The roots of the growing generation gap


“OK, boomer.” Used as a remark by millennials and Generation Z in the United States to counter the condescending comments made by baby boomers to younger generations, this new phrase marks this period of generational tensions and immense gaps between age groups. Negative attitudes toward other generations have always been present, due to the fact that generations are inherently different because of the cultural background of the time. However, currently, the gap is becoming worse, dividing a whole nation of people in America.

In the United States, Generation Z will be the first generation to have a lower quality of life in comparison to past generations, due to the combination of multiple issues such as health insurance, the job market, the climate crisis, and inflation. One point of contention often brought up by baby boomers, especially on the Internet, is the incompetent work ethic of millennials. Many claim that in “their day,” they were already extremely financially accomplished in comparison to millennials, who are often seen today struggling to pay off their college debt, find well-paying jobs, and pay their dues. In fact, millennials have often been labeled as “whiny” because of the difference between the lifestyle during early adulthood that they had versus the baby boomers. On the contrary, Generation Y rebuts this opinion, attributing their lack of educational and career success to the changing economic landscape rather than their work ethic.

While this major gap exists between generations in the US and continues to grow, this systemic culture can also be seen in Korea and at school among different age groups. Relationships between upperclassmen and lowerclassmen exemplify this sense of condescension from older classes towards the newer ones, paralleling the situation in the US. Why is this a universal theme? Is it that we naturally believe those younger than us are inferior? Perhaps. Rooted in the early ideas of Confucianism, which emphasizes the necessity of respect, this culture seen today permeates throughout the school community, creating a lack of unity between groups of people and fostering a sense of fear among younger groups. As a high school, what SIS should be striving for is a higher level of harmony among the student body; however, this can never be accomplished while a hierarchal mindset often leaves people feeling patronized.

Once SIS students embark on their academic journey of higher level education, the majority will be exposed to the wide generational gap that exists in the US. In a small school environment at SIS, with ages ranging only four years apart, this issue may not seem as prevalent. Yet, in the future, when experiencing the vast differences in beliefs of values and politics between people born in the 1940s and others born in the 2000s it is likely to stir up problems. Whether it is at a future school, in the workplace, or out and about, the generational gap causes the means of communication and unity to be lost.

In order to combat the existence of the barriers between generations, it is important to refrain from stereotyping. While at SIS, younger students may be labeled as ignorant and petulant, and in the US, younger generations may be labeled as unskilled and lethargic. People must first break free from the shackles that dictate how a certain group of people ought to be. Additionally, regardless of how many arguments and clashing viewpoints exist between generations, it is always crucial to consider another person’s perspective: how they are living and how they grew up and what factors influenced their opinions. At the end of the day, of course differences will exist. But how will we work through them to tie groups of people together and unite people under one name: people?