2021 Vision – Generations

Generation /ˌʤenəˈreɪʃn/

people born about the same time, thus of a similar age ; a stage in the development of a product ; the production of something

In light of the death this week of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, I’m deviating a little from this blog’s usual direction, to reflect on the achievements of different generations and how important it is to recognise their contribution.

Personally, I seldom invent but frequently reinvent, revise and reshape things that have been done before to suit a new situation. Each time I do I learn something new. Each revision is a new generation and serves a new purpose, does something a little different. We learn from colleagues and competitors, from parents, partners and peers, but mostly from the past. There’s little that hasn’t been tried before somewhere, just as there’s little that can’t be improved on.

Whatever your views on the monarchy, it’s clear from the various tributes to Prince Philip that over the course of his 99 years he’s challenged the old ways and shaped the new, bringing about progress and plenty of controversy along the way. It’s easy for one generation to either forget or be unaware of someone’s past achievements when they’ve ‘been around’ for such a long time. When Prince Philip’s grandchildren and their families, as Harry and Meghan or William and Kate, seem each to be challenging values in British society and the Royal Family, the fact that in his time the Duke of Edinburgh did exactly this is easily lost.

One person or idea making history is all too soon consigned to being history, and within a couple of generations seems more like prehistory. This doesn’t, though, take away the significance of making that history in the first place.

In encouraging and supporting the development of international experience, intercultural skills and competencies, in teaching and mentoring both undergraduate and postgraduate students, I’m doing what I can to help the next generation move forward. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last, but I’m doing it the best I can, and in my own way. That’s what makes each generation different and valuable in their own way. We make mistakes and we make progress. These go hand-in-hand. Sometimes progress comes from a leap of faith, and some leaps fall short, but if we learn from every leap we’re better and stronger for the experience.

So, if you’re one of the current generation of students or graduates, recognise that you know more than many, less than others, differently from some, and that you continue to learn.

Learn from the last generation and past generations that have shaped the world you’re entering. Challenge where challenge is due, but do so with respect, with a degree of humility, and with a desire to truly learn. Sometimes the old ways are outdated and don’t speak to the needs of today. But recognise that the ‘old ways’ and their champions were once ‘modern’, and that some values (such as hospitality, curiosity and the appreciation of difference) remain fundamental to success in everything we do.

Published by John Humphreys

Education and leisure industry professional with over 30 years' experience and a focus on delivering international experiences and employability development.

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