What can Generation Z, the youngest and most diverse generation in our nation, teach us? For context, anyone born after 1996 falls into the Generation Z category. As Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millenials, we all have differing viewpoints on how we see the world. The right to same-sex marriage, the increase of people who identify as transgender, the legalization of marijuana in many states, and our first African-American president show a recent shift in our country’s ideology. What might have seemed taboo for the Baby Boomers and Generation X is now part of the norm for Millenials and Generation Z.
I am a firm believer that Generation Z has much to teach us. I say this from a biased perspective. Over the past four years I’ve taught 9th and 10th graders, and during that time I’ve been astonished at how much knowledge they posses.
There are two critical components that make Generation Z a force to be reckoned with. First off, they are digital natives. (Hello to all the parents using technology as a babysitter!) This generation has literally grown up with technology and they are fluent at using this medium to connect with others and navigate the world. Snapchat, which is this generation’s social media of choice, is set to go public this week and it is estimated to be worth $25 billion(!) Gen Z is an audience that is highly coveted amongst marketers, and at the moment, they account for over 25% of the nation’s population-which makes them the largest generation.
Speaking of population, Generation Z is by far the most diverse. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2020, 50.2 percent of children under 18 are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group. “Importantly, Gen-Z is not just diverse by a matter of fact, but they also hold a more positive view of the rising ethnic diversity in America than prior generations,” said the study. This diversity is something that just can’t be ignored.
Keep these thoughts of Gen Z in mind as we rewind back to the day after the election.
Like most teachers, I went into work that morning unsure of how to approach such a dramatic event in our nation’s history. I knew students would want to speak about what happened. How could they not? With that in mind, I posed a question asking all of them to identify ways in which our nation can become united once more. The sadness and shock I felt that morning dissipated once I heard young adults from all different backgrounds expressing ideas and engaging in a constructive conversation regarding our country. Similar to adults in our nation, they all didn’t agree with each other; however, they respected each other’s position and listened to what one another said.
Their fresh and diverse perspectives, not to mention youthfulness, is something I believe all generations can learn from. With that in mind, I created a Prezi detailing 18 short summaries of ideas students’ wrote, and subsequently shared with the class during our worthwhile conversation. (For context, I work at a boarding school in Southern California with students from China, Mexico, Vietnam, Ukraine, Sweden, South Korea and Japan, as well as Ventura and Santa Barbara County. The age of my students ranges from 14-16 years old.)
Conflicting points of views are bound to come up at Thanksgiving. The conversations may be challenging and trying. Yet, instead of talking with only adults about the nation, ask any Gen Z member what they think will make this country more united. I think you'll be surprised by their response.