Young Explorers – Discussion Starters
Teachers: Use the following information to spark discussion in your classroom. Familiarize students with the events, people and organizations in the following paragraphs and then encourage students to discuss their opinions and reactions. There are several example questions and suggested areas for discussion. Remind your students that discussion requires well-supported opinions, respectful listening, and sometimes agreeing to disagree.
Each generation is unique. There has been a lot of attention in the media lately about the “Millennial Generation”, those born in the 1980s and 1990s. The New Politics Institute produced a profile of the Millennial Generation, drawing on numerous polls, studies, reports, and analyses. Here is an excerpt of the report:
The “Millennial Generation” is becoming the most common name for young people born roughly in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, who are pouring out of college right now. This generation is even larger than the Baby Boomers…
Similar to the Boomers, the Millennials are poised to impact the country at every life stage and in myriad ways – but particularly in politics. By 2008, the number of citizen-eligible Millennial voters will be nearing 50 million. By the presidential election of 2016, Millennials will be one third or more of the citizen-eligible electorate, and roughly 30 percent of actual voters—and this is making no assumptions about possible increased turnout rates among Millennials in the future, which could make their weight among actual voters higher. Moreover, from that point on, the Millennials’ share of the actual voters will rise steadily for several decades as more and more of the generation enter middle age.
The Millennials are an unusual generation, not like young people we have seen for a long time. As first noted by generational analysts William Strauss and Neil Howe, they are not individualistic risk-takers like the Boomers or cynical and disengaged like Generation Xers. Signs indicate that Millennials are civic-minded, politically engaged, and hold values long associated with progressives…
For example, they take concern for global warming and the environment as a given. Millennials overwhelmingly believe that the country should do “whatever it takes” to protect the environment, that stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost and that people should be willing to pay higher prices in order to protect the environment…
And, according to the December, 2006 Pew Research Center Gen Next data, Millennials who are 18-25 today (birth years 1981-88) are running about 10 points higher than Gen Xers at the same age on following what’s going on in government and in level of interest in keeping up with national affairs…
Generations are more than just numbers; they have personalities that are shaped by many factors, including what’s happening in the world when they come of age. The Millennial personality comes closest to that of the “GI generation,” the one lauded by some as the “Greatest Generation,” members of which fought in World War II and built up America and the world in the postwar boom. Millennials are fundamentally optimistic, willing to trust political leaders who perform well, and they believe in government again…
Note, however, that Millennials, while clearly believing in the potential of government, are not satisfied with the ways politics is conducted today or with the politicians that currently represent them. [A Harvard IOP October, 2006 survey of 18-24 year olds found] 78 percent agreed that “elected officials seem to be motivated by selfish reasons;” 74 percent agreed that “politics has become too partisan;” 69 percent agreed that “the political tone in Washington is too negative;” and 75 percent agreed that “elected officials don’t seem to have the same priorities that I have.”
Source: New Politics Institute, 2007 [http://www.newpolitics.net/node/360?full_report=1]
The list is long of organizations and movements where Youth are taking action on Climate, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Power Shift
- Campus Climate Challenge
- Step it Up
- Focus the Nation
- The League of Young Voters
- The Youth Climate Movement
Youth can have powerful voices. On November 5, 2007, the U.S. Congressional Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing titled “Youth Leadership on Climate Change.” Young leaders from groups including Students Promoting Environmental Action, the Energy Action Coalition, the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, and the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action addressed the committee. Their speeches moved the audience to applause and tears. You can watch clips of their presentations here [http://speaker.house.gov/blog/?p=910].
- How accurate do you think is the New Politics Institute’s description of the Millennial Generation?
- Do you feel their description captures the characteristics of you and your peers?
- Did the description miss any important aspects of how you identify your own generation?
- What experiences in your life and the lives of your peers do you think helped shape your generation’s personality?
- How does it make you feel to have your generation’s personality compared to that of the “GI Generation”, those who won WWII and turned the United States into a world power?
- How does it make you feel to know that your generation is more engaged, more active, more optimistic and less cynical than Generation X, those people who are now in their thirties?
- What impact do you think your generation’s personality characteristics will have on this country’s politics? Social systems? Environment? Cities? Foreign policy? Response to climate change?
- Do you believe that community, government and business leaders will take your generation’s voice into consideration? Why or why not?
- What could you do to make sure your views are heard and valued?
- Can your generation’s optimism and engagement “rub off” on other generations? How could you make this happen?