Who do they write these articles for? In a recent edition of Fast Company, a “cutting edge” business magazine, editors paired up a high school student from California with a corporate scientist to talk about technology. They chose a senior from a private religious school tucked away by a golf course in the Bay Area.
Not being one to rant, but come on. This article was clearly written for the demographic the magazine represents. The student says things like, “The future is exciting,” “Society puts too much pressure on teens… to have a plan,” and “I’ll follow the path as I go, I suppose.” The picture of her takes up 1/4 of the page, and she’s striking a painfully cliché pose; her “counterpart” looks thoughtfully at her, as if he is really paying attention (see right). Meanwhile, he’s blowing past her dialog with bullets like his opening salvo, “We are experiencing a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of innovations that will impact every aspect… [blah blah blah- insert empty rhetoric here].”
The magazine juxtaposes the scientist’s pompous adultisms against the student’s “naive” criticisms. And I’ll give her credit – she is critical. She voices concerns that everyone she knows is plugged into media while the world is whizzing past them. He just keeps drilling this notion that “the future’s so bright”.
However, what’s at issue here isn’t the way these two interact, but rather what and how they are interacting. First, let’s take a look at some statistics. According to CIRCLE, there are 40.7 million 18-29 year-old citizens in the United States, over twice the number of 66-77 year-olds. The scientist in this article is pushing 65. And the population of young people today is almost as large as the population of young people was when the baby boomer generation was young. Also, the population of young people of color is steadily increasing, while the population of young white people is decreasing.
All this is to say that if the conversation in this magazine was to truly representative of a conversation that might actually happening in America today it would sound and act entirely different from what is represented here. Try it: First find a young person who you can have a 6-paragraph-long conversation with, and then ask them what the future looks like to them. Challenge them, encourage them to challenge you, and have a conversation – don’t just give them the floor. Then read the Fast Company article here and compare your results. Let me know what happens.