Accomplished wordsmith William Safire once defined a gap between the generations as “a frustrating lack of communication between young and old, or a useful stretch of time that separates cultures within a society, allowing them to develop their own character.”
That’s a pretty good definition. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Generation gaps have no doubt existed on this planet since the first homo sapiens appeared about 200,000 years ago. However, the drastic differences that the term implies were not much in evidence until the twentieth century. Before that time humans were not very mobile. Young people typically lived near their extended families, worshiped in their childhood churches and often worked on the family farm or in a family business. In the 19th Century most people lived and died without traveling more than 200 miles from where they were born.
With the advent of television and movies, adolescents were exposed to cultural influences alien to their own families and cultures. Then came the 1960s. Civil rights, women’s liberation and the Vietnam War exposed a more serious chasm between young and old.
A study released recently by the Pew Research Center found younger and older Americans in 2017 see the world much differently, creating the largest generation gap since the tumultuous years of the 1960s. The study said Americans of different ages are increasingly at odds over a range of social and technological issues. That divide grew greater after the 2008 election, when 18- to 29-year-olds voted for Democrat Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 ratio. It continues to grow since the 2016 election.
Almost eight in ten people believe there is a major difference in the point of view of younger people and older people today, according to the independent public opinion research group.
The top areas of disagreement between young and old, according to the
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