The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Nov 232009

The cover of Time Magazine this week features on article on overparenting:,8599,1940395-1,00.html

(thanks to JenX67 for the link)

The claim is that a backlash is forming, but I wonder whether that will really be the case. The author of the Time article doesn’t seem to discriminate between over-achieving parenting (typical of Boomer (born 1943-1960)) and over-protective parenting (typical of  Generation X (born 1961-1981)). Things like “slow parenting” are a good example of where Gen X is rejecting the Boomer over-achiever style:

This is a Slow Family Living class, taught by perinatal psychologist Carrie Contey and Bernadette Noll. “Our whole culture,” says Contey, 38, “is geared around ‘Is your kid making the benchmarks?’ There’s this fear of ‘Is my kid’s head the right size?’ People think there’s some mythical Good Mother out there that they aren’t living up to and that it’s hurting their child. I just want to pull the plug on that.”

There is definitely a Gen X driven backlash against the whole perfectionist Boomer “hyper-parenting” style. But the whole move back to simple, slow, home-based child rearing often leads to parenting styles that are even more hands-on and protective than they were before. Workshops on how to help kids by “letting go” and the mathematical reassessment of which risks are worth guarding against has a comical aspect. You will know when the next generation of young children are arriving (their parents will be late-wave Millennial (born 1982-200?)) when no one is any longer interested in this subject. We’ve built a whole new world that is basically safe, so now let’s just ignore them and not worry any longer. When we reach that point, young Prophets (the next incarnation of the Boomers) will be among us.

Nov 122009

Proviso: I don’t of course agree with everything–or maybe even most of the things–Jim Quinn says.  But I do love the passion and intensity and texture of his analysis.  He is definitely a worthy contributor.  I don’t know his age, but I guess like the rest of you he’s Boomer-Xer cusp.

On the starting date for the Fourth Turning (Crisis) (4T), I believe Bill and I did a column on the 4T site several years ago detailing all the reasons why we thought it did not begin with 9/11.  We got some flak at the time, because there were lots of people who *wanted* it to begin then.  But to our eye, it was clearly too early.  Typically, a new turning begins after all of the living generations begin to move into their new phases of life.  In 2001, clearly that hadn’t happened yet: Boomers were not yet retiring, Generation X (born 1961-1981) were not yet taking over any institutions as midlife leaders, Millennial (born 1982-200?) were barely graduating high school, and so on.  We predicted that the Third Turning (Unraveling) (3T) mood would yet have an Indian Summer… and so it did.  Keep in mind that on the “Hero clock” of the last 4T, we are still not quite due for the 4T to begin.  The ’29 Crash happened 28 years after the first G.I. (born 1901-1924) birth year.  We will hit that same year  for Millennials in… 2010.

All that being said, many are asking me if I think the 4T has yet started.  I’m with Mr. Cooper.  For nearly a year now, I’ve been saying that a strong case can be made that it started in 2008–with the beginning of an epic financial crash (a 60% decline in the global Dow from peak to trough) and an extraordinary national election that may signal an enduring political realignment and that has, for the time being, put government on a sort of permanent emergency fiscal footing (with 10% of GDP deficits that may only come down slowly if at all).  And yes thanks to 911 everyone knows that we are engaged in seemingly endless Asian wars–but now, thanks to the election, they are *bipartisan* wars… and *bipartisan* showdowns over nuts with nukes.  We’ve got plenty of moving parts.  I think one could say we’ve got sufficient or “critical” mass to call this the beginning of a 4T.  The next two or three years must be watched closely.  The crucial question, if indeed the 4T is underway, is determining when the “regeneracy” phase of the 4T will begin.

On the question of dating the Homelanders.  Let’s assume the Millennials are a 23-year-long generation (perfectly plausible: one year shorter than the GIs, one year longer than the Xers).  That would put their last birth year at 2004.  Which means the first Homelander birth year is 2005.  Let’s now assume that 2008 marks an extended period (ten “lost years” or more) of very poor economic performance–with high unemployment, low capacity and consumer confidence, stagnant global trade, etc..  That would precisely mark the Homeland Generation as the generation having no memory of the Great Boom.  All Millennials will recall at least some childhood during the zany ’90s and early oughts; Homelanders not.  Exactly in the same manner that all G.I.s could later recall at least some childhood during the Roaring Twenties–but the Silent (born 1925-1942) (born starting in 1925–the oldest were turning four at the Great Crash) could not.

In presentations I do for K-12 teachers and administrators, I am starting to spend more time talking about the Homelanders (they may now be in preschool–and will soon be entering grammar school).  And yes they have all the early markings of the Artist archetype.  They are heavily protected by their Gen-X moms and dads, who overwhelmingly believe they are raising their kids in a more hands-on, interventionist, kid-safety-comes-first style than they themselves were raised.  Just like the Lost Generation, who discovered the behavioralist child-rearing guru John Watson, so too are Xers parents deep into the behavioralism of child-care guides filled with “do’s and dont’s” rules.  In our recent book “Millennials and K-12 Schools” (2008), we have a small chapter on the Homelanders.  Every day we are expanding our insights.  I hope sometime soon to write a longer column on them for all of you.

It’s getting late.  Anyway, thanks again for being here.  Last weekend I did a three-hour radio show on Coast-to-Coast AM (11 PM to 2 AM Pacific Time), and I was extremely grateful, in the last hour, to get a great number of phonecalls from Boomer (born 1943-1960) and Gen-Xers around the country who first read our books in the early ’90s and have been following us ever since.  This was my fourth or fifth show for them–and they will probably soon have me on as a regular (rough hours I know!).  I hope to meet you on one of these show.  In any case, I can truthfully say that it’s your curiosity, your enthusiasm, and the sharing of your own experiences that has always made this worthwhile for both of us–Bill, while he was still with us, and myself for as long as I am around.

Nov 022009

This is an interesting and creative essay by Jim Quinn, who writes for a financial newsletter:

Quinn says the Fourth Turning (Crisis) started in 2005 and that we have several more years of worsening wars, higher energy prices, and towering deficits before we reach regeneracy. He still sees a Boomer (born 1943-1960) Gray Champion in our future (which generation is he, I wonder?):

We are years from a final resolution. The cast of characters who will decide our fate is unknown today. Barack Obama will not be a major player in the climax of this Crisis. He will go down in history as the James Buchanan or Herbert Hoover figure that only insured that the Crisis would grow bigger and more painful through his actions. The country is likely to turn to an aging Boomer to lead the country through the violent phase of this Crisis. The initial phase of this Crisis has passed, much like the stock market crash in 1929 and the appearance of a recovery in 1930. The “solutions” that have been implemented thus far will drive our deficits skyward, drive the dollar downward, and ultimately push the economy into a depression. The confluence of a deepening depression with the onset of peak oil shortages in supplies and soaring prices between 2010 and 2014 will plunge the country into chaos. As the world loses confidence in the leadership of our country, they will exit our debt and our dollar. The collapse of the U.S. currency could result in a number of calamitous scenarios.

Sep 092009

This post from David Brooks and Gail Collins in the NYTimes blogs paints a banal picture of Ted Kennedy.

I have already heard comparisons in the media to Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.  The parallel with John Q. works also.  If (say Chappaquiddick never happened) Ted Kennedy had won the presidency, I suspect his White House tenure would have been as brief and unpopular as John Q’s. And, like John Q., he was always a lot more popular in his native Massachusetts than he ever was elsewhere.

The only comparable figure in the Progressive Generation who springs to mind—a famous reformer and flowery-tongued Senator who won many terms and often competed for the presidency—is Robert LaFollete.  But frankly Ted never had LaFollette’s passion and courage.  And, to tell the truth, he was not close to being the intellectual equal of any of the above.  More than any other political leader I can think of, Ted Kennedy’s early electoral success rested almost entirely on his family’s money and reputation.  Only as an elder statesman did he begin to gain, through his own affability and attention to process and detail, a reputation as a constructive and bipartisan dealmaker.  Not sharing the charisma or vision of his elder brothers, most young Boomer (born 1943-1960) hardly gave him much notice back in the ‘60s or ‘70s.  He was a quintessential Mr. Insider, far more beloved by his friends and staff and close associates than by the anonymous public at large.  Ultimately his insider strengths enabled him to become a coalition-builder and doer in an era when so many other legislators (esp Boomers) were distracted by ideological posturing.

Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of life is just showing up.  This is an  apt summary of Woody’s entire  Silent (born 1925-1942) generation: They came along at an opportune moment, they showed up, they played by the rules, and they got rewarded.  Ted Kennedy’s a good example of this.  Despite his obvious character flaws, he simply stayed around, persevered, went through the motions, did his duty, attended to his family’s crusades, and ultimately got plenty done.  Had he been born twenty years later, in 1952 rather than 1932, he would have run off to Katmandu or Bora Bora—possibly to return with some entirely transformed persona.  Not Teddy.  And that serves as an exemplary life lesson to all of us born in younger generations.

Hat Tip to Reena Nadler for finding the article.

Sep 042009

After a huge amount of work, lasting more than a year (especially on the part of our workaholic whiz kid site designer, Jim Graham), I am delighted to  announce that we are now posting live a completely overhauled American Leadership Database.  At last, this is a resource that begins to live up to the vision we had for it when we posted the first version many year ago.

To see the entire Database, go here:  As before, this database contains records for nearly 15,000 American leaders: every Senator, Representative, Governor, President, Vice President, and Supreme Court Justice since 1789.

How does it differ from the feature we offered before?  As follows:

  • All of the tables and charts in the database are now dynamically generated.  This means that they automatically change when the underlying data are changed (due to updates with each new election or, from time to time, corrections to historical data).
  • The entry of new data (stored online) has now been great simplified.  This, combined with dynamic linking, makes updating the database much easier.  The current site is updated through the 2008 election.  Further updates will be quick and simple to perform.
  • We now provide a much greater variety of graphical representations of our data.  And these are more easily accessible through pull-down menus.
  • We provide more (non-dynamic) data on Revolutionary-era leadership (1765-1789).
  • Finally—and by far the most important in terms of blood, sweat, and tears—we now offer an interactive tool that allows users to define their own birth cohort or cohorts or their own Congress or Congresses and (if you like) filter by state or region.   The user then obtains a full analysis by Congress, by birth year, by party, by longevity, by average age of entry, etc.

I hope you explore this site a bit.  After I started trying out the beta version, I personally found I was addicted.  Any question you can imagine can be answered—from how many  New England leaders who reached age 18 during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson became Republicans:

To how many Representatives from the Pacific states born in 1901 to 1910 belonged to the Democratic Party.

Try out some custom queries on the user defined page and you will see what I mean.