IS it possible to paint a portrait of an entire generation?
Each generation has a million faces and a million voices.
What the voices say is not necessarily what the generation believes, and what it believes is not necessarily what it will act on. Its motives and desires are often hidden. It is a medley of good and evil, promise and threat, hope and despair. Like a straggling army, it has no clear beginning or end. And yet each generation has some features that are more significant than others; each has a quality as distinctive as a man's accent, each makes a statement to the future, each leaves behind a picture of itself.
What of today's youth? Some are smoking marijuana; some are dying in Korea. Some are going to college with their wives; some are making $400 a week in television. Some are sure they will be blown to bits by the atom bomb. Some pray. Some are raising the highest towers and running the fastest machines in the world. Some wear blue jeans; some wear Dior gowns. Some want to vote the straight Republican ticket. Some want to fly to the moon.
TIME'S correspondents across the U.S. have tried to find out about this younger generation-by talking to young people, and to their teachers and guardians. What do the young think, believe, and read? Who are their heroes? What are their ambitions? How do they see themselves and their time? These are some of the questions TIME'S correspondents asked; the masses of answers-plus the correspondents' interpretation-contain many clashing shades of opinion, but nevertheless reveal a remarkably clear area of agreement on the state of the nation's youth.
Youth today is waiting for the hand of fate to fall on its shoulders, meanwhile working fairly hard and saying almost nothing. The most startling fact about the younger generation is its silence. With some rare exceptions, youth is nowhere near the rostrum. By comparison with the Flaming Youth of their fathers & mothers, today's younger generation is a still, small flame. It does not issue manifestoes, make speeches or carry posters. It has been called the "Silent Generation." But what does the silence mean? What, if anything, does it hide? Or are youth's elders merely hard of hearing?
They Are Grave and Fatalistic
Listen to their voices, in a college bull session:
"I think the draft has all the fellows upset . . . They can't start figuring in high school or even in college what they want to do ... First thing you know, Uncle Sam has tagged them off base."
"The boys are upset about the Korean business because they can't tell from one day to the next what they are going to be doing, going into the Army or what."
"Sure, the boys say, 'What's the use? I'd just get started and whammo, I'm gone.'"
"It's hard to get married when you don't know what the deal is. Maybe your husband is off to Korea or somewhere, and there you are."
"With maybe a baby on the way."
"It's better to get a job and wait."
"That's the worst part."