Is good writing generational?

Last semester in class, I was having a discussion about a piece of writing-the student liked it, I didn’t.  The student told me that she thought it was generational: the older generation seemed not to like the particular book while the younger generation did.

When I got home that night, I thought about what she’d said and two things came to mind. The first: Are we teaching our kids about what constitutes a good piece of writing, or are we constantly just trying to keep them entertained? In this instance, the story  is what fascinates the fans.  Thus good story= good book. Not necessarily. What I was trying to get her to understand is that a poorly written piece can make something hard to understand, can keep the audience at a distance, and yes, can even take away from a good plot.  The writing is just as important as the story. The great thing about a novel is that you can totally immerse yourself in it.  Your mind is engaged and interacts to the words on the page, creating your version of the story; it’s unlike any TV show or movie. It’s more 3 and 4 dimensional. What propels that feeling and that interaction is the writing.  A well-written piece is like a still pool of deep water: you can dive in, and you make the ripples. This concept seems so hard for students to understand. And if they don’t understand it, what does the future look like for writing? Are we going to have to learn a new dialect or a new set of grammar rules for each piece of material? If not, we may not understand anything we’re reading.

The second thing that came to mind: Older generation, really? Do I really seem old enough to be a parent to a college kid?