OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895


4:00 P.M.

December 14, 2000

A One-eyed Prophet's View
of the Post X-Generation

janus.jpg (25535 bytes)

by the Rev. Paul J. Little Ph.D.

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library

Biography of Paul J. Little

Born August 6, 1928 in Wister, Oklahoma


  • Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London, England. Certificated, 1979

  • Syracuse University, NY. Ph.D. 1969. University Teaching Fellowship

  • Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, Berkeley, CA. B.D. 1958

  • University of Glasgow, Scotland. Rotary Fdation Grad Fellowship, 1955

  • Linfield College, McMinnville, OR. B.A. 1953


U. S. Navy

Professional activities

  • Directed Trojan Women, Othello, Twelfth Night, Glass Menageries, Equus, many others

  • Acted Oedipus in Oedipus Rex, Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof

  • Tom in Glass Menagerie and others

  • Chairperson of theatre departments at Univ of Redlands and Linfield College

  • Established and administered The Gallery Players of Oregon

  • Founded and administered The Inland Empire Theatre

  • Formed and president of Camelot Productions

  • Musical producer for Redlands Community Music Association

  • Chair, Univ of Redlands Faculty Council and Academic Committee

  • Vice President, Southern California Educational Theatre Association

  • Professional Affiliations Past and Present

  • Danforth Foundation Teaching Award

  • Linfield College Prof of the Year

  • Who's Who in American Univ & Colleges

  • Outstanding Educators of America

  • Redlands Council of the Arts man of the Year

  • Syracuse Univ. Teaching Award

Community Affiliations

  • Redlands Rotary Club

  • First Baptist Church

  • Art Commission


The arts, golf, fishing, reading


  • Wife Jo Ann developed and leads seminars on "Parenting Your Parents Support Group."

  • Son, Brad, Broadway Musical Theater

  • Son, Jeffrey, V.P. for National Merit Scholarship Program

  • Daughter, Terry, V./P. in personnel for environmental firm, Earth Technology

A One-eyed Prophet's View
of the Post X-Generation

by the Rev. Paul J. Little Ph.D.

In an interview for the National Education Association conducted in June of this year, Dr. Dennis Harper, Director of the Generation www.Y said:

What you have for the first time in history is an area where the average kid knows more than the average teacher when it comes to technology. That's not to say that there are no teachers that know more than students about technology, because there are. We have to consider, however, that there's not one teacher in the United States that is teaching today, that went to K-12 schools when the World Wide Web was in existence.

In this paper I shall attempt two things: First I will define and then identify some of the characteristics of the segment of the American population called "Post Xers". Then I will don my prophet's robe and attempt to predict how this mysterious group will differ in their life style from the three generations that immediately preceded them, The Boomers, The Busters and the Gen-Xers.

    Enigmatic as they are it is a formidable task to find the words that effectively defines their shape. I am reminded of an occasion when the distinguished film actor and director Robert Redford was asked to deliver the commencement address at a high school for the performing arts. He felt compelled to say something personal to graduates as he gave him or her their diplomas. By the time he came to the "W"s he had exhausted his collection of inane clichés. So, enter the dream coed, Wendy Wynachesky. Gallant to the end, Mr. Redford asked the set of dreamy blue eyes, indecently staring into his, "And what are you going to do when you leave here?" To which, without a skipped beat and with a subtle smile, she replied, "Well, I had thought of going straight home."

    In an effort to accomplish my two objectives I have isolated one specific sub-group in the Post X-Generation. They are known as the "Y-Generation". I will attempt to help you better understand just what this generational collage of hormones and potential are like in contrast to the Boomers, Busters and Gen-Xers. Then to discern if they are going to surrender their responsibility to enable the Post Millennial Decade II, to become the very best they can be.

    In the title of this paper I claim to be a "one-eye prophet". I am one eyed because, as I approach this topic, I admit to seeing through a glass darkly. I view the Y-Generation without full prophetic assurance. I want to explore the matrix of the Y-Generation world and from that exploration, make a few prophecies. But be aware that my prophecies are not some mystically clairvoyant predictions of future events. I shall leave that to the television evangelists. I simply want to make some reasoned projections of likely outcomes if the current and existing pattern in the Gen-Yers life style continues on course.


According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (2000), Generation Y is a noun. "The generation following Generation X, especially people born in the United States and Canada from the early 1980s to the late 1990s"

Other names, "The Why Generation", "Eco-boomers", or "The Millennials" occasionally refers to this group. In size they are a generation that rivals the Baby Boomers. They are, for the most part, the sons and daughters of our sons and daughters.


    With apparent cause, many of us are concerned about our nations teenagers. A national survey published by The Public Agenda in February of this year found that seventy-four percent of parents described teenagers as "rude", "irresponsible" and "wild". Then they discussed what they thought was wrong with them. Only forty percent of the parents polled believed that these young people would grow up to make America a better place to live. Yet the same study predicted that these same children would probably be more content in their life-style than the Boomers who preceded them. In an August 1999 The New Yorker two dotty parents are standing by their young son's bed as he falls off to sleep.

    "Of course he looks peaceful," says the boy's father as mother smoothes down the blankets, "he's lived his entire life in a bull market."
    I contend that some of the The Public Agenda survey was somewhat slanted toward the negative. I assert that many young people today are not as much of a problem as we think. If anything, they will one day prove to be the apologist of our national culture because this Y-Generation is much healthier than the deprecating news bites in our manic media would suggest. But that is prophecy and I get ahead of my self.

    Just who are these Gen-Yers any way? To quote Richard Tomkins of the London based "The Age" quarterly:

Born during a bulge that demographers locate between 1979 and 1994, they are as young as five and as old as 20, with the largest slice still a decade away from adolescence. And at 60 million strong, more than three times the size of Generation X, they are the biggest thing to hit the American scene since the 72 million baby boomers.

Compared to past generations they are more racially diverse. One in three is not Caucasian, which helps account in part, for a global perspective not held by earlier generations. Three in four have working mothers. 32% of those under 9 were born to single mothers.

Who are they psycho-graphically?

    In contrast to their Generation X predecessors they are socially aware, confident in their ability to make a difference and, attitudinally, upbeat. They are defined within their sub-groups, called teen-tribes, by a common fashion, music and magazines. For example, one of the teen tribe called "Ravers" will wear no clothing that does not hang loose, listen to little music other that "Techno", and their magazine of choice is "Vibe".

    As a generation they are characterized as personally independent. Approximately 60% of them under the age of eight have mothers who work outside the home. A large portion of this Y-Generation will spend at least part of their childhood in a single-parent home. The Y-Generation has a significantly different life experience than the people who make up the X-Generation. Changes in family composition, elevated expectation of parents, the accelerated delivery of information all have helped to make this Y-Generation more self-reliant and more discriminating of messages directed at them from whatever source.

    Nearly 68% of American households with children age seven or younger have at least one personal computer with Internet capability according to the IDC/LINK Resources Corporation.

    Gen-Yers live lives shaped as much by cyber technology and access to information over the World Wide Web as by changing household patterns and the presence of a working parent or parents.

    Gregg Esterbrook of New Republic asserts that the Y-Generation is the most tolerant generation ever. He justifies this assertion on the fact that they have seemingly unlimited sources of information available to them from over 200 cable television channels and World Wide Web with over a million sites. They have been exposed to more divergent views then that of any preceding generation. They are a "link-ed up" generation, making it more knowledgeable to the world outside their home walls, and the borders of their country. They are moving away from a traditional American provinciality. According to Larry Mondry, executive vice-president of merchandising for CompUSA, "Today, use of the World Wide Web and electronic mail by Generation Y is as common as the telephone. This generation view computers as basic equipment, like pencil and paper, not something to be feared." They utilize technology as a way to stay connected, as a way to grow. The Internet fuels Generation Y's autonomy, where anyone with a search engine can become and instant expert, instant artist, instant shopper, and at an amazing rate and number, an instant millionaire.

    According to Neuborn and Kerwin each of these teenagers has about $90 a week of disposable income.

    Generally their most valued traits are anonymity and uniqueness. "They want to customize and personalize their image, dip into different streams of history, iconography, symbolism, and craft a message that communicates individuality even as it confirms membership in a group, or groups".

    At a mall in suburban Baltimore a clerk at a Wavedancer surf and skateboard shop who had the task of handling post-Christmas returns last year, saw the return of clothes that fit snugly and shoes unsuitable for skateboarding. Since she was just 19 herself, she understood. She said that most of those returning the merchandise said, "My Mom and dad got me these."

    Kristy Doig of Young Intelligence, a market research and trend-forecasting group in New York City says that the older of the Y-Generation can be described as neo-traditionalists. "…these kids are fed up with the superficialities of life. They have not had a lot of stability in their lives. Theirs is a backlash, a return to tradition and ritual. And that includes marriage. Focused on finding the right one, they look for opportunities to meet others in values- friendships and situations. They believe in volunteerism. Many return to or seek spiritual roots through organized religion."


As a one-eyed prophet I am now about to do some blurry compare and contrast stuff. I am going to look back so I can look ahead. I am going to contrast portions of the Boomer and Buster worldviews, represented by some of us in this room and most of our children, with the worldview of the young people of the Y Generation. I will make some sweeping generalizations recognizing the danger of doing so, but I must do so to illustrate the polarities.

The Y Generation will develop a strong sense of community. They will appear to be much more collaborative than either Gen X or the Boomers. There appears to be a genuine sense of community among them, a bond between individuals - not just in smaller units, but a feeling of connectedness to a larger unit of society. The Gen Yers will desire this connectedness to a larger segment of the community, and seem to actively pursue those things that will foster group work and team spirit. There will be a lot less emphasis on individualism and self-expression amongst Gen Yers than Gen Xers.

The Y Generation seems to be confident beyond its years. Nothing will scare or intimidate it. Although in some this will be perceived as brashness and even arrogance, in general this will not so. The confidence of the teenagers in the Y Generation will come mainly from their Boomer or late X-Gen parents whose parenting style places the child at the "center of the universe". The child will have a heightened self-esteem, and a belief that, "I can do anything". They have certainly been told this their whole lives.

They will also have an incredible amount of energy. That energy will often be channeled in an "other focus", and not simply put to use in self- gratification. Although their focus (like Gen X) is still primarily on local issues, the Y Generation is moving rapidly to a global consciousness. Their super heroes are the earth-saving Power Rangers. The Power Rangers are a collaborative team - where no single Power Ranger has enough super hero-ness to do anything - they must work together to save not a single nation, but the world.

In the long run, this confidence may backfire a bit, as young people realize that they can't do anything they want - they will be limited by their own abilities and means. This may produce a backlash later. It is also likely to produce a very burnt out generation, if they are not carefully guided into using their resources wisely.
The Yers will be passionately tolerant. This attitude of tolerance started way back in the swinging 60s. Hippies embodied it. Generation X grew up in it. Today it is part of the very fabric of the Generation Y's worldview. They will believe that no dogmatic view can be imposed on anyone else. Tolerance believes that only intolerance should not be tolerated. Anyone or any institution claiming to have a corner on the truth market will be ridiculed. And those who wish to impose their particular view of the world on others will be scorned. Tolerance of the worldviews of all people will be the ultimate virtue for Gen Y. Many of our generation could learn from them at this point.

The Y Generation will celebrate rapid change and their focus will be fragmented. The "cultural weapon" of Gen Y will be the remote control. Virtually everything today has one, but it is the TV remote control that is the best analogy of their world. Although many Boomer, Busters and Gen Xers use the remote control due to laziness - for Gen Y the remote is anything but a tool for passivity. In fact, the remote control allows for interactivity with the television. Most young people today can "multi- task", and watch more than one channel at a time. Using the remote control, they flip between 5 or 6 channels, not searching for a show to watch ("choose a channel and watch it", the parents scream), but rather actually watching all 6 programs.

For today's Gen Yers the world they perceive will be a fragmented one. Nothing seems to come to closure. Everything is left hanging. There are no answers, only more questions. Paradox is common. In order to handle this, Gen Y splits their lives into different compartments. This is not unusual; people have been doing it for the last 50 years. The only difference now, with Generation Y, is they will freely admit it, and freely admit that their beliefs are self-contradictory, but that this is not an issue to them.

The Y Generation will be one with a weak morality. The distinctions between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, are being perpetually diluted more and more in today's world. When even the (supposedly) most powerful man in the world can claim to have "never had sex with that woman", and then spend hours in court arguing the nuances of the meanings of words, then we must know that our moral standards are in danger of collapsing.

Many of the parents of Generation Y children were taught to be very permissive parents. Either by deliberate choice or simple media/societal pressure, disciplining of a child was seen as "breaking his spirit" and "restricting her freedom" (both of which were considered most heinous acts). Thus, Gen Yers are lost in a moral vacuum. Many Boomers and Busters are not able or simply not prepared to give moral guidance, and many who do, are so rampantly paranoid or "foaming at the mouth" type people, that there is no real calm, sensible voice on morality.

This is lamentable. Unlike Gen X, they will have no real sense of their lost ness. Gen X is often characterized as an angst-filled generation, totally aware that they are lost and drifting. When they were very young, there were still some anchors in place. That the anchors have since come loose is a fact they perceive. However, for Gen Y the anchors have always been loose. They generally will not believe that there is right and wrong that can be universally applied.

Where it was an option for the Boomer and Buster, the Y- Generation will be sucked into situational ethics. There will be no sense of things being right or wrong with them. They will not have moral boundaries, and many moral decisions that Boomers and Busters take as self-evident, such as the sanctity of life, the value of ownership, etc., will not be understood by this generation. As far as they are concerned, they will never out of bounds. How can you be out of bounds if there are no boundaries? In the world-view of the Y Generation, morality will be subjective. The Nietzsche existential concept of the superman will have taken root. The superman is able to enjoy any action he undertakes, whether it is altruistically assisting an elderly lady across the street or beating up the old lady to steal her handbag. As long as this is what the superman wanted to do, he is truly "super" if he feels no feelings about either action except self-fulfillment.

Because they do not have any boundaries, the Gen Yers will often find themselves in a confused situation, living with the paradoxes inherent in Nietzsche's "superman" model. It will not uncommon to discover that a young person will say and truly believe one thing in one environment, and something completely contradictory in another. When this is pointed out, no problem will be seen. Today's Gen Yers will be able live with internal and external paradox very comfortably.
Even in the light of a monumental change of direction in parental attention toward children, many Gen Yers will feel isolated. They will be independent, trusting only in themselves for direction and motivation, and they will resent any connection with the slacker image of the Gen Xers. Yet, there will still be a massive independence that creates something of a paradox.

Gen Yers will have moved but a little from the old adage, "Don't trust anyone over thirty." Now they will say, "Don't trust anyone over 20." In spite of many things such as the anonymity and isolation of the Internet, Ian McAllister writes: "The sense of isolation among Millennials [Y Generation] isn't a desperate thing. Many of them actually feel pretty comfortable with it. It's all they've ever known. The erosion of trust during the Xer's childhood now is a part of the very air the Yers breathe. The paradox is that their pessimism and skepticism exist in spite of many positive efforts made on the part of parents and government to provide and protect."

"…Gen Yers will grow up to be sociable and team-oriented adolescents but will strike many adults as somewhat bland, conformist and dependent on others to reach judgments"

The Gen Yers will be convinced that politicians cannot be trusted, and they will be using our current Florida 2000 vote debacle to openly mock them. They will be convinced that integrity is lacking in the partisan system, and they would use the words of William Shakespeare to call down a plague on both their houses if they only knew whom William Shakespeare was.

Strauss and Howe identified the cycle in which we are living as "the unraveling" This is particularly difficult for idealistic Boomers to live through - and many blind themselves to the facts (just as the Chamberlains and others did in the previous unraveling before the Depression and WWII). The Xers are ready for it, as they have grown up during the unraveling, and have a sense of "what could have been". But the Yers know nothing else. And his or her response (one which may actually be the salvation of us all through the looming crisis) will be to not trust any one else, particularly politicians. They will be the young Turks of the next crisis, and will rise quickly afterwards as the trailblazers of a new world, just as JFK did. There is hope.

Dr. Edward Winter of the U30 Consulting Group may be right, "Think of them as the quiet little group about to change everything."

Home Page

Copyright © 2007 The Fortnightly Club of Redlands, California 
Website maintained by RedFusion Media