by Rick Bretz
Classifying people into generations and marking them with cultural characteristics is an entertaining exercise for sociologists and academics. However, putting a particular generation into a certain box is only informative when analyzing the different world events that influenced the collective personality characteristics of people growing up in that era. The classification of generations begs the question: Is one generation better than another? Did one generation endure hardships? Did another have it easier? It’s an intellectual exercise that can generate a discussion. Since Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation” was published, most of the reading public have stated that people who grew up to fight WWII and endure the Great Depression were part of the “Greatest Generation.” Is there such a title-“The Greatest Generation”–One group of people who have shone brighter than any other in history.
I prefer to think that each generation has had their own challenges and issues with their own solutions. Can you say that one generation is better than another because they helped achieve a WWII victory while another fought in Vietnam and landed on the moon? Another way to view the issue is: without one generation developing a particular technology the other wouldn’t have been able to achieve their significant achievements.
Scholars possess different views pertaining to the yearly division between generations, usually a few years separate one list from the other. Here is a list generations with significant (but not all) events occurring during their formative years compared across generations.
|World War I||Stock Market Crashes||Marshall Plan||Vietnam War Protests||Chernobyl Nuclear Accident|
|Spanish Flu||Great Depression||Yeager breaks sound barrier||Watergate Hearings||Soviet Glasnost|
|Titanic Sunk||FDR Elected||NASA formed||Nixon Resigns||Fall of Berlin Wall|
|Silent Movie Era||WWII Begins||Korean War||Vietnam War Ends||Disintegration of Soviet Union|
|Roaring 20s||WWII Ends||Cold War||Race Riots||Apple and Microsoft|
|Ford Model T and Assembly Line||Atomic Bomb used to defeat Japan||JFK Assassinated||Civil Unrest||Hubble Telescope|
|Russian Revolution||1933-First Concentration Camp||McCarthy hearings||RFK and MLK Assassinated||9/11|
|Prohibition||The Dust Bowl||Cuban Missile Crisis||Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins land on the moon||War on Terrorism|
|Lindbergh Flies solo across Atlantic||Japan attack on Pearl Harbor||DNA discovered||Palestinian Terrorism||Operation Desert Storm|
|Penicillin Discovered||United Nations Founded||Vietnam War||Roe vs Wade||Internet and Social Media|
Alternate Listing for Generational Names from the Population Reference Bureau
1983-2001 – New Boomers
1965-1982 – Generation X
1946-1964 – Baby Boomers
1929-1945 – Lucky Few
1909-1928 – Good Warriors
1890-1908 – Hard Timers
1871-1889 – New Worlders
The above alternate generations list takes note of two generations that are usually overlooked, the Hard Timers and the New Worlders. These are the generations that ushered in the industrial revolution, built railroads and began to introduce people to technology that would save their lives such as electricity and the light bulb.
If you look at history’s 20th Century Timeline, there are many events that could be listed that have influenced generations. These are some of the ones I think are significant. I welcome any other events that you think I have missed or could be included.