There have been a series of articles, including one in the Atlantic, suggesting that a new generation is on the horizon.
Gen Z is being passed by a new generation, and the label ring ascribed to them is Generation Alpha. This happens when we define generations based on birth year.
I have another name for this new generation but before turning to that, I want to point out the generation naming is risky business.
We need to be cautious about homogenizing individuals, failing to recognize and acknowledge the myriad of difference within a generation — gender, ethnicity, race, culture, sociology-economic status, religion, home of origin among other variables. That said, the right definition — carefully crafted — has benefits in terms of more than marketing or political fodder; naming can be tied to framing — in all its meaning. In framing, we recognize and value and identify certain critical characteristics.
It is for this reason that I have named a generation of students of all ages enrolled in school at all levels since 2001 through today and beyond (all ages of enrolled students from early childhood through adulthood).
I have termed them Generation Trauma (Gen T for short) because this is a generation that has experienced outsized trauma that has been and is person caused and nature caused. It starts with 9/11 and those in school then may now be in post secondary education.
We have had hurricanes and fires and school shootings and bombings; places of historic safety (Houses of Worship, marathons, movie theaters, outdoor concert venues for example) are the sites and places of vicious attacks.
The enrolled students since 9/11 have experienced trauma — as have their families. And that trauma is carried into the educational system, often in invisible backpacks. And that trauma has impacted learning, psycho-social development and health/wellness now and into the future. This generation is not based on birth years: it is premised on their being in school during decades of trauma.
My discussion of Gen T and the implications of that naming on education and our schools/colleges are explored in detail in my new book: Trauma Doesn’t Stop at the School Door.
It is being released in June 2020 by Columbia Teachers College Press (and is now available for pre-order through the Press (with early ebook discounts) and Amazon).
So, while we could have overlapping generations and often have, let’s not settle on Generation Alpha as the name for the current generation based on birth years; that is too facile a description and we need a broader more inclusive naming that encompasses what this generation has experienced while in school.
Hang on Gen Alphers; Generation T may be a co-equal or better descriptor.
Karen is an educator and an author. Prior to becoming a college president, she was a tenured law professor for two plus decades. Her academic areas of expertise include trauma, toxic stress, consumer finance, overindebtedness and asset building in low income communities. She currently serves as Senior Counsel at Finn Partners Company. From 2011 to 2013, She served (part and full time) as Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Education in Washington, DC. She was the Department's representative on the interagency task force charged with redesigning the transition assistance program for returning service members and their families. From 2006 to 2014, she was President of Southern Vermont College, a small, private, affordable, four-year college located in Bennington, VT. In Spring 2016, she was a visiting faculty member at Bennington College in VT. She also teaches part-time st Molly Stark Elementary School, also in Vt. She is also an Affiliate of the Penn Center for MSIs. She is the author of adult and children’s books, the most recent of which are titled Breakaway Learners (adult) and Lucy’s Dragon Quest. Karen holds a bachelor degree in English and Spanish from Smith College and Juris Doctor degree (JD) in Law from Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law.