via Timeline, where Stephanie Buck trots out the tired stereotype of Generation X as a bunch of lazy slackers “who who skateboarded through high school with flannel shirts and angry music during a period of economic stability.”
I could just say “whatever,” but since I’m a historian, and by some measures, belong to Generation X (I’m younger than Douglas Coupland, author of Generation X). I can assure you that the late 1980s and early 1990s were not times of economic stability. This was the Bush 41 recession that helped pave the way for the election of President Bill “the economy stupid” Clinton. The title of chapter 2 of Generation X, “Our Parents Had More,” sums up the climate of diminished opportunities for those of us graduating from college and graduate school. Richard Linklater’s film “Slacker” also depicts the lives of overeducated/underemployed “misfits” in a college town (Ithaca, NY had many real-life counterparts).
I was one of the few people in my graduate school cohort to get a tenure-track job (or a job at all).
So, let’s dispense with these generational stereotypes, m’okay?
I don’t remember economic stability. I remember not being too concerned about the economy because it was the 1980s, and the chance of making it to 2000 without a nuclear war seemed unlikely enough. I hate that another generation may now grow up with that as a realistic fear.
I started grad school in 1990, right at the moment when people were saying “professors are all gonna retire and there will be a glut of jobs!!!1!!1!” When I graduated from college in 1988, the history department faculty told us at some gathering, that we were the first class that they’d felt OK about recommending for grad school, because of this promised glut.
I did not get a tenure-track job.