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?
TO BE CONTINUED…