The Next Generation is Being Named: Try Generation T instead of Gen Alpha or Beta

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There have been a series of articles, including one in the Atlantic, suggesting that a new generation is on the horizon. Gen Z is being passed by a new generation, and the label ring ascribed to them is Generation Alpha. This happens when we define generations based on birth year.

I have another name for this new generation but before turning to that, I want to point out the generation naming is risky business.

We need to be cautious about homogenizing individuals, failing to recognize and acknowledge the myriad of difference within a generation — gender, ethnicity, race, culture, sociology-economic status, religion, home of origin among other variables. That said, the right definition — carefully crafted — has benefits in terms of more than marketing or political fodder; naming can be tied to framing — in all its meaning. In framing, we recognize and value and identify certain critical characteristics.

It is for this reason that I have named a generation of students of all ages enrolled in school at all levels since 2001 through today and beyond (all ages of enrolled students from early childhood through adulthood). I have termed them Generation Trauma (Gen T for short) because this is a generation that has experienced outsized trauma that has been and is person caused and nature caused. It starts with 9/11 and those in school then may now be in post secondary education. We have had hurricanes and fires and school shootings and bombings; places of historic safety (Houses of Worship, marathons, movie theaters, outdoor concert venues for example) are the sites and places of vicious attacks.

The enrolled students since 9/11 have experienced trauma — as have their families. And that trauma is carried into the educational system, often in invisible backpacks. And that trauma has impacted learning, psycho-social development and health/wellness now and into the future. This generation is not based on birth years: it is premised on their being in school during decades of trauma.

My discussion of Gen T and the implications of that naming on education and our schools/colleges are explored in detail in my new book: Trauma Doesn’t Stop at the School Door. It is being released in June 2020 by Columbia Teachers College Press (and is now available for pre-order through the Press (with early ebook discounts) and Amazon).

So, while we could have overlapping generations and often have, let’s not settle on Generation Alpha as the name for the current generation based on birth years; that is too facile a description and we need a broader more inclusive naming that encompasses what this generation has experienced while in school.

Hang on Gen Alphers; Generation T may be a co-equal or better descriptor.

Written by

Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

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