The generational gap is a term popularized in Western countries during the 1960s referring to differences between people of younger generations and their elders, especially between children and their parents.
Although some generational differences have existed throughout history, modern generational gaps have often been attributed to rapid cultural change in the modern and postmodern period, particularly with respect to such matters as musical tastes, fashion, technology and politics. These changes are assumed to have been magnified by the unprecedented size of the young generation during the 1960s, which gave it the power and inclination to rebel against societal norms.
However, sociologists also point to institutional age segregation as an important contributing factor to the generational divide. Those in childhood phases are segregated within educational institutions or child-care centers, parents are isolated within work-based domains, while older generations may be relegated to retirement homes, nursing homes, or senior day care centers. Social researchers see this kind of institutionally-based age segregation as a barrier to strong intergenerational relationships, social embeddedness, and generativity (the passing down of a positive legacy through mentoring and other cross-generational interactions).
Some interventions resulting from intergenerational research have proven successful in bridging the generation gap. Examples include multigenerational music groups, or programs bringing "bookend generations" (elders and preschoolers) together in intergenerational daycare centers where the elderly mentor the young. Researchers find that positive relationships built between unrelated children and elders in these settings tend to be generalized to relationships within the family at home.
The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s: baby boomers vs. the older generation
In 1964, 17-year-olds made up the largest age segment in America. By 1965, it was determined that half of the American population was under the age of 25, with 41% being under the age of 20. As a result of the population growth, the younger generation held more influence over advertisers and American society was forced to respond to the sheer mass of the postwar baby boomers. It has been accepted that the generation gap was a product of both the widespread demographics and a predominantly white cultural zeitgeist that exalted novelty and shunned convention in spheres ranging from music to fashion - as well as youth's perception that adults were hopelessly "out of touch" with new ideas.
From a transformation of the dating system (going steady and early marriage became the norm, as opposed to the "rating and dating" trend that was fashionable before the war), to the new medium of television gaining widespread popularity and often portraying teenagers as juvenile delinquents. 'JDs' followed the standard black leather and denim jeans look set by Marlon Brando in the 1953 film The Wild One. The widespread adoption of rock and roll also helped emphasize differences between parents and teenagers. Despite the apparent bliss of the GI Generation, popular movies such as the 1955 film Rebel Without A Cause, with its portrait of a highly dysfunctional, sexually repressed, postwar suburban families, and bestsellers such as the 1956 book The Organization Man, which displayed a deary portrait of the workforce conformity, suggested that not all men and women found happiness in the post-war American society. Holden Caulfield, the hero of J. D. Salinger's 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, was a literary embodiment of teenage angst and alienation further fueling adults' perception of teenagers as rebels. However, one of the earliest signs of this growing generation rift which managed to get widespread recognition was the choice of music preference.
In the early days in the postwar American culture, rhythm and blues, which was greatly preferred among African Americans, and country music, which was popular among Caucasian Americans, especially in the Southern United States, was divided along racial lines. In the wake of the postwar migration of southern Caucasians and African Americans into Northern urban cities, however, both styles became heard and widely accepted by younger Americans regardless of their racial background. The manufacturing hotbed of Detroit, Michigan developed into an economic mecca for poor black and white Southerners who sought a better life.
In 1951, Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed described the growing regional integration of country music and rhythm and blues as "rock 'n' roll" and would frequently play this new music style when on the air. Several other radio stations throughout the nation would soon follow Freed's lead. In 1954, as rock and roll was rising, music artist Bill Haley his version of "Rock Around The Clock." Despite having a lackluster debut, the song made its way into the opening credits of the 1955 hit film The Blackboard Jungle, which portrayed American teenagers as unruly hooligans who wouldn't comply with order, and dominated the music charts many weeks afterwards.
With the success of "Rock Around the Clock," rock 'n' roll's status as the top music genre in the Western World was now solidified and the Haley classic would be recognized as the official anthem for the rebellious 1950s youth culture. Rock was loud, rhythmic, and energetic. Even FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the new music "a corrupting influence". Together with events such as the US Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which declared separate but equal to be unconstitutional, the popularity of African American and Caucasian performers in the rock 'n' roll industry would be credited for the younger generation's growing disregard for racism.
In addition to its impact on racial relations, fashion donned by popular youth inspirations as Elvis Presley became more common among younger Americans as well. In 1956, the rising young singer appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and soon held an influence over the youth that was not matched until The Beatles toured America in 1964. The music would be credited for creating the youth subculture which spawned the historic generation gap between the baby boomers and the GI Generation.
In addition to success achieved by 1950s African American rock 'n' roll singers such as Little Richard, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, the success of African American musicians would become more recognized among white Americans through the creation of the Motown Records. Founded in Detroit, Michigan by songwriter Berry Gordy in 1959, the record company was responsible for establishing the careers of popular African American singers such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, the Four Tops, and biggest of all, The Supremes. During the 1960s, Motown would see more success than any other independent music label.
Between the late 1950s and early 1960s, a group of rebellious young artists known as the Beat Generation were gaining national attention. Originating in New York City's Greenwich Village and West Village in the late 1940s, the young artists in the movement expressed their dissatisfaction towards what they viewed as American conformity and middle-class satisfaction through literature and other forms of art. Frequenting coffeehouses and donning berets, bongos and sunglasses, the young artists described themselves as "beatniks" and often used the words "beat" and "beatific" during conservations. The most prominent Beatniks were novelist Jack Kerouac (who originally coined the term "beat generation" in 1951) and poet Allen Ginsberg; one of Kerouac's classmates at Colombia University, Ginsberg left New York and migrated to San Francisco, where he published his 1955 poem "Howl" and gained local prominence in the local culture scene. Ginsberg's poem "Howl" and Kerouac's novel On The Road best exemplified the Beatnik's desire to escape from traditional America. In On the Road, which was originally written in 1951 but was not published until 1957, a noted exchange between the two lead characters suggested this desire: "Where are you going, man? "I don't know, but we gotta go."
Though the Beat Generation lost ground by the early 1960s, their writings would influence many of the young baby boomers. Their theme also provided inspiration for a wide range of artists during the 1960s as well. The beatniks would later be regarded as the predecessors of the hippies. Many of the original Beats remained active participants, notably Allen Ginsberg, who became a fixture of the anti-war movement and one of the lead founders of the counterculture lifestyle that developed in his native San Francisco in 1967. Though at first sympathetic to hippie movement, Jack Kerouac broke with Ginsberg in 1968 and criticized the 1960s politically radical protest movements as an excuse to be "spiteful".
Unlike their parents who were scarred from the social-economic hardships of the Great Depression and the deep sacrifices of World War II, the Baby Boomers were characterized with risk-taking enthusiasm and cocky self-assurance. Aided by the benefits of the GI Bill, many World War II veterans who hoped to find independence from the stress of the cities and seek better locations to raise families were able to move into new suburban homes with better living conditions. By the early 1960s, 3 out of 4 young American students graduated from college admissions soared. In contrast, less than half of all Americans were able to make to high school graduation as late as 1940. By achieving greater success in education, a vast share of the boomers were able to earn higher levels of income then their parents and immersed in their own youth culture, outside of the demand of full-time jobs and family responsibilities, longer than any group of young people the world had ever seen. Wealthier than any generation before them, and raised by parents who had an unprecedented amount of disposable income, several young boomers were able to live quite lavishly.
The boomers would become the first generation to be raised on television. Network broadcasts began in 1947, and by 1960 almost 90% of American households had owned a television set. Barbie dolls, which were introduced in the late 1950s and advertised on children's television, became the constant companion of tens of millions of baby boom girls. Moreover the postwar introduction of inexpensive vinyl records and cheap hi-fi created a massive music industry geared towards younger people.
In 1953, Chicago resident Hugh Hefner founded Playboy, a magazine which aimed to target males between the ages of 21 and 45. Featuring cartoons, interviews, short fiction, Hefner "Playboy Philosophy" and - most crucially - half-naked female "Playmates" posing provocatively, the magazine became immensely successful. In 1960, Hefner decided to expand his enterprise and opened the first Playboy Club in Chicago. The private clubs, which expanded in numbers throughout the 1960s, offered relaxation for their members, who were waited on by Playboy Bunnies. Hefner's influence would represent a growing change in America's attitude towards sex.
In addition to the rise of magazines such as Playboy, the changing attitude towards sex would also be shown in films and literature as well. On November 22, 1960, a British jury agreed that D.H. Lawrence's controversial novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was not obscene or detrimental to public morals. The next day, publisher Penguin Books distributed 200,000 copies of the complete version to great success. Similar cases in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s helped usher in a new era of literacy, freedom and sexual liberation. Director Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film adaption of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita raised eyebrows for exploring the controversial topic of pubescent female sexuality, especially since the title character, a young "nymphet" whose age was raised from 12 in the novel to 15 for the film, was involved in a sexual relationship with a middle-aged man. Although the film did not contain explicit sex scenes, the content and acting were very suggestive and Lolita's box office success was another early sign of the changing attitudes towards sexual behavior.
In 1960, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy became the Democrat Party's Presidential nominee and hoped to make history by becoming the nation's first Catholic President. Throughout much of 1960 campaign, Kennedy faced anti-Catholic sentiment that had been long endured by much of America's Protestant majority. In addition to his Catholic background, Kennedy gained further influence among younger Americans in October 1960 when he and his brother Robert F. Kennedy persuaded a judge in Atlanta, Georgia to scrap a bogus traffic charge against lead civil rights activist Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In November 1960, Senator Kennedy would win the Presidency after pulling off a close election victory against Vice President Richard M. Nixon. On January 20, 1961, Kennedy delivered his Inaugural Address and declared that "the torch has been passed to a new generation." These words would represent the growing influence which the pro-civil rights younger generation would hold over American society.
The support that was displayed among younger Americans towards Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would also reflect a growing rift between the older and younger Americans. After African American Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 for refusing to comply with the legal requirement to sit in the back of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the young Reverend called for a bus boycott which integrated the city's passenger buses the following year. This action won King national attention and was regarded as the first major victory of moderation for the modern civil rights movement. Determined to weaken the influence of white supremacists who were unleashing violent attacks towards civil rights workers, King argued for nonviolence and displayed this action by calling on African Americans to conduct sit-ins at segregated public accommodations.
Despite the growing generational rift over choices of music and fashion, as well as the stance towards increasing civil rights, the older generation's top goal of bringing down the Soviet Union temporarily spread more towards the younger generation in the wake of Fidel Castro's rise to power in the nearby island nation of Cuba and the escalation of the space race. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to both fly in space and orbit the earth at the same time. Earlier in the year, the newly elected President Kennedy escalated funding for the 1959-created Project Mercury and hoped to ensure that the program's seven astronauts would help the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) achieve its goals of orbiting humans into space, testing human ability to function in space, and recovering spacecraft and pilots. On May 5, 1961, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space after blasting off in a Redstone MR 7 rocket that he named Freedom 7; Shepard entered space for 15 minutes and 28 seconds in suborbital flight before his spacecraft splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean. Nine months later, Mercury astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, doing so three times; Glenn spend 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds in the cramped quarters of Friendship 7. From 1961 to 1963, six of Project Mercury's seven astronauts achieved NASA goals and enthusiasm for Kennedy's proposed "New Frontier" agenda - which included a top goal of having an American astronaut become the first man on the moon - was now more widespread after many Americans witnessed their country become on par with the Soviet Union in the space race.
On January 1, 1959, a group of revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro toppled the US-backed regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Playing on the failures a 60-year US influence had achieved in developing the country, Castro gained popularity among his countrymen by thumbing his nose at US interests. On January 6, 1961 Castro, who had been struggling to build his regime and was denied aid by the Eisenhower Administration for both his continuing criticism of the United States and continuing nationalization of US interests in the country, met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and made clear that the developing relationship between the two countries was now cemented. In response, the Kennedy Administration allowed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to proceed with the Bay of Pigs Invasion which had been planned by the Eisenhower Administration since 1960. On April 17, 1961, the invasion commenced when a force of over 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded the island nation with hopes that several other Cubans would join their cause. Two days later, however, over 1,100 of the exiles were captured and the invasion was declared a failure and blame was focused towards the CIA for failing to properly train the exiles in the fields of both combat and stealth and for overestimating the number Cubans within the country who would join their uprising. In the aftermath, Castro's hold over Cuba was strengthened, Allen Dulles-a holdover from the Eisenhower Administration- resigned as CIA Director and Kennedy's ability to lead America against Soviet aggression was put into serious doubt.
In May 1961, African American civil rights activist James L. Farmer, Jr., the President of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) who had organized a fair share of the sit-ins King endorsed, followed King's lead and organized much of the integrated "Freedom Rides" which occurred throughout the summer of 1961. Protesting the Interstate Commerce Commission's (ICC) failure to enforce its 1955 Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company ruling, which took the Brown ruling beyond schools and held that it was unconstitutional to enforce segregation on either interstate buses or areas within interstate bus terminals, Farmer and other activists organized an integrated group of Freedom Riders and sought to travel on integrated buses and use bathrooms and other areas of bus terminals in Southern states which that were legally required for the opposite races. Upon entering the southern states, many of the riders were brutally beaten by white supremacists. On May 19, shortly after the rides began, an angry white mob surrounded a Montgomery church where King was speaking and forced the reverend and his audience remain in the until federal forces arrived the following day and restrained the mob. The violence that was displayed during the Freedom Rides caused outrage among younger Americans and forced the Kennedy Administration to take the issue of civil rights into greater consideration. On November 1, 1961, the goal sought by riders was achieved when the ICC announced they would enforce the Sarah Keys ruling.
In October 1962, animosity and fear towards the Castro regime was solidified after it was revealed that the Cuban dictator allowed the Soviet Union to stockpile nuclear missiles on Cuban soil. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev placed the missiles in Cuba with the hopes of accomplishing three objectives: ensuring that the CIA would cease operations against the Castro regime; forcing the US to withdraw stockpiles of nuclear missiles which were being expanded in US military facilities within the Soviet Union's neighboring nation of Turkey; and compensate for America's growing advantage in the nuclear arms race. Led by Air Force General Curtis LeMay, the Joint Chiefs of Staff encouraged the President to take direct military action against Cuba and feared that not doing so would enhance the Soviet's image and allow the Khrushchev regime to easily take the pro-American city-state of West Berlin which was landlocked within the Soviet satellite state of East Germany. However, the influential US Undersecretary of State George Ball encouraged the President to reject LeMay's request and argued that direct military action against the Castro regime would boost Soviet morale and dramatically increase the chances of World War III. Taking a compromise position, President Kennedy agreed to enforce a naval blockade against Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from reaching the island nation and only us military force if any Soviet ship tried to forcefully break the blockade. Further, the United States would use the blockade as leverage and convince the Soviets to stop their buildup and withdraw missiles that were already sited in Cuba.
Despite receiving photographic evidence of the buildup on October 15, the Kennedy administration decided to keep this information private until deciding what course of action he would take against the Castro regime. On October 22, President Kennedy appeared on television and announced to an estimated 100 million viewers (the largest audience to watch a Presidential address up to that point) that he received photographic evidence of a nuclear missile buildup in Cuba and already undertaken an air and sea "quarantine" to increase pressure on the Soviets to remove the missiles. The overwhelming majority of Americans supported their young President with both optimism and fear, for the long awaited threat of a nuclear war was now close to coming true. Since the 1950s, young Americans had undergone duck and cover drills while in school and older Americans had been finding ways to prepare to nuclear war as well. The day after Kennedy's announcement, Castro delivered a fiery televised address to the Cuba population in which he denied the existence of nuclear missile in his native soil and accused the Kennedy Administration of fabricating the allegation to assert dominance over the island nation. The same day, the Soviet UN Ambassador Valerian Zorin also denied the existence of the missiles and warned that Kennedy was risking the chance of a nuclear war with his decision to continue the blockade.
On October 25, Kennedy responded by stating that while the naval blockade would continue, he would also allow US participation in a meeting which was held among United Nations (UN) Security Council representatives later in the day to discuss the matter. During this meeting, American UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson produced the photographs of the missiles before the entire UN Security Council. Soviet credibility was further damaged when Zorin continuously dodged requests from Stevenson to respond to the allegations about the missiles. On October 26, the blockade proved successful when Khrushchev accepted Kennedy's demands to dismantle the missile sites and never again. In exchange, Kennedy agreed to never invade Cuba and would remove the nuclear missiles from Turkey.
Despite objections from Castro, a UN inspection team arrived in Cuba on November 2. On November 12, the last of the missile sites had been dismantled and the missile were shipped back to the Soviet Union. On November 20, the blockade officially ended when Khrushchev announced that all . On December 24, an additional propaganda victory was reward to President when the last of the 1,100 Bay of Pigs prisoners arrived in Miami, Florida. With the fear of World War III that ensued during the crisis, a staunch anti-Communist stance was now shared among both generations for a brief period of time. Kennedy's hold on the youth was strengthened further as well.
In April 1963, King took his nonviolence message further by holding a protest in Birmingham, Alabama, which the Reverend described to President Kennedy as "by far the worse city in race relations in the United States." Expecting to be met with violence, King and the protestors sought to demonstrate that only legislative action at the federal level could help them achieve their goals of enforcing civil rights. During the protests, the racist Birmingham police commissioner Bull Connor ordered Birmingham police to unleash attack dogs and soak the protesters with water blasts "powerful enough to snap bones." The event caused national outrage, especially among younger Americans, and Kennedy soon responded to the growing pressure for civil rights legislation by making a televised address where he called for the passage of a landmark civil rights legislation which would enforce the integration of education, voting, jobs and public accommodations. Hoping to advance the President's proposed legislation, King and other civil right leaders, most notably A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, organized the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963; the event was broadcast live on all three national television networks (CBS, ABC and NBC) and would be attended by an estimated 250,000 Americans. At the event, King delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, which, according polls, resulted in the spread of support for civil rights legislation among the vast majority of Americans.
On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy, who was riding in an open car in Dallas, Texas, was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a former US marine who became a Communist sympathizer and had temporarily resided in the Soviet republic of Russia. Wielding a rifle, Oswald fired three shots at the president's motorcade from an upstairs room in the Texas School Book Depository where he had been working at the time. Shortly after Oswald was captured, he spoke before the press and claimed "I'm just a patsy." This claim was taken more seriously after Oswald was shot and killed by mobster Jack Ruby while leaving the Dallas Municipal Building on November 24. Soon afterwards, many in younger generation believed popular conspiracy theories that Oswald might have been hired to kill Kennedy by the mafia, which the late President and his brother US Attorney General Robert Kennedy were cracking down on, and were also open to the possibility that either Fidel Castro or the CIA may have hired Oswald as well; shortly before his death, the late President, who was openly dissatisfied with the CIA's continuing assassination program, sought to reorganize the agency. The imprisoned Ruby would die of cancer in 1967 and left the question about why he killed Oswald unanswered.
In 1964, the Warren Commission led by the US Supreme Court's Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that Oswald was likely a lone assassin. Hoping to find out for themselves, the Kennedy family hired investigative author William Manchester to put together a detailed, exhaustive reconstruction of the days before and after the assassination. In 1967, Manchester published the findings of his investigation in his book The Death of a President and concluded that Oswald acted alone. Though the Kennedy family was satisfied with Manchester's findings, millions of Americans still believed that Oswald did not act alone. With the uncertainty over who carried out the assassination, distrust in government was now growing further among younger Americans.
In February 1964, the generation gap that was already showing in the interests of both music and fashion would accelerate further when the British rock band The Beatles toured America. Composing of lead vocal John Lennon, lead vocal Paul McCartney, lead guitarist George Harrison and drummer Ringo Starr, the young British band created a sensation known as Beatlemania which forever transformed the culture identity held by the young boomers in the Western World. In contrast to an appearance made by Elvis Presley in 1956, the Beatles influence over America's youth exploded watched the "Fab Four" perform on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, two day after arriving at the newly christened John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The episode was watched by an estimated 72 million Americans. To many older Americans, The Beatles were not welcome due to their antic style of performance, mod style of dressing and hard beat of their music. The inability of the older generation to restrain the younger generation's admiration for the Fab Four was shown during an unsuccessful attempt to block a concert that was held in Detroit during their landmark 1964 American tour.
During the year 1964, The Beatles had achieved levels of success not even longtime youth sensation Elvis Presley could match. During the year 1966, Lennon claimed "Christianity will go...We're more popular than Jesus now." This claim was afterwards taken quite seriously. Seeing the success The Beatles achieved in America, many other British musicians would also successfully tour the country in what was known as the British Invasion.
Despite their hold over America's youth, opposition to the Vietnam War, and drug addictions which were later acknowledged, The Beatles were not considered to be chief figures in the development of either the anti-war or counterculture movements. However, The Beatles would eventually abandon their "cute and cuddy" imagine and publicly embrace the acid rock music genre which fueled the counterculture lifestyle with the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band on June 1, 1967. While singer Scott McKenzie's 1967 hit San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) would be regarded as the most influential song in the counterculture movement, songs in the 1967 Beatles album such When I'm 64 and She's Leaving Home would hold arguably the most influence over the counterculture movement's female participants.
On August 27, 1967, the Fab Four's unity was brought into turmoil as the death of manager Brian Epstein created a leadership void and soon resulted in an acceleration of creativity disputes. In 1969, Lennon, who was no longer on speaking terms with McCartney, decided to leave the band to pursue his own music career with his newly married wife Yoko Ono Unable to find a replacement for Lennon, the band broke up and recorded their last album, Abbey Road. The next year, Let It Be, which was mostly recorded before Abbey Road, would be the final album the band would release. While the four maintained separate music careers, the historic band never reunited and Lennon was later murdered on December 9, 1980.
The Civil Rights Movement, the War on Poverty, the spread of college activist organizations, the War in Southeast Asia and the rise of the counterculture and hippies during the mid and late 1960s, diverging opinions about the military draft and US combat operations in Vietnam, as well as the use of drugs were significant topics of the generation gap of this era. Free Speech Movement activist Jack Weinberg claimed during a 1965 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that students in the movement "don't trust anyone over the age of thirty." Soon afterwards, Weinberg's phrase spread in media outlets across the country and became widely accepted among college students nationwide, though it was also accepted around this time that the main source of the generation divide was centered around the issues of civil rights, poverty and student rights.
During the early days of the Vietnam War in 1965, a vast majority of the Castro-fearing younger Americans showed great support for military intervention in Vietnam. During the years 1966 and 1967, however, opposition to the war became widespread among younger Americans as the military draft escalated and more American civilians entered a war which the overall purpose of the war was still made unclear to the growing number of youth skeptics; many had already developed following the assassination of President Kennedy. In 1971, two years after newly elected President Richard M. Nixon de-escalated the number of US war participants and issue freeze on the US military draft were further enraged when the release of the Pentagon Papers unveiled a 1965 memo in which US Defense Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who was considered to be the war's chief architect, claimed that 70% of the reason the US was involved in the war was "to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat" while only 10% was the reason was to help the South Vietnamese "enjoy a...freer way of life." To many, this contradicted what US President Lyndon Johnson- the former Vice President who succeeded Kennedy-, had often told the public.
Following the violence which occurred during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer, the student rights movements exploded. At the University of Berkeley, California, leftist students lead by Mario Savio protested the teaching faculty's decision to limit their right to advocate for civil causes on campus and formed the Free Speech Movement (FSM) to enforce their demand for more speaking rights. Soon after the rise of the FSM, similar student activist organizations-such as the University of Michigan's leftist Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the right wing Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), and the prominent pro-civil rights Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) would see a dramatic rise in membership as well.
With help from the Higher Education Act of 1965, enrollment into higher education increased significantly and the young student rights advocates had largely achieved their goals for greater campus political advocacy rights. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which added to the success of Civil Rights Act of 1964 and fulfilled the voting right goals of the Freedom Summer, the main focus of student advocacy shifted from civil rights-which soon became divided between the growing Black Power separatist movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s continued push for housing integration- and more towards the anti-war movement. Seeking to build on his success, Savio sought to gain more speaking rights beyond advocacy and soon lost influence among his Berkeley peers. With division greatly growing within the FSM, Savio resigned in April 1965 and group soon dissolved. Many former FSM members, however, would soon unite behind campus advocate Jerry Rubin and form the Vietnam Day Committee (VDC). Along with poet Allen Ginsberg and psychologist Timothy Leary, Rubin would be regarded as one of the most influential figures among America's youth during the years of the anti-war demonstrations.
Though not allowed to participate in either the military draft or military combat action, women of this generation would sympathize with the objectives of the Women Strike for Peace organization and would join the male youth in anti-war protests. By 1967, female objection to the Vietnam war would dramatically increase among women in both generations, especially those who had male relatives who were drafted into combat, and several would unite in their efforts to stop the draft escalation by joining Women Strike for Peace protests. In addition to their support for several of the ideas held by many men of their generation, several young women also sympathized with feminist literature and rejected the traditional belief that women should not seek careers in employment and should instead focus on getting married, finding careers as housewife mothers and dedicate their life to managing their family's home. Many younger women also opposed the older generation's objections to abortion and federally funded day cares. Despite the rise of anti-war counterculture movement, a poll taken at the end of 1967 showed that a sizable chuck American pacifists thought it was not helping their cause. Though many in the youth sided with Martin Luther King Jr.'s argument that war spending was diverting efforts from the goal of ending poverty, many would also acknowledge at the end of 1967 that Johnson's Great Society policies were helping to achieve this goal as well. Despite his growing disapproval ratings, it was also accepted at the end of 1967 that Johnson would still easily win re-election and regain popularity when he started campaigning. On January 30, 1968 however, a turning point in Johnson's re-election chances came when arguments that a recent troop surge would soon bring an end to the war were severely discredited when the Tet Offensive broke out. While the American military was eventually able to fend off the attacks, and also inflict heavy losses among the communist opposition, the ability of the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong to launch large scale attacks during the Tet Offensive's long duration only strengthened the growing American opposition for the military draft and further combat operations in Vietnam. With the escalation of the war damaging both his credibility and health, Johnson gave a nationally televised address on March 31 proclaiming that he would not seek re-election.
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Though investigators concluded that small-time criminal James Earl Ray killed King was his sniper, many, including the King family, believed he did not mastermind the assassination. The question authority ideology that was held among many younger Americans was now spreading further.
Attitudes towards traditional marriage customs would start to differ among the older and younger generation as well. As the Vietnam War escalated in late 1960s, many young men and women sympathized with the ideas of the growing New Left movement and opted for free love over marriage, which many younger people worldwide felt was a symbol of the capitalist culture that advocated war. Though originally printed in the Vietnam War's early days in 1965, the slogan "make love, not war" became widely known among younger people worldwide after famous celebrities such as John Lennon and his future wife Yoko Ono used the phrase to denounce traditional culture. An evocative photo of a young couple kissing at the barricades of May 1968 Paris became an overnight icon of popular New Left sentiment. Though opposed to free love, many feminists also opposed the institution of marriage as a symbol of male dominance and pointed out the inequalities of wedding, family life and divorce in their criticism of marriage.
Despite the paycheck and employment rights women gained from the American Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the British Equal Pay Act 1970, feminists in the Western World alleged the biggest inequality of marriage was related to the assumption that women could not receive the same amount of equal pay as their husbands due to their tradition roles as the main providers of domestic work and care for their household. In 1966, US Congresswoman Martha Griffiths, a Republican from Michigan, revealed that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was created to enforce Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and ensure job integration, had received one-third of its complaints from women who alleged they experienced job discrimination based on sex and that the EEOC declined to take action; Title VII outlawed job discrimination based on race, color, sex, creed or national origin. EEOC staffer Frances Cousens acknowledged the accuracy of the report, but also justified the EEOC's actions and stated "Complaints about sex discrimination... diverted attention and resources from the more serious allegations by members of racial, religious, and ethic communities." In retaliation, 28 women led by the influential feminist Betty Friedan launched a major fundraising drive and to form the non-profit National Organization for Women (NOW). Formed in November 1966, the group sought to achieve greater rights for women, especially in the field of employment, and members elected Friedan to be the new organization's first President. In 1967, the group would persuade US President Lyndon Johnson to sign a Presidential Executive Order expanding the scope of Affirmative Action - a US Department of Labor policy enacted by US President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to encourage strong action against employment discrimination based on race, color, creed or national origin - to include employment discrimination based on sex. and another victory was won in 1968 when the EEOC issued revised guidelines on sex discrimination, making it clear that the widespread practice of publishing "help wanted" advertisements that use "male" and "female" column headings- which NOW protested against- classified as a form of sex employment discrimination and thus violated Title VII.
Friedan's 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, which targeted middle class housewives who lived in the American suburbs, would be widely credited with sparking the beginning of the second-wave feminism movement which inhabited the minds of younger women across United States. The main point of Friedan's argument for ending the tradition housewife role centered around her allegation that she was a depressed suburban housewife who dropped out of college at the age of 19 to get married and raise four children; However, it was later acknowledged that Friedan had fabricated many details about her background, as she had graduated from Smith College with a Latin honors degree in psychology in 1942, married her only husband, Carl Friedan, at the age of 26, mothered only three children and had worked as a freelance journalist for various news sources since 1943. Marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted universal voting rights to American women, Friedan, now divorced and no longer President of NOW, organized the Women's Strike for Equality on August 26, 1970 and pushed for women across the country to come out and protest for greater employment opportunities. Despite being centered in New York City- which was regarded as one of the biggest strongholds for NOW and other groups sympathetic to the women's liberation movement such as Redstockings- and drawing approximately 20,000 participants nationwide, which was small in contrast to the large civil rights and anti-war protests, the march would be credited as the moment when the second wave feminist movement reached its peak. Following the event, literature by various feminist activists would spread across the country. In addition to paycheck fairness, feminists also alleged that divorce laws were too weak and that traditional wedding customs, such as having fathers "give the bride away" and recommendations that wives take the last name of their husbands, made weddings unfair to women as well. Despite the rise of anti-marriage journalist Gloria Steinem and other feminist advocates who denounced any suspected form of male chauvinism, the belief that marriage should be abandoned divided women in the younger generation as well. Though a large share of young women were united through the belief that it was necessary to abandon traditional housewife roles, several also did not agree with the feminist belief about marriage. While greater interest in finding work, younger women in the 1960s were also more interested in gaining rights to abortion and greater child care access, though enthusiasm for the expansion of the female workforce would become more of a top priority as the feminist movement accelerated during the 1970s. Though The Feminine Mystique would sell five million copies by 1970, Friedan herself would also lose influence among younger women as members of NOW were divided and were unable to agree on how to push for the group's ultimate goal of winning the signature of a Presidential Executive Order which would require the EEOC to take tougher against job discrimination based solely on sex. Many in NOW, including several of the organization's senior members, eventually turned against Friedan sided with arguments from the group's African American members that the vast number of impoverished racial minorities, whether male or female, were in more need of employment opportunities then the vast number of white housewives who resided in the middle and upper class.
Despite the overwhelming student support for allowing women to protest for popular youth causes, younger college men were less interested in advancing women's rights, arguing that issues such as racism were a bigger problem. It was acknowledged that male chauvinism was widespread among young men in prominent student advocacy groups such as the SDS. Many feminists would use the chauvinistic example of how free love was practiced in the SDS to characterize it as a symbol of male dominance rather than individualist freedom. With opposition growing among younger women, the practice of free love would virtually phase out during the 1970s and 1980s. Despite free love's decline, many feminists and gay liberation activists would still oppose traditional marriage.
Despite differences, however, many in the younger and older generations would eventually find common ground on certain issues, such as the growing acceptance among both older and younger women towards supporting both the end of US intervention in Vietnam and the use of birth control pills. Shortly after the Food and Drug Administration legalized the first such pill in 1960, it was documented that over half-a-million women had purchased these pills in the first year alone and by 1964, birth control pills would be credited for playing a major part in ceasing the post-World War II baby boom period. In the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled that laws depriving married women of birth control pills violated their constitutional right to privacy and thus could not be legally enforced. Soon afterwards, birth control pills became a common household product and following the 1972 Eisenstadt v. Baird ruling, the right to use birth control pills would also be allowed among the ever-growing number of unmarried American women as well. On November 1, 1968, film censorship weakened when the Motion Picture Association of America replaced the Hays Code with the motion picture rating system. By this time, the generation gap towards the acceptance of sexual liberation had dramatically decreased and many graying adults enthusiastically adopted the youth-centered sexual mores.
During the mid-1960s, the divided opinion between older and younger Americans over the issues of civil rights, women's rights, poverty, student rights and the Vietnam War spread to issues such as the legalization of "soft drugs" such as LSD and Marijuana. Sympathizing with the rhetoric of luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, many younger Americans argued that since it was legal to drink alcohol, it should also be legal to smoke less addictive marijuana; marijuana was outlawed nationwide under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. In 1969, the FBI reported that between the years 1966 and 1968, the number of arrests for marijuana possession, which had been outlawed throughout the United States under Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, had increased by 98%. Despite acknowledgement that drug use was greatly growing among America's youth during the late 1960s, surveys have suggested that only as much as 4% of the American population had ever smoked marijuana by 1969. By 1972, however, that number would increase to 12%. That number would then double by 1977.
Despite opposition from the older generation, homosexuality would also become more greatly accepted among the younger generation as well. The popularity of Beatnik poet Allen Ginsburg, who was very open about his homosexuality, would extoll a new mood of gay defiance. On June 27, 1969, a turning point for gay rights came when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a mob-run bar in Manhattan's West Village that was often frequented by LGBTs. Because the raid occurred on the day Judy Garland - a renowned actress/singer who became an icon in the gay community due to her openly depressing life - was buried in New York City, the place was jam packed with LGBTs who were in a downbeat and angry mood. During this time, people who openly hinted in public that they were of the LGBT community were often denied services at regular bars frequently by the general population and were forced to find drinks at cheaper, seedier bars which were vulnerable to extorted protection payments from mafia organizations. Following the seizure of the bar, several homosexuals in the area rioted over the next days and demanded the right to be served at legitimate bars free of mob extortion. In the aftermath of the Stonewall riots, homosexuals took over many mob-run bars and nightclubs across the country, hence triggering the rise of the Gay Liberation Front which held great influence during the 1970s.
In 1965, Ginsburg famously coined the popular anti-war slogan "flower power" and argued that wearing flowers was the perfect alternative to military aggression. By the end of 1967, the phrase led the rise of the counterculture movement's flower children who donned flower attire. Despite the disdain that many in the older generation had for the counterculture movement, the flower children's pro-environment following a series of ecological catastrophes in 1969. Between January and February 1969, an off-shore Union oil rig line ruptured near Santa Barbara, California, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil that befouled 40 miles California's coastline and killed thousands of seabirds and other aquatic creatures. A few months later, in Cleveland, Ohio, people were shocked when officials warned that the sludge brown water in the Cuyahoga River was so coated with chemical toxins and petroleum products; on June 22, a fire would break out in the river. Moreover, scientists declared Lake Erie a "dying sinkhole because it was being polluted daily with 11 million pounds of clorides and sulfates.
In the 1962 bestseller Silent Spring, former US Fish and Wildlife biologist Rachael Carson warned that the use of the chemical pesticide DDT and other "elixirs of death" would produce destructive effects towards the environment. In 1969, Carlson's warning attracted greater public attention when scientists reported that DDT and other insecticides were being found at dangerous in mothers' breast milk. Worst yet, biologist Paul Ehrlich declared in his bestselling book The Population Bomb that the world's burgeoning population would soon devour all of the Earth's natural resources. As these events unfolded, anti-pollution advocacy groups exploded in size. In response, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson encouraged anti-war college students who felt that flowers symbolized peace to organize a teach-in that would increase public awareness. This "teach-in" was organized into the first official Earth Day, which was held on April 22, 1970.
In 1970, Nixon responded to the growing calls for environmental reform by creating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and strengthening President Johnson's anti-pollution laws. DDT was also officially outlawed by the US Government in 1972, eight years after Carson's death. Aside from the civil rights movement, the creation of EPA and its success in revitalizing much of America's natural environment would be regarded as one of the most successful accomplishments brought by the younger generation's student advocacy.
Ginsberg was also a strong advocate of Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), a recreational drug which, by the early 1960s, was prescribed by many psychiatrists to treat various forms of neurosis. In the early days of his adulthood, Ginsberg struggled with his homosexuality and middle class aspirations until he managed to liberate his frustration through his literature. The Beatnik poet became well-known among America's youth due to his high-profile advocacy for both the end of the Vietnam War and lifting the federal ban on LSD. Ginsberg's advocacy for these causes helped plant the seeds for the counterculture movement which developed in his native San Francisco in 1967.
Dr Timothy Leary became infatuated with LSD while a serving as a scientist at Harvard University. In 1963, Leary's unorthodox methods-such as dispensing LSD to his students as part of his experiments- cost him his job at Harvard. After leaving the University, Leary set up his own privately funded institute in upstate New York and formed the infamous League of Spiritual Discovery. The outspoken psychologist famously encouraged Americans to "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" and gained recognition as the nation's most influential advocate of LSD, which soon became the lifeline of the psychedelic youth culture that rejected mainstream society. The drug inspired the music of numerous artists from the Byrds (Eight Miles High) to The Beatles the new "Acid rock" became a popular music genre among the younger generation. Despite its medical value, it was soon accepted that LSD had negative side effects, most notably "bad trips," and was now becoming used more for recreational proposes than for medical treatment. In October 1966, after Life Magazine revealed that an estimated one million doses of LSD had been consumed, the US government officially made the drug illegal. In response to criminalization of LSD, Ginsberg and other activists organized the Human Be-In festival, which took place on January 14, 1967 in San Francisco, California's Haight-Ashbury district and took aim at the problems much of younger America thought was wrong with the traditional American culture. The same year, Leary, who spoke at the Human Be-In festival, protested the government's decision by taking his League of Spiritual Discovery on the road and promoted his views at college campuses across the country. Though small in size, the event in Haight-Ashbury, along with Leary's propaganda, inspired the partaking of similar festivals at numerous college campuses throughout the year 1967. By mid-1967, Acid rock-which was starting to dominate much of the nation's FM radio stations in wake of the pro-LSD college festivals- had become arguably the most popular music genre in America. From June 16 to June 18, an estimated 50,000 to 90,000 people gathered to attend the Monterey Pop Festival, Held in Monterey, California, which is located a little less than 20 miles south of San Francisco, the event sought to integrate acid rock and mainstream rock 'n' roll with performances from various artists of each genre. With the success of the San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair) and the media attention to that was given to events such as the Monterey Pop festival, many rebellious young Americans across the country were encouraged to attend the infamous Summer of Love festival which was held in Haight-Ashbury throughout the summer of 1967. With the success Monterrey Pop Festival and The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band, many music historians regarded 1967 to be the year when rock and roll music was at its peak. Acid rock and other lifestyles which were promoted during the infamous festival would be credited for giving birth to the controversial counterculture movement. Born mostly into white, suburban households, the young "hippies" who followed the new movement shunned the older generation for supporting the Vietnam War, the military draft, and the so-called "Amerika" school of thought that sympathized with jingoism and refused to consider questioning authority.
The cover of Mad Magazine No. 129 by artist Norman Mingo, dated September 1969, showed a split Alfred E. Neuman, the "old" Alfred on the left wearing a "My Country: Right or Wrong" lapel button, and the "young" long-haired Alfred on the right with a "Make Love Not War" button, and the cover statement "MAD Widens the Generation Gap."
The popular 1970s TV situation comedy All in the Family focused on the generation gap. In the program, a conservative-minded middle-aged man, Archie Bunker, repeatedly quarrels with his staunchly liberal daughter and son-in-law.
On July 16, 1969, pro-American unity among the younger and older generations was briefly restored when the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to land on the moon. By witnessing the two plant the American flag on the moon, the Western world was astonished. In spite of the moon landing, deep divisions between still remained between the older and younger generation due to in most part the differing views over the war on poverty, the passage of further civil rights legislation, environment activism and the Vietnam War. Despite the vast media coverage that was given to the anti-war protests and the counterculture lifestyle, it was also accepted that the majority of younger Americans did not support either and were part of a non-protesting "silent majority" who wanted mainly just Socioeconomic stability throughout the country and an honorable peace settlement to end the Vietnam War. The term was popularized (though not first used) by U.S. President Richard Nixon in a November 3, 1969, speech in which he said, "And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support." A Gallup poll conducted showed that 68% of Americans supported Nixon's view.
The growing distrust the younger generation had towards sources of authority was also solidified following the Watergate Scandal. The scandal occurred after a group of "plumbers" were caught after they broke into the Democrat National Committee's (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C. to repair telephone wires which had been illegally bugged. Further investigations linked the burglary and the DNC wiretapping to US President Richard Nixon and several people in his administration. The scandal resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction, and incarceration of 43 people, dozens of whom were Nixon's top administration officials. After the US Supreme Court ordered Nixon to surrender audio tapes which proved his role in masterminding the burglary and wiretapping, the embattled President resigned, though he would avoid trial by receiving a pardon from his successor Gerald Ford. As a result of the Watergate Scandal, the question authority mantra remained embedded in younger adults even as the generation gap began to close by the late 1970s.
Despite maintaining firm support the expansion of civil rights and continued skepticism towards authority, the optimism and widespread enthusiasm for change which had fueled much of the baby boomer population during the mid 1960s and early 1970s faded at a rapid pace as attention diverted more towards the economic woes which were brought during the 1973-1983 stagnation period. By the early 1970s, student protests died down in due to the 1971 passage of the 26th Amendment(which fulfilled the objective of the "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote" philosophy held by many younger Americans and allowed any American citizen who was at least 18 years of age or older to vote in any federal, state or local election within US boundary lines), President Nixon’s de-escalation of the war, the economic downturn, and disillusionment with the powerlessness of the antiwar movement. By 1978, the economic pain felt by the stagnation years had virtually wiped out the cocky optimism among America's youth which had resulted from the now defunct post-World War II economic boom and the goal of ending poverty - which served as one of the most important youth ambitions during the 1960s - had become widely non-existent to non-impoverished boomers as economic interests shifted away from fueling anti-poverty programs through taxing and spending and enhanced government regulations and more towards tax deductions, deregulation and spending cuts during the late 1970s. During the 1980s, both marijuana and LSD use declined rapidly and would not rebound to the levels seen in their upswing years. During the Reagan years, a more conservative ideology began to replace counterculture among several boomers.
Distinguishing generation gaps
There are several ways to make distinctions between generations. For example, names are given to major groups (Baby Boomers, Gen X, etc.) and each generation sets its own trends and has its own cultural impact.
Generations can be distinguished by the differences in their language use. The generation gap has created a parallel gap in language that can be difficult to communicate across. This issue is one visible throughout society, creating complications within day to day communication at home, in the work place, and within schools. As new generations seek to define themselves as something apart from the old, they adopt new lingo and slang, allowing a generation to create a sense of division from the previous one. This is a visible gap between generations we see every day. “Man's most important symbol is his language and through this language he defines his reality.”
Slang is an ever changing set of colloquial words and phrases that speakers use to establish or reinforce social identity or cohesiveness within a group or with a trend in society at large. As each successive generation of society struggles to establish its own unique identity among its predecessors it can be determined that generational gaps provide a large influence over the continual change and adaptation of slang. As slang is often regarded as an ephemeral dialect, a constant supply of new words is required to meet the demands of the rapid change in characteristics. And while most slang terms maintain a fairly brief duration of popularity, slang provides a quick and readily available vernacular screen to establish and maintain generational gaps in a societal context.
Every generation develops new slang, but with the development of technology, understanding gaps have widened between the older and younger generations. "The term 'communication skills,' for example, might mean formal writing and speaking abilities to an older worker. But it might mean e-mail and instant-messenger savvy to a twenty something." People often have private conversations in secret in a crowded room in today’s age due to the advances of cellular phones and text messaging. Among “texters” a form of slang or texting lingo has developed, often keeping those not as tech savvy out of the loop. “Children increasingly rely on personal technological devices like cell phones to define themselves and create social circles apart from their families, changing the way they communicate with their parents. Cell phones, instant messaging, e-mail and the like have encouraged younger users to create their own inventive, quirky and very private written language. That has given them the opportunity to essentially hide in plain sight. They are more connected than ever, but also far more independent. Text messaging, in particular, has perhaps become this generation’s version of pig Latin."
While in the case with language skills such as shorthand, a system of stenography popular during the twentieth century, technological innovations occurring between generations have made these skills obsolete. Older generations used shorthand to be able to take notes and write faster using abbreviated symbols, rather than having to write each word. However, with new technology and keyboards, newer generations no longer need these older communication skills, like Gregg shorthand. Although over 20 years ago, language skills such as shorthand classes were taught in many high schools, now students have rarely heard of or even seen forms like shorthand.
Another phenomenon within language that works to define a generational gap occurs within families in which different generations speak different primary languages. In order to find a means to communicate within the household environment, many have taken up the practice of language brokering, which refers to the “interpretation and translation performed in everyday situations by bilinguals who have had no special training”. In immigrant families where the first generation speaks primarily in their native tongue, the second generation primarily in the language of the country in which they now live while still retaining fluency in their parent’s dominant language, and the third generation primarily in the language of the country they were born in while retaining little to no conversational language in their grandparent’s native tongue, the second generation family members serve as interpreters not only to outside persons, but within the household, further propelling generational differences and divisions by means of linguistic communication.
Furthermore, in some immigrant families and communities, language brokering is also used to integrate children into family endeavors and into civil society. Child integration has become very important to form linkages between new immigrant communities and the predominant culture and new forms of bureaucratic systems. In addition, it also serves towards child development by learning and pitching in.
- Achievement gap
- Digital divide
- Income gap
- Inter-generational contract
- Intergenerational equity
- List of Generations
- Marriage gap
- Moral panic
- Student activism
- Student voice
- Transgenerational design
- Youth activism
- Youth voice
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