Book By: Arthur Levine and Diane Dean
Review By: Matthew Jeffries
College of Education, Undergraduate Student Services
Washington State University

Nearly all advisors have seen a shift in students’ dependency on technology in addition to their concern about getting a job after graduation.  In Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student, Arthur Levine and Diane Dean explore the generational shift of today’s college students in contrast with their parents’ generation through two surveys, one of senior student affairs officers and another of undergraduate students.  The students who were studied in this book attended college between 2005 and 2014.  While this time has passed, the book still offers great snapshots of this generation and the generation to come.

Levine and Dean begin the book with the four most important events in this generation’s lifetime: the creation of the Internet, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011, the election of Barack Obama, and the world financial crisis.  These events are explored in depth in the book.  In addition, three themes are interwoven throughout the book.  The first reoccurring theme is technology.  Levine and Dean emphasized the change of technology in the current college student generation, because it has shaped much of their lives.  The authors refer to this generation as digital natives because they have always used technology in some form.  This use of technology has changed the way students interact with everyone around them, in particular, they are closer to parents than ever before.  Students have created their own “tribes,” which they can reach via social media at all times, yet they are more isolated than ever before.  With this increase in technology, cyber stalking and harassment has increased.  Advisors need to integrate technology into their work to stay connected with their advisees and help them create healthy habits around technology.

The second theme is academics and the student outlook on the future.  Today’s students are taking more remedial courses than in previous years.  Also, they believe that their hard work will pay off even in bleak economic times.  Students reported that they are attending college to find a good job, just like their parents did the generation before.  Advisors should be conscious of helping them prepare for the job market from the beginning of their time at the university to ensure they are receiving all the support they can as early as possible to be successful.

The final theme is multiculturalism.  In comparison to previous generations, Levine and Dean write, “[t]he multicultural divide is less deep; the gap between diverse groups is less wide” (p. 97).  While the data provided supports this claim, covert oppression such as microaggressions were not addressed.  Advisors should work to challenge their advisees on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other issues of social justice in order for students to be ready to work with diverse individuals in the workplace.

In Generation on a Tightrope, Levine and Dean give a lot of insight into the current generation and the next generation college students.  The book’s themes are important in the work of advisors because the diversity of students continues to grow with constantly evolving technology.  All the while, advisors are helping advisees to balance their desire to get a job in this unstable economy while being underprepared in many ways.

Generation on a Tightrope. (2012). Book by Arthur Levine and Diane Dean. Review by Matthew Jeffries. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. 256pp. $40.00, (Hardback). ISBN #978-0-470-37629-4.

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