Defining Generations

  • Head's Note
Tobin Bechtel

Nineteen years ago our world was a very different place. In some senses we had been isolated from the world and felt safe before terrorism came directly to our shores. It was the first attack directly on United States territory since 1942. 

It is events like 9/11 that often define a generation because of the pervasive impact they have not only across society but also particularly on those ‘coming of age’. These times create collective memories and mindsets. My generation has the imprint of the Cold War and its ending on our perspective of the world and our place in it. My parents were defined by the cultural and political upheavals of the sixties ("Where were you when JFK was shot?"). My grandparent's generation was all about the Great Depression and World War II.

All our current students were born after the cataclysmic events of 9/11. I believe their defining event may be the current pandemic. What lessons are they learning about the world and how it works from all this? Will we become more socially disconnected than ever or will they learn new ways of connection and cooperation? How can we help them make the best of this crisis and keep them engaged with wanting to make a difference in the world?

Mark Twain astutely claimed, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.” I am thankful that we can engage and educate our children in spite of what the world is currently throwing at us. I believe as this generation defines itself, our students will emerge as strong and confident leaders that can master fear and use it to make a positive difference. 

  • head's note
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