The article, originally found on Medium, can be found here.
The article is subtitled ‘A Boomer Professor talks to his students’ but it was clearly posted for a larger audience. What the article does, instead of connecting professor and students, is connect the generations — OR, really, illuminate the misunderstandings that these generations have long held about each other.
That’s what convinced me of the beauty of this article — the transparent confusion that the professor feels about his students generation, and the wonderful honesty and vulnerability he displays about the lessons he’s learned in his time.
The Boomers were the wave that brought the most precarious, tenuous, and perhaps important, change in American cultural history. Taplin touches on why this was so — and what was left in its wake. It’s not pretty. But what we (Millenials) see is the history books, the pictures, and the consequences that inform and shape our time now (the large population of Boomers combined with current political power have really shaped our time). With these, we make our narrative.
With even more pictures, and social networks to exploit the journeys of millenials, Boomers are able to weave their narratives about the young people joining their workforce, marrying their sons and daughters, and, sadly, showing apathy toward their government(s).
It’s these stories that so often contribute to our misunderstandings. Our confusion with why that generation chooses to act a certain way. We love our technologies; but hate when Boomers join in on them. We hate the state of the Boomer-influenced economy, but love blaming Boomers without doing much about it. Boomers see our stagnant politics and don’t understand why we don’t protest, rally, cry out….We saw Boomers doing all of that and wonder what they actually accomplished.
(Warning; that was all grossly over stereotyped. I’m aware. I won’t speak for two entire generations, but I do want to make a point).
I think ultimately that’s what Taplin is doing — and why I found his letter so effective. He’s extrapolating some of the storylines, without blaming anyone for misunderstanding. He’s asking, earnestly, for millenials to work with him to uncover the mysteries he sees in today’s world.
Napoleon called history “a fable agreed upon” — and its Taplin that is taking the first steps with his students (and inviting all of us) to start coming a consensus now. Even with today’s overdocumentation of everything, he sees the lack of conversation about what is really happening here. Perhaps its his own history, of his generation coming-of-age that he saw get distorted in later years. Let’s not let it happen again, he seems to say. ‘Come together’ must have been a motto then, and it seems just as fitting now.
It’s a great challenge to my generation.