At first, I was insulted. (I also didn't care for the unnecessary dig at Sarah Palin. Somehow, it's always Democrats like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama who are the smart ones, while Republicans, like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Sarah Palin are simpletons.) I think he overemphasized the importance of test scores and college graduation levels as a measure of intelligence.
But, frankly, as a generation, our parents kind of dropped the ball. I think a lot of them were seduced by the lure of the Seventies "freedoms" in areas of sex, drugs, and the like. They let their kids get away with way too much. Remember the smoking areas that our parents and school officials set aside for high school kids who wanted to smoke. Their attitude was that the kids were going to smoke anyway, so let's get it out in the open. (See the Wolf Print articles and my earlier comments on the 70's smoking area debate.) Basically, parents gave up on us because they bought into the notions espoused by the cultural leaders of the day. Certainly, not all parents bought into this, but we have to admit that enough did for it to have an impact on our birth cohort.
But looking a little closer at Howe's piece caused me to largely agree with him. I like his concluding paragraphs which demonstrate that we have learned from our parents failures and will seek to lead our own children to great success.
Most early Xers know the score. Graduating (or not) from school in the early 1980s, they saw themselves billboarded as a bad example by blue-ribbon commissions eager to reform the system for the next generation, the Millennials. Angling for promotions in the early 1990s, they got busy with self-help guides (yes, those "For Dummies" books) to learn all the subjects they were never taught the first time around. And today, as midlife parents, they have become ultra-protective of their own teenage kids and ultra-demanding of their kids' schools, as if to make double-certain it won't happen again.
Does America need to worry that this group is taking over as our national leaders? Probably not. Early Xers have certain strengths that many more learned people lack: They're practical and resilient, they handle risk well, and they know how to improvise when even the experts don't know the answer. As the global economy craters, they won't keep leafing through a textbook. They may be a little rough around the edges, but their style usually gets the job done.
Just don't tell the early Xers that today's youth are the dumbest generation. Not only is that jibe factually untrue, it also calls into question all the family sacrifices the early Xers are now making on behalf of these youth. Let Generation Jones keep the "dumbest" label. They know it fits, and they're tough enough to take it.
Frankly, I'm proud to be from a group that is resilient and knows how to improvise rather than the one that posted the highest SAT scores!