Introducing the Homeland Generation
BY NEIL HOWE/School Administrator, June 2019

Neil Howe has studied the differences among generational groups and how they impact schooling.
Gen Z.” “iGen.” “Post-Millennials.”

These terms (and more) are used to describe America’s newest social generation. But what exactly do we know about the kids who now dominate our nation’s K-12 schools?

The popular media often treats Homelanders as a mere extension of Millennials, sharing the same fundamental traits as their older peers. In reality, Homelanders manifest unique traits that differentiate them from Millennials and that pose new opportunities (and challenges) to educators.

First, a note on terminology. I classify anyone born in 2005 or later as belonging to the Homeland Generation, meaning that the oldest are just entering high school. The name was chosen through an online contest by readers of my organization’s books, who felt it embodied the post-9/11 world into which this generation was born. Their childhood era was shaped by global turmoil — the War on Terror, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the global financial crisis and the general sense that our homeland was no longer safe.

The name also reflects the fact these kids literally spend more time at home than any earlier generation in American history.

Who Are Homelanders?
Consider five key traits of the Homeland Generation.

» Overprotected. Millennial kids were increasingly protected. Homelander kids are overprotected. Smothering Gen-X parents are leading the way. From baby monitors to smartphone tracking apps, today’s technology is being leveraged by parents who want to monitor their child’s activity anytime, anywhere. Once-common activities like playing outside without adult supervision or staying home alone now are strictly forbidden.

Takeaways for educators: Schools are trying harder to keep parents constantly in the loop. Increasing the frequency of progress reports or offering more volunteer opportunities are just a couple of ways to keep “stealth fighter” parents satisfied.

» Trained to Behave. Rules and manners matter more, feelings and attitudes matter less. Today’s parents swear by prescriptive parenting guides full of do’s and don’ts. This early focus on behavioralism is reinforced by the society at large, which has found ways to reward well-behaved kids (or, more accurately, their parents). Talking through feelings is passé. Today, we rely on cognitive behavioral therapy.

Takeaways for educators: Schools increasingly offer incentives to prompt good behavior in the classroom. Most Homelanders, in return, want to play by the rules and play nice with others (see below), making them receptive to the message that bad behavior isn’t a victimless crime.

» Comfortable with Rules. Homelanders have been subject to more rules and regulations than any generation of kids in living memory. In the classroom, these rules take the form of strict dress codes, no-touching policies and zero-tolerance truancy programs. This rule-bound culture is a natural extension of Homelanders’ protected upbringing.

Takeaways for educators: Rules don’t have to be boring. Many teachers teach rules through games and contests. What’s more, Homelanders have to expect lots of rules, which work best when the kids themselves help create them and enforce them.

 Well Socialized. Kindness is key for Homelanders. From toddlerdom, they have been taught how to play nice with others — how to share, mitigate conflict and see the world through others’ eyes. This theme is endlessly stressed in popular Homelander media. TV shows such as “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West” (described as the “friendliest town in the West”) feature protagonists who solve problems by resolving conflicts.

Takeaways for educators: Millennial kids were encouraged to learn in groups. For Homelanders, it goes further — learning in groups in which each child is expected to treat every other team member with respect and always be responsive to others’ needs.

» Able to Manage (or Repress) Emotions. Homelanders are taught not just to look outward but also to look inward. Emotions are not just to be felt but to be identified, labelled and managed. Social and emotional learning curricula are widely used to teach Homelanders how to process and sublimate anger, sadness and stress. What tools of the mind are teaching in the classrooms, animated films such as “Inside Out” are teaching in the theaters.

Takeaways for educators: Parents and teachers are learning to take kids through a methodical and constructive dialogue about what they are feeling. Homelanders, in return, understand that “acting out” is just not an option.

Don’t expect this generation to become like their Millennial or Xer parents (or even their Boomer grandparents) as they grow older. That’s not how generations work. Homelanders will be different, but with luck they will become just the kind of generation America needs.

NEIL HOWE is founder and president of the consulting firm LifeCourse Associates in Great Falls, Va., and author of Millennials in the Workplace. Twitter: @HoweGeneration