91111 Fourth Turning Implemention

Driven by my “True Believer” gene, every few years I jump fully clothed into a new ocean of ideas that promises an understanding of how our world works. My latest is the 1997 book by William Strauss and Neil Howe, “The Fourth Turning.” Their “research” resulted in the discovery of an ~ 80 year cycle of human history that is caused by the interaction of four distinct ~ 20 year generations. The Fourth Turning is the 20 year period, the Crisis “Turning” starting a few years ago and ending in ~ 2025. In the Crisis turning – think Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWII and now – are noted by terrible unforeseen events, a renting of the social fabric, and the implementation of major changes – especially infrastructure.

The four generations that are playing out now are “Archetype: birth years, current name, roles.

Hero: 1901-1924, G.I. Generation, cope with Depression and fight WWII, build new institutions, protected children; 1982-2003 Millennial Generation, will take us through the crisis now emerging.

Artist: 1926-1943 Silent Generation, improved institutions, populated suburbia, had midlife crisis and are now active seniors. 2004-2025 Homeland Generation will grow up in time of crisis.

Prophet: 1943-1960 Boomer Generation, grow up in affluence and upheaval, moralistic and value obsessed, playing down dangers, steering country into next big crisis.

Nomad: 1961-1981 Generation X, reared under protected during cultural upheavals, don’t trust institutions, speak frankly of dangers, are highly realistic and pragmatic individualists.

What does this mean for our K-12 transformation mission for the next ten years? In a recent interview author Neil Howe said the Gen Xer’s are in the drivers seat, with strong support of the Millennials. This is evidenced by the Obama election with strong support from the younger crowd. As the Gen Xer’s move into positions of power during the crisis the Millennials will be like the G.I.’s of the prior crises. The Boomers who failed to address the emerging crises will fade from power.

First Turning (1945-1965) was a High with Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy and social conformity. The Second Turning (1966-1982) was the Awakening where social obligations where thrown off and individualism drove riots, civil rights, tax cuts, and deregulation. The Third Turning (1983-2004?) was the Unraveling where individualism is high and institutions are weak and discredited, many celebrity circuses but little sense of public purpose.

The Fourth Turning (2005? To 202??) is the Crisis where ineffectual institutions are torn down to build new. There is enormous rebuilding of public, social, political and economic life as a response to a series of crises.  The recent small wars and economic upheavals may be the foothills of the crisis, similar to the 1770’s, 1850’s, and 1930’s. Individualism gives way to a new sense of community to reverse the process of Third Turning attitudes. The crisis nor the crisis trigger cannot be forecast during the prior decade: Boston Tea Party, Lincoln’s election, and stock market crash in 1929 followed by Pearl Harbor.

Turnings are caused by the sequencing of the generations, not technology. During Crisis the reaction to a crisis is what matters. The Silent Generation drifts off into retirement and Prophet Boomer cultural warriors shouting at each other on talk shows. The realistic and pragmatic Nomad Gen Xer’s lead by fixing the crises. They are supported by the Hero Millennials who remain close to their elder visionary Prophet parents.

There will be a push toward pro-family and  middle class with recent focus on seniors, the poor and the very wealthy slipping. Millennials want free-trade and capitalism with a public and social purpose. They have respect for realistic “smart” people but not the ideological “best and brightest.” The invention during the Awakening, drove unlimited and diverse innovation (biogenetics, nanotech) during the Unraveling to setup implementation in the Crisis. Fourth Turning society picks winners and invests in them. Infrastructure build out was big in the last three (toll roads and canals, railroads, then highways). In this century digitizing medical records, Internet everywhere, security at all levels, and high-speed trains are coming on strong.

Stable employment and personal reputation are critical individual factors leading to teamwork building and community activities. Intergenerational families will come together.

The economic problems of today are a 2 to 3 compared to the 10 of the Crisis ahead of us. But what could trigger this Crisis. A nuclear bomb going off anywhere would change the rules all over the world. Cheap robots make war, everyman’s war. There are many more. But as society wipes away old way, better systems can be built. As the crisis peaks, the myriad of problems that defines this period are seen as parts of same huge systemic problem.

Over the past two months I have experienced a “sea-change” during our voyage toward the eLearning promised land. As a observer in meeting after meeting with ABEC, P-20 Coordinating Committee Task Forces, Valley Forward panels, legislators and IBM-Smart Cities Forum almost every participant touched on or lead with a component of eLearning as a part of the solution.

I developed the understanding is that our advocacy work has been successful. The time for  It is now time for us “Boomers” to switch from pitching the value of eLearning to advising the Gen X implementers teams. It is a bit like the old story of:

“Robespierre sitting with his friends at an outside café drinking wine when a mob surges by. Robespierre jumps up and dashes off. His friends call to him, “Where are you going?” He replies, “That’s my mob and I have to get in front of them and lead.”

eSATS and our collaborators have a well honed system design. We understand of what is needed to significantly integrated the pieces into a whole. The investments and timing including process changes can be spelled out.


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