Prepare to meet the Parkland generation

The teen survivors of the Florida shooting are leading two mass events in March, reflecting the values of Generation Z.

Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP
More than 2,000 students walked out of Green Hope High School in Cary, N.C. on Feb. 28, 2018 calling for political change to try to end school gun violence following the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

During two mass events in March, the news media will be shining a spotlight on the next generation of Americans, or the 70 million teenagers who have been dubbed Generation Z. Be prepared to see what drives the “Gen Zers.”

On March 14, millions of teens are expected to follow the call of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and walk out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the people killed on Feb. 14 at the school. Such an act of empathy is exactly the value taught to this generation, as today’s teens often express a desire to volunteer.

On March 24, the Parkland teens have called for young people to gather in Washington and other cities and demand tougher gun laws. This is a generation, after all, that grew up with easy access to information on a smartphone and that is accustomed to efficient and quick solutions in the Digital Age. It is also a generation that seeks “safe spaces,” according to pollsters, whether that safety is sought in a school or in not being afraid of harassment and harsh judgment.

These two events, led by the remarkable teen leaders at Parkland, will be the first large-scale glimpse of this age group, which is the most ethnically diverse in US history. Some of their habits already mark them. Pollsters, for example, find Gen Zers are the first who prefer to take a smartphone to bed. They mostly expect to work for themselves someday. They are also the first to know instinctively how to brand themselves on social media, as many Parkland students have done.

Yet there is one stereotype of Gen Zers that the two events could defy. According to a poll by the nonprofit Barna Group, only 34 percent of teens strongly believe that lying is morally wrong – far fewer than in recent generations. And a strong minority do not believe there can be a consensus on truth. What’s true for someone else, they say, may not be “true for me.”

Leading a public cause and getting results, however, requires a commitment to truth and truth-telling. Perhaps in these protests, Gen Zers can show such a commitment – and that each generation should not be neatly categorized or believe any false claim made about them.

Only two or three times in American history have children been on the frontlines of social change. The Parkland shooting has galvanized Gen Z, perhaps becoming the singular incident that defines them, as 9/11 did for Gen Y and the Kennedy assassination did for boomers. The members of Gen Z are now enraged at the reasons for this killing. But they are also engaged in creating solutions. That’s a truth they can hold onto together, one that could be the mark they leave on history.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Prepare to meet the Parkland generation
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today