It is a problem.  It is a problem because it puts us into boxes and the boxes are too small.  In recent forums that I have been party to, I note that people suffer from the syndrome of monogenerational thinking.

That is a pity because it does not allow them a natural breadth of understanding.  It also allows people to make incorrect statements yet hold on to them because of the influence (and dare I say, intimidation) of the sound room of their mono generation.

In many life, work, and family areas, we are not confined to our age group. We interact across ages.  There is nevertheless the danger that we gravitate to what we consider is our generation, as that - maybe - makes us feel safer and more comfortable.  I would suggest that it is not a helpful thing for us to do.

Running an independent school, the “powers that be” complained to me that our age range was far too comprehensive. We had children from 5 to 18 playing and learning together. The establishment take was that young people should be herded into their peer/age grouping. I noted that in the real world, i.e., the playground, older children softened their play to take account of the little ones, and if one of the little ones happened to fall, then along would come to their aid a big brother/sister (not a birth brother-sister) and administer support, help, and comfort.  In the learning centre, it was likewise, more experienced learners helping young or less experienced students.  In fact, for me, the whole “non-peer group” approach had positives all around, and I still do not know what the negatives were.

In my work experience, I watch our younger staff reporting to senior outside agencies, and often their opinions are disregarded.  I then watch an older staff member take up the call, saying the same situation, sometimes almost verbatim and I witness a different, usually positive, response.  I think that ageism monoculture is at fault.

Suppose we want to positively respond to the world with a significant person bringing a contribution to progress. In such a hypothetical case, we must not live in a soundbox, be that one of monoculture, monogenerational, or dare I say it, one of the educational or financial peer groups.

Speaking at a conference not so long ago, I noted all the early morning newspapers on display. I, in my session, asked how many of the conference delegates (all “would be world changers”) had read a morning newspaper. Almost all hands were raised.  Then, I think I asked if they knew which was the best-selling newspaper in the UK. Not one person got the correct answer. (  At this particular conference, the best-selling newspaper was not even on sale. I guess the organiser had assessed their audience correctly.  My arguement was that if you do not know how the world speaks, you will not communicate to the majority effectively.

Monogenerational thinking will lead us astray. We need to mix our age groups. We need to push ourselves to hear those who come from the broadest possible grouping, age wise, work wise, wealth wise gender wise and every other criterion where we don’t fit in or know about. Otherwise, we will be found with wrong views, wrong perceptions and wrong actions.  May I also add that we need to read the papers we do not like and, (horror of horrors!) listen to the music we say, “is not our thing!”

Adrian Hawkes

W. 588

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