The Weekly Dish
The Dishcast with Andrew Sullivan
Jean Twenge On Gen Z's Social Crisis

Jean Twenge On Gen Z's Social Crisis

You want to give them a hug and hit them upside the head at the same time.

Jean Twenge is a writer and researcher who focuses on generational differences. She’s a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the author of seven books, most notably iGen. Her new one is Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents. Our conversation focused mainly on how fucked up Gen Z is, and why.

You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app — though Spotify sadly doesn’t accept the paid feed). For two clips of our convo — on why Gen Zers are safer but feel more traumatized than ever, and why teens are having much less sex — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: growing up in a diversifying Dallas; attending the free-speech haven of the University of Chicago; how tech is creating generational divides more quickly; the tipping point of 2012 when it came to smartphones; helicopter parenting; how free-range parents are worried about child protective services; how young adults are more childlike than ever, and less rebellious; the “slow-life strategy”; how Gen Z is less religious but more chaste; why teen depression doubled between 2011 and 2019, especially among girls; the increase of self-harm and attempted suicide; the decrease of debate among friends; the tolerance of Gen Z on race and sexual orientation; the amnesia when it comes to gay history and oppression; the quadrupling of girls identifying as boys between 2014 and 2021; the bullying of girls by girls on social media; how we need more feminism when it comes to body image; women making massive gains in education and employment but reporting less happiness; how Trump’s sexism affected young women; and why 40 percent of Gen Z sees the Founding Fathers as villains.

Browse the Dishcast archive for another conversation you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: Matt Lewis on ruling-class elites, Lee Fang on the tensions within the left, Josh Barro on the Biden administration, and Michael Moynihan on general kibitzing. Please send any guest recs and pod dissent to

A listener loved last week’s episode with Dave Weigel on political reporting:

I haven’t heard an interview with a reporter that gave me this much hope in ages.  Thrilled to hear that there are scribes out there like Dave Weigel, and I suspect that there are many others below the radar. Hope you’ll do a follow-up with him.

Another listener makes a simple point about another part of the convo:

Biden’s age is not worrisome. His advanced cognitive decline is.

This next listener looks to another episode:

I’ve just listened to your conversation with Patrick Deneen and was struck by a few thoughts. First, I think the distinction you made between “liberalism as engine of progress” and “liberalism as least-worst system of order” is incredibly important, and probably very revealing. One’s level of discontent with liberalism today is probably highly correlated with their choice of worldview.

Second, your argument in favour of a limited liberalism made me think of a typically eloquent observation from George Will: “All politics takes place on a slippery slope. The most important four words in politics are ‘up to a point’." Deneen’s book — and the wider post-liberal right — owes a huge debt to Will’s brilliant 1984 book Statecraft as Soulcraft, which describes the founding American principles of Madisonian liberal democracy as a “flaw” that will eventually undermine the moral foundations of society. Will has undergone a pretty remarkable ideological conversion in the libertarian direction, and I’d love to hear him discuss both that and how his strong-state conservative vision from the ‘80s differs from today’s Deneen/Ahmari/Vermeule post-liberal right.

And finally, of course the Dishcast tends to focus on the Anglo-American tradition in political philosophy — particularly in conservatism — but there is a modern, electorally successful political accommodation between liberal modernity and traditional culture just across the Channel: Christian democracy.

Having lived my entire life between the US and UK (two countries with Protestant foundations), I’ve never had a political vehicle to support this ideology. But as a Catholic and a limited liberal, I find it incredibly compelling, and I think your audience would benefit from an exploration of a realistic, Western, conservative ideology. It has its own problems — I’m sure some would ask what’s so “Christian” about it these days — but I even think that “weakness” could help bridge the gap between the Anglo-American world’s cherished religious pluralism and yet clear need for some common ends in public life.

George has agreed to come on the Dishcast — and I can’t wait. Another episode gets a followup from this listener:

It’s about six weeks old at this point, I but think it’s worth raising after the Tabia Lee interview and dissenter posts: the great Wesley Yang (a Dishcast guest) published a guest post by a once-idealistic young (white) teacher who joined Teach For America and worked in the inner-city school system. The basic premise of this fascinating account is that there are often a few bad apple students who almost singlehandedly create a chaotic undisciplined classroom environment that makes learning impossible for everyone, and the administrations fail to support teachers by adequately disciplining and punishing these kids. 

Many readers below are keeping the debate going over Obama’s post-presidency. A dissenter insists that Obama “hasn’t fully bought in to the most far-out elements of CRT, or wokeism”:

In fact, later in the Axelrod podcast, Obama saved his strongest criticism for the woke and how they advance their agenda:

I think that we have tended at times on the progressive side to tip into kind of a scolding, social etiquette police and virtue signaling whereby somebody doesn’t say something exactly the right way, even if, you know, we all know they kind of didn’t mean it in an offensive way. And suddenly you’ve got, partly because of social media, everybody jumping on them and saying somehow, oh, you must be racist or sexist.

I think there have been times where reporters are asking questions that don’t fit the accepted narrative or are inconvenient for progressives around certain issues. And just by raising the question or pointing out facts that don’t fit the neat narrative, we’ll jump on them and say, you know, why are you, you know, aiding those who are attacking us?

And I do think it is important for us to not fall into that trap in which our knee-jerk assumption is if somebody doesn’t say something the exact right way, that we not only think it’s our job to correct them and and scold them, but we are making a judgment about their character and their intentions. And I think that does make people feel under assault. And I think it alienates us from our allies.

For further evidence that Obama is still Obama, check out his interview with Hasan Minhaj on YouTube, particularly when Obama discusses how he tries to convince his daughter not to despair when it comes to climate change.

Obama seems to have said next to nothing on CRT. What I have found suggests that he thinks everyone should calm down because in general CRT simply demands that our racial history be included in teaching American history and sometimes setting policy. In an interview with Anderson Cooper in 2021, Obama said:

Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial

Subscribe to The Weekly Dish to listen to this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.

The Weekly Dish
The Dishcast with Andrew Sullivan
Unafraid conversations about anything