The Promise Of Gen Z

Originally posted on Forbes.com

Earlier this year, I published a post about Pamela Ryan Ph.D., and her book The Impact Imperative. Her research lays out how, as a global community,  we can reverse climate change in the next ten years, in part because Gen Z, the most diverse, connected, educated, and unbiased generation to date, will become established in the workforce.  The Pew Research Center defines this generation as being born between 1997 and 2012, so they are currently between 8 and 23 years old, facing the current climate of education and economic turmoil as students and, for some, attempting to gain employment and launch careers as young workers.

Since writing that post in February, I have spent a lot of time with this generation.  We established several high school and college internships and delivered a comprehensive career prep program to students at the University of Denver. I have a Gen Z niece and three nephews who I talk to often about what it is like going to school or seeking employment in 2020. It has not been an easy time for them, their educators, or their parents. I wonder how this year will shape them and am keenly aware that they are the hope for our future.

Earlier this year, I met and interviewed two teenage best friends, David Roytman and Bruno Kaplan, who are kind, smart, and fascinating representatives of this generation. For example, David started trading stocks at eleven, and Bruno, who loves physics, just made and screened his first horror movie. In this conversation, I wanted to get a sense of how it was to transition from in-person learning to online in the spring and what advice they have for improvements. Here is an excerpt from the interview.

David and Bruno met in elementary school in New York City, and although they go to different schools now, they are used to spending time with each other each week. As their schools moved to remote learning, initially, they did not see each other in person, and they had to be on zoom up to eight hours a day. As their schools iterated, they began seeing some benefits to their new way of being. For example, they both love the extra sleep they got from eliminating their commute, and David enjoyed the longer sessions on fewer subjects so his brain could settle and not hop around so much on different topics.

They both agree that academic schedules can be too rigorous and suggest that their schools build in online fun activities to hang out with their friends to play games and socialize. They also advocate for shorter classes with more breaks and more consistency with homework to eliminate periodic overwhelm. As educators continue to improve remote or blended learning, my hope is they will pause to engage students so they can lend ideas for creating a more effective and less stressful learning environment.

Our future depends on it.