first came opposable thumbs and walking upright, then came YouTube)
  27. “They are actually tactilely-deprived” in explaining why Webkinz were a hit with a generation raised in a hard-surfaced environment
  28. They have a greater sense of smell and greater sense of touch compared to previous generations (any data on this?)
  29. “What’s happening in India and China will blow you away” (cited a couple of university engineering programs – another example of picking a few non-representative examples and applying them to the whole population)

I could go on, but those are the highlights gleaned from my 8.5 pages of handwritten notes. The biggest problem that I have with presentations like this is not all the baloney – it’s that this person stands up there as an “expert” and most of the audience members seem to be believing everything she has to say. OMG – this is so wrong on so many levels.

I gave the keynote on the first day and gave just a couple of snippets from my one person debate about Gen Y. I was asked (in advance) to not talk very much about the generations since the day two keynote was all about generations. I obliged, but did have to slip in a few pieces of point-counterpoint about some of the generational drivel that has been driving me crazy. On the long drive home I speculated about what I would have done differently if she had been the first speaker and then I was the second. My guess is that I would have felt compelled to debunk much of the baloney that she was sharing during her talk. I wonder how that would have gone over with the conference organizers – probably not very well.

Am I wrong? Is she right? Can I get a refill on my prescription of crazy pills?

Baloney (or bologna, if you prefer) sandwich photo (CC-3.0) courtesy of UNC – Chapel Hill

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8 Responses

  1. Wow. If I had heard that talk I would have found quite a lot to challenge, but then again what’s the point of challenging claims if they don’t even pretend to be backed up by actual data or research?

    Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking. The conference didn’t, by chance, have an “open bar” prior to this keynote?

  2. No open bar, but it was in Michigan so it’s not too hard to find someone to serve you a drink any time of day – which is why I like it there so much. You should have seen the copyright notice/threat at the beginning of her slide show. Almost took up an entire slide by itself. She’s apparently very proud of all her original baloney.

  3. This wasn’t, by chance, intended to be a “humorous, light-hearted look at the industry” type of keynote, was it? Cause I’m getting a chuckle just by reading the statements that were made.

    Seriously, it is disappointing to hear these unsubstantiated claims and “theories” were passed off as fact. On the bright side, perhaps the copyright protection will continue to keep them off the Internet and lessen the number exposed to the material.

    As always, great post!

  4. Hi Sherry,
    No, I assure you that the presenter was totally serious and not at all trying to be humorous. The only part about it that is not funny is that so may people in the audience think that she is telling them the truth. Oy. Take care, and thanks for checking in.

  5. Hey, were you angry! I would be, too. Different brains? You know as well as I do that there are people all over the world who may be 99 or may be 2 and each is finding the Net and learning how to use it. There are also many who have no access to the Net and their brains are not somehow suddenly second-classed.

    Keep being angry – although that’s not an approach I had associated with your blogs.

  6. I confess that I like hearing this kind of stuff, not because it’s right but because it gets me to think about the changes we’re all experiencing if not in our brains, at least in the way we share and digest information. I prefer a keynote speaker that is entertaining to one who is careful that everything said has actual “scientific” merit. I mean, give the gal a break, Barry. Not everyone is as great as you are.

  7. […] and THIS […]

  8. The presenter (and those in the audience who bought her bogus baloney) are more proof that critical thinking is a lost art.

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