Here’s your problem.

The other day I received something in my work e-mail from the Vice President’s office about Biden’s meeting with representatives from the video game industry. I read more about it today. I don’t know what they’re hoping to find by going over this again. For that matter, I don’t know what anybody is hoping to do by re-visiting the gun control issue. We’ve been over this a million times. We come to the same conclusion each time. They are a factor, but not necessarily the factor, for why bad things keep happening.

I’m not necessarily against a little more regulation involving guns, or video games. If it is done right (that’s the hard part), I think it could help. However, there are other things out there that need a bit more attention; things that have probably come about because we’ve changed as a society. Things that don’t have such an easy fix. We’ve come a long way from the nuclear family of the 50’s, and we all know that was bunk, but I think maybe we’ve gone a little too far the other way.

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New Year’s resolution: sweat the small stuff.

This goes against traditional advice, but I don’t mean it in the traditional way. What I mean to say is; screw the big picture. The big picture, the worldwide stage, the national stage, is always a downer. It doesn’t change. Corporate and government greed. Lousy economies and violence. General bullp*ss.When was the last time you  turned on the news and saw something that you smile? How about the last time you opened the newspaper? How about the radio?

I originally wanted to do a story on what I wanted to see more of in 2013 in government. In worldwide affairs. In national affairs. I couldn’t think of anything. I couldn’t think of anything unless I thought of it in the context of what I wanted to see less of. There’s not a whole lot of good going on out there on a grand scale. There are, however, lots of little things going on out there. Little things were all I could think of.  I’d love to see more of these little things. Little things like volunteers helping hurricane victims. Little things like Internet charities that raise money in the name of small, colorful horses.   I’d love to see more people saving puppies.

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Why I Watch Cartoons

I turned on the television the other day. Some stoic detectives were watching grieving parents through a pane of glass. Cut to a smiling criminal. Roll credits. Change the channel to Cartoon Network.

I don’t always watch television, but when I do, I watch cartoons 90% of time. It could be Young Justice, Gurra Laggan or Adventure Time.  It could be Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, DBZ or Pokemon. It could be Chowder, Regular Show or My Little Pony: Friendship is Friggin’ Magic.

Hell; I’m not even really watching half of the time.

It isn’t that I think cartoons are great television; it’s that I think they are better television than almost everything else out there. I don’t like television drama. I don’t want to watch something that will “change my life” or make me “never look at Law and Order the same way again”. I don’t want to watch the seedy romances and the breakdowns and the doctor end up addicted to painkillers and losing his license.

I cannot stand reality television. First, I don’t believe they reflect reality. Second, I don’t believe they aren’t at least half scripted. I don’t want to watch A-Type personalities and borderline sociopaths competing with each other. I didn’t like it when the Real World did it first.  I don’t want to watch fat kids, bratty kids, fat adults or bratty adults. If I want a  sideshow I’ll find a real one.

Sitcoms suck too. Here’s the plot of every single one since the mid 90’s; emotionally retarded assholes screw over their friends and family then learn a valuable lesson in the end they should have known already.

Even animal shows are annoying these days. I was watching people wrangle cobras and things eating each other since Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom and Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. It’s the same animals today, except now I get a five-minute buildup of how deadly a cobra can be, with a few commercial cuts building suspense,  preceded by previews of the next segment featuring the snake wrangler swearing and looking worried.

The evening news? If I want a cold cup of depression, I’ll tune it. Sometimes its fun to worry about things completely out of your control.

So I watch cartoons instead of “adult” shows. Maybe it is because I am still a kid. I like things involving friendship, adventure and smiting evil. I think cartoons are more motivational. The morals are usually better too.  I would rather have parents let their children watch violent anime like Bleach or Naruto instead The Kardasians.

Cartoon characters are better people. Not always, but most of the time.

Of course, there is always The Doctor.

Chowder sucks, but it's better than every reality show ever.

Those Dumb Kids 2

Continued from the  first part of this article.

“The Dumbest Generation”,  is a look at the “knowledge deficit” author Mark Bauerlein claims the latest generations of Americans have developed. The evidence presented in the book suggest kids are falling behind in all subjects, don’t know anything about history and don’t care about current events unrelated to popular culture. Use of the internet has replaced traditional learning, which has promoted the growth of short attention spans and a superficial knowledge base, coupled with a society promoting and permitting a perpetual adolescent culture, is to blame.

Is there hope for the future? Not according to Bauerlein. The maturing generations will be too ignorant to run a democracy or succeed professionally, falling prey to their own stupidity and corrupt politicians. Even if some kids do buck the trend, do study, do know history and do break free of the adolescent world, they’ll still be woefully handicapped.  For Bauerlein, the environment just isn’t the same anymore, and it can’t possibly breed intelligent life.

Never read a comic book his entire life.

This is where he loses me.

It is hard to determine who the author is comparing the new generations to, but it starts to sound like Bauerlein has succumb to the ol’ “it was just better back then” syndrome. He writes as if every man, woman and child was a budding intellectual prior to the 60’s, and so much smarter than we are now. Or, perhaps, through his examples of what kids aren’t reading, doing or paying attention to, we can paint a different picture. Only immersion in art, museums, classic novels, books only political science majors read and constant attention to national and world events will do. It starts to sound very, academic; very highbrow.

I have other problems with the book, too. I find the author’s assumptions historically inaccurate. Bauerlein never seems to make class distinctions when he is speaking of past “intelligence levels”  and the activities of the “common man” compared to current ones.  No, everybody was not smarter, did not read more and did not participate in government in the past; only those with middle to upper class incomes.   Without such distinctions,  his arguments just seem awkward.

Now, it isn’t that I don’t think a good education, reading the classics or paying attention to current affairs aren’t important  in creating a well-rounded citizen capable of self government. I just don’t know that it is that much worse than it ever has been. Yeah, a lot of kids are falling behind in school and are pretty distracted these days. A lot of them aren’t, too.  I also think a lot of intelligent, productive members of society probably never read Moby Dick, anything by Machiavelli or ever set foot inside of a museum.

The book’s original premise is solid. I believe there is a knowledge deficit. I believe reliance on computers and the internet have made our brains soft. I think total, permanent immersion in adolescent culture is a problem. The author gives compelling evidence to support his ideas and I agree with what he believes has lead to the “dumbing down” of America. I just don’t go for the rest of the book, which, as Bauerlein said would happen, can be dismissed as another “those dumb kids” generational doom scenario. It is just too heavy-handed and academic to take seriously after a while.

My advice, don’t read The Dumbest Generation unless you already prescribe to the idea that this generation will be the one that kills America. There are plenty of books out there about technology’s effects on children, falling test scores and the reasons behind them, without an academic’s overblown opinions on how smart everybody used to be.

Those Dumb Kids

I just finished Mark Bauerlein’s book, “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future”, and I’m torn.

I agree with the book’s premise; kids aren’t learning what they should in order to become a fully-functioning member of society, and it’s going to cause problems . “The Dumbest Generation” makes this claim and backs it up in a very exhaustive, academic look at test scores and studies done over the past decade. The evidence presented by Bauerlein suggests the newest generations are under performing their peers of yesteryear not only academically, posting lousy scores in math, science and history, but are also dismally ignorant of anything outside of the high school halls and Facebook.

They know they’re stupid, too, and they don’t see a problem with it.

The reasons behind it are many, though the author focuses on technology and the digital age. Pushing computers in school and encouraging internet learning was a mistake, by the evidence Bauerlein has gathered. What were supposed to be great learning tools have turned out to be massive time-wasters, and test scores, reading skills and overall skills indicating comprehension off-screen have dropped since technology’s introduction into young lives.

“Internet learning” has actually changed the way people think, from an orderly hierarchy of rational thought to something a bit more spastic, according to Bauerlein. Instead of developing linear learning and a focused thought process, the nature of the internet develops  a wandering mind and presents shallow info-bits, which belies actual knowledge. Even if extensive knowledge can be found on the Internet, it is likely to go unread, as data suggests having to read more than a few paragraphs frustrates young learners.

This is if kids even use the Internet is used for educational purposes; which they don’t very often, according to Bauerlein.

Web-surfing, games and social sites account for most time not spent in school or other organized activities (sometimes even during them). Cell phones and social media keep kids connected indefienetly, affording no time for other pursuits  lest they end up out of the loop, creating generations who rarely venture outside of their own little world created by them, for them. The time once spent alone, discovering new things, developing interests outside of the adolescent world and learning how to become an adult doesn’t happen.

These habits end up becoming a lifestyle which persists will into adulthood, which is now why we see college students and adults who can’t tell you who the President of the United States is or what they learned during four years of  college. According t Bauerlein, college professors and employers  have been noticing high school and college graduates just don’t seem mentally prepared for the world outside of the adolescent sphere anymore.

I won’t even mention what he says about those damn kids and enabling adults of the 60’s starting this perpetual “youth culture”, but maybe my grandpa was right.

There are lots of stupid, immature people out there; what’s a few more? Bauerlein says they’re more numerous than ever, and it threatens everything America claims to hold dear, including  democracy. After all, a functioning democracy requires functioning adults. When adults know more about the history of The Bachelor cast  and vote for American Idol, but don’t know their country’s  history or vote for President,  we’ve got a problem.

So, does the author have anything good to say?