Read The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) by Mark Bauerlein Online

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This shocking, lively exposure of the intellectual vacuity of today's under thirty set reveals the disturbing and, ultimately, incontrovertible truth: cyberculture is turning us into a nation of know-nothings.Can a nation continue to enjoy political and economic predominance if its citizens refuse to grow up? For decades, concern has been brewing about the dumbed-down popuThis shocking, lively exposure of the intellectual vacuity of today's under thirty set reveals the disturbing and, ultimately, incontrovertible truth: cyberculture is turning us into a nation of know-nothings.Can a nation continue to enjoy political and economic predominance if its citizens refuse to grow up? For decades, concern has been brewing about the dumbed-down popular culture available to young people and the impact it has on their futures. At the dawn of the digital age, many believed they saw a hopeful answer: The Internet, e-mail, blogs, and interactive and hyper-realistic video games promised to yield a generation of sharper, more aware, and intellectually sophisticated children. The terms "information superhighway" and "knowledge economy" entered the lexicon, and we assumed that teens would use their knowledge and understanding of technology to set themselves apart as the vanguards of this new digital era. That was the promise. But the enlightenment didn't happen. The technology that was supposed to make young adults more astute, diversify their tastes, and improve their verbal skills has had the opposite effect. According to recent reports, most young people in the United States do not read literature, visit museums, or vote. They cannot explain basic scientific methods, recount basic American history, name their local political representatives, or locate Iraq or Israel on a map. The Dumbest Generation is a startling examination of the intellectual life of young adults and a timely warning of its consequences for American culture and democracy. Drawing upon exhaustive research, personal anecdotes, and historical and social analysis, Mark Bauerline presents an uncompromisingly realistic portrait of the young American mind at this critical juncture, and lays out a compelling vision of how we might address its deficiencies....

Title : The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)
Author :
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ISBN : 9781585426393
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) Reviews

  • Danielle
    2019-05-14 08:52

    This book was full of generalizations and sloppy assumptions. Bauerlain better hope this generation is dumb so that they actually buy what he's saying. He spends the beginning of the book spouting results from all kinds of surveys and studies indicating how poorly educated the Millenial generation is, which I don't doubt. However my issue is that he doesn't compare the results to any other generation. Seeing as how I recently read an article indicating that 44% of our elected officials couldn't pass a simple civics test I don't doubt that people are dumb, I just doubt that this generation is dumber than any of the rest. Chapters later when he finally does begin making a comparison between generations he admits to the fact that people across all generations are seemingly equally uneducated, but then proceeds to indicate that the Millenial generation should actually be smarter because of all the easy access they have to things to educate them due to the rise of the internet, etc. that earlier generations didn't have. So apparently they're only dumber because he thinks they should be smarter. I call BS. This had the potential be an interesting and insightful book about the digital age and the Millenial generation, but instead it's a piece of dreck not worth the paper it's printed on.

  • Nathan
    2019-04-23 14:17

    Baulerlein has the statistics, but what he lacks is nuance, tact, and ultimately, objectivity. Under his steely eye, anyone under 30 is magicked into a mouthbreathing, illiterate cross between Britney Spears and Dennis the Menace. The shrillness of his rhetoric borders on ageism, sure to offend anyone under 30 who doesn't get all their information from Wikipedia or base their value on the worth of their iPod.

  • Matthew Ciarvella
    2019-05-16 10:58

    "Kids today! They've been ruined by Dungeons & Dragons, comic books, rock music, not working in the steel mill for sixteen hours a day, computers and technology!"I was going to tell you all the reasons why this book fails to prove itself as anything more than typical generational angst and ageist fear mongering.Unfortunately for me, I am illiterate due to the Internet.It is also the fault of the Leftists. And the video games. And the iPods. And MySpace. Etc.The fact that the current generation gravitates towards the technological instead of the literary certainly, absolutely, positively has NOTHING to do with an archaic, failing education system or a knee-jerk, fear based reaction as a generation gap widens into a chasm. It's the video games. Has to be those damn shooter games.After all, it wasn't like it was the responsibility of previous generations to instill qualities like a love of learning in their offspring, right? It is absolutely the fault of the current generation that they didn't bootstrap themselves right into Proust like those proud paragons of wisdom and intellect, which are, according to Bauerlein, every other generation except for this one. Just keep blaming today's young people, members of the Greatest Generation. Savor that smug, witty feeling you have because you're the Greatest Generation and they're the Dumbest Generation. That's very clever. I see what you did there, or at least, I would have, if I wasn't a member of the latter cohort.I'll be thinking about your brilliant and insightful commentary leveraged at my cohort, Mr. Bauerlein, the next time I'm patiently explaining to members of your cohort why "you have to push the log out icon if you want to log out" or all the myriad ways right clicking is different from left clicking. Or when you bring your still-in-the-package e-reader to me and set it in front of me with a sad and confused expression on your face, as if to say "I do not understand the ways of this tiny god; BUT YOU, YOU WHO ARE YOUNGER AND KNOW THESE COMPUTERS, YOU MUST SPEAK TO THIS TINY GOD AND COMMUNICATE UNTO ME ITS ELECTRONIC WISDOM, FOR I AM BUT MORTAL AND DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO "GOOGLE IT."Every time technology scares you, every time it frightens you, every time you feel like it's all moving too damn fast, think of me, a member of the Dumbest Generation and know that I'll be grinning, all the way to the future.In the meantime, I'm going to put down your silly, ageist tract and go read something more stimulating; perhaps something about paradoxes in physics or a book about the large scale structure of the observable universe. Or maybe a book about motorcycles.'Cause, you know, like, Internet-induced illiteracy and stuff.

  • Lining
    2019-05-12 11:11

    Okay, so... I feel horribly insulted. I mean, seriously. Are you saying that ALL young people today are dumb? That's pretentious and arrogant. Excuse me, but I don't spend all my time on social networking- in fact, very few hours indeed. And when I do, it's to talk to people who have similar interests, and who post in a very dignified, informational way. HUGE eye-roll at the no-reading section. I'm 13 years old, and I've read more than 50 books this year, and I have the second highest point score in my grade, second only to my friend (who's even an even bigger bookworm than I am. XD) Obviously, you never thought the same people for whom you're writing would be reading it as well. You don't come up with solutions, either. You've just further opened the isolation gap amongst Americans today...(Because we all love critics.)In short, I don't feel good when I'm being overgeneralized. And I'm sure the majority of youth don't, either.

  • Derek
    2019-04-28 13:13

    The thrust of the argument behind Mark Bauerlein’s excellent The Dumbest Generation is that the decline of American intellectualism has largely been influenced by the proliferation of technology, both in the classroom and in social settings, and that the main culprits behind the decline are the “Millenials” (my generation) and younger. It’s a well-argued and very well-supported premise throughout, and simply based on the limitations of a “review” such as this, much of the nuance and intelligence behind his argument is lost in my retelling.In many ways, the book is a reaction to the misguided technophiles who hail this new generation as able multi-taskers and astute operators of technological advancements. The technophiles argue (or rather, Bauerlein presents their argument as such) that, even if adolescents don’t bother with the classics or fine art anymore, they’ve advanced beyond us in other ways instead: they whiz through computers without a second thought, they can work at 15 things at once, and on and on.Bauerlein then cites the piles of unassailable evidence that knock this conventional wisdom on its ass: multitasking is not the same as doing something well, and knowing how to investigate a subject on Wikipedia is simply not the same as knowing it, particularly when presented in contrast to reading about it in a book. We read and understand things differently (and in many ways, more thoroughly) when they’re not on a screen; to thoughtlessly brush off books as outmoded is reductive and destructive.You’ll notice, of course, the limitations of Bauerlein’s argument almost immediately: the “they” versus “us” construction, and the criminal oversimplification that such a construction inherently demonstrates. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t able to overcome the simplification and provide a coherent argument to support it. It just weakens almost everything he says.Bauerlein takes into account most counterarguments (“But what about Harry Potter!”) and seems unafraid to alienate himself by speaking his version of the truth. For that, I say, “Three cheers for Bauerlein!” Huzzah for chastising the people who feel that reading is a waste of time! Huzzah for bashing those people who willingly forego political involvement! Huzzah for recognizing that bloggy navel-gazing is not the same as the considered, careful construction of literature!However, my support of Bauerlein flagged by the book’s conclusion, simply because he limits himself by focusing on adolescence, a target perhaps too ripe. What he is really talking about is the decline of intellectualism in America in general, not just as demonstrated by its youth, however thoroughly and irrefutably they demonstrate it. Bauerlein’s hoo-rah call-to-action ending doesn’t do him any favors either, and the froth spilt onto his keyboard in the closing paragraphs diminishes the preceding even-handed citations and observations. After all, youth has always been anti-intellectual, and the facilitation (and, in fact, documentation) of such an attitude by Facebook, Twitter, and the like doesn’t necessarily mark the end of Western civilization.I’m not suggesting that Bauerlein change the premise of his book, but I do wish that he would temper his chastisement of youth “culture” (pointedly in quotation marks here) with some even-handed examination of the anti-intellectualism of preceding generations. He hints at this, and in fact names the baby boomers for abdicating the intellectual throne so willingly, but he undermines his argument by speaking so broadly about an entire generation. I understand and mostly agree with what he is saying, but not every Millenial throws away his or her library to replace it with an RSS feed and a MySpace profile, even if such people are the exception to the norm.I would also argue against his assumption that classical and jazz are the only worthwhile forms of music – Bauerlein seems to gloss over the vast array of quality that falls somewhere between Charlie Parker and Lady Gaga. Perhaps I’m listening to the wrong kind of music, or am hearing it differently, but there is plenty of artistic value to be found in “pop” music, which he so easily brushes aside (I’m willing to accept, of course, that perhaps he and I simply define this term differently).With that said, I still think this is a book that almost everyone should read, particularly if you find your brain is turning to mush from excessive Facebook refreshing. Very highly recommended, despite any negatives.

  • Mike (the Paladin)
    2019-05-13 11:15

    I'm of the generation who's members (not me personally by the way) were noted for saying, "don't trust anyone over 30". It seems that that may have flipped to "don't trust anyone under 30". From Jay Leno's "Jay Walking" to general scholarship and willingness to think this is an interesting book.Try it yourself.

  • Sophia.
    2019-05-22 13:54

    Who the fuck is this guy anyway? Just the title of this book makes me wanna burn it. Mark Bauerlein, you and your stupid generalizations can fuck off.

  • Amy
    2019-05-16 14:58

    This book was a particularly pertinent read for me since I find myself on both sides of Bauerlein's audience. Being under 30, I am as the title suggests, "not to be trusted" but as a teacher of today's youth, I see the repercussions of our society on education and am almost as frustrated as Bauerlein. (I truly believe no one could be MORE frustrated than Bauerlein; which may be a turn-off to some readers, but I find it refreshing in light of how our districts and administration tell us what methods of teaching will best impact our students.) I will preface this by saying I am extremely wary of many of the statistics he uses. I more than understand how data can be manipulated to say what you want it to say and this book is on my radar for such use. For instance, I'm not sure that 49% of 18-24 year olds haven't read a single book for outside pleasure (mind you a cookbook, celebrity bio, sports, history would have counted as a "book") and if this IS the case, then how much can be accounted for by the fact that some of these students are overwhelmed with their course reading and have little time for outside material? Despite my skepticism, I read on and thoroughly enjoyed and agreed with what he had to say. He hits it right on the head when Bauerlein avers that technology is NOT a panacea for learning. Sticking a kid in front of a screen will not necessarily entice them or help them learn more effectively. Reading this in light of "Why Don't Students Like School?" helped me to reflect on why this would be the case and what DOES encourage students to learn. Any teacher reading this should definitely also pick up "Why Don't Students Like School". After this downer, you need to read that students can be taught and impacted.I realized I am turning into a crusty old woman when I read (and vehemently agreed) that "...author Jean Twenge groused, 'We need to stop endlessly repeating, 'You're special,' and having children repeat that back. Kids are self-centered enough already.'" The narcisistic youth of today's culture hears time and time again that they are doing "great". We are teaching kids that they're good enough as is, no improvement needed. This makes it extremely hard to push them or to give them constructive criticism. They don't take it well!!! I could probably write an entire dissertation on this book, but I will stop now. I will concede that I am doing exactly what I hated that Bauerlein did; I am making generalizations. When I say "they", I DO NOT mean each and every one of the teens that cross my path. I had some extremely talented students who strove to meet their best. I truly admired those who weren't happy with an "A" because they knew that they were capable of 100%. It may seem ridiculous, but to me this indicated that they weren't all about the grade, but about the learning experience. This book was dead-on. I recognized many of my own flaws (I use my computer for Facebook hours a week and yet I never look up articles on world news. Shame on me!!!) Hopefully I will learn a lesson as well!

  • Seamus Enright
    2019-05-16 16:51

    Synopsis:Kids these days...playing around with their ipods and updating their myspace pages all day.When I was their age I was reading The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom...it made a big impression on me as I've rehashed more or less the whole book here.I used to listen to Jazz when I was a kid. My parents didn't get it because they were squares. Now kids listen to Rock which is a much less intellectually rich form of music...I assume so because I don't listen to any of it myself.Kids don't read books anymore. Back in my day you could go to any farm in Iowa and the people working in the fields would quote Dante in the original Italian. Then the hippies came along and wrecked everything for everyone. We're losing out, dude. America may lead the world in Film, Music, TV and even books about how bad America is, but Asia is way ahead of us in Engineering. Only by forcing people to read books by Jane Austen in High School can we possibly reverse this trend.

  • Darcy
    2019-05-01 12:07

    I would recommend this book to anyone, but it is especially relevant for educators in the liberal arts. Bauerlein makes ample use (sometimes overuse) of statistical data to prove his points, but I was more convinced by the fact that he confirmed much of what I have observed in my capacity as a teacher, advisor, and member of the Millennial generation. Bauerlein’s scathing observations and conclusions came as a confirmation, rather than a revelation. Bauerlein argues that even though we live in a time where knowledge is at its most accessible, the Millennial generation is not taking advantage of that knowledge because they are distracted by social media and think reading books is passé. Youth today have a “brazen disregard for books and reading” (40) and they wear “anti-intellectualism on [their] sleeve[s], pronouncing book-reading an old-fashioned custom” (41). Interestingly, despite a lack of intellectual curiosity, students still aim high. Their goals stay the same, but as one of the last chapters points out, there is a huge gap between what students expect and what their actual skill level is. I certainly saw this when I worked as an advisor. Incoming freshmen would declare themselves to be Pre-Med, but they lacked the basic reading, writing, and math skills that would allow them to take lower level biology and math classes. It was sad to see students fall from optimism to reality in such a short space of time. Bauerlein is adamant that blame does not rest solely with educators: “the unique failings of the Dumbest Generation don’t originate in the classroom, then, which amounts to only one eleventh of their daily lives. They stem from the home, social, and leisure lives of young Americans” (37). In other words, the way young people spend their time outside the classroom is rabidly anti-intellectual. “The popular digital practices of teens and 20-year-olds didn’t and don’t open the world. They close the doors to maturity, eroding habits of the classroom, pulling hours away from leisure practices that complement classroom habits” (161). Could anyone really be surprised that hours spent on Facebook and texting friends, rather than reading Steinbeck and solving math problems, really do matter? The issue of distraction is complex and disturbing. Young people today are distracted more than ever by screens – phones, iPads, computers, TV, video games, etc. Distracted by this less challenging, but ever so much more exciting world of social media and video games, young people are unable to switch off technology to focus on reading and learning: “the more digital matter fills young people’s bedrooms and hours, the less will books touch their lives, for you can’t multitask with The Sound and the Fury or with King Lear” (100). Bauerlein rightly argues that when the intellectual and social life come into competition, the winner will almost always be the social. This book makes a compelling argument for the importance of reading and the liberal arts. Bauerlein argues that history, philosophy, art, civics, and literature are so important that the lack of interest in them is threatening the moral fiber of our nation. Young people are wired to distraction; they are hardened Bibliophobes, so consumed with social networking and entertainment that their world has become a self-centered, narcissistic bubble of time wasting endeavors that are devoid of cultural consciousness and responsibility.

  • Scot McAtee
    2019-05-22 11:11

    This author made me angry. He cited lots and lots of statistics, which can always be interpreted differently by anyone for any reason. While I would agree with a fair number of the generalized observations in this book, the author comes off sounding like one of those old fogeys who believes the young generation are worthless. The "explicit warning" to not trust anyone under 30 on the front cover should have been a tip-off.I feel like the few hours I spent reading this book would have been better spent going to a nursing home, spoon feeding an Alzheimer's patient who might call me Suzy a hundred times and tell me over and over that young people are stupid. Yeah, I hated the underlying message of this book that much to make a nasty, inappropriate comment.Today's youth are the same as yesterday's youth, who are the same as the generation before them. There are a certain amount who are spoiled rotten and may never amount to much, a group who are lazy and never CARE to achieve very much, but some of them are utilizing ever tool available to them to do exactly what their teachers and preachers and parents have been telling them all along: learn how to become a more well rounded person. Does Mr. Bauerlein not understand that kids today are doing the exact same thing they always did, except that instead of landline phone calls or folded up paper notes, they're using Ipads, PCs, and their cell phones? Would Mr. Bauerlein like to go back to the manufacturing/industrial base that we had a single generation ago? Well, sorry, sir-- those days are gone. Perhaps he should move to China to relive the glory days.Today, we're trying to teach kids to prepare for jobs that don't even exist yet with tools that become outdated the minute they leave the store. Our culture's voracious appetite for tech is the same one that the Koreans and Japanese and Europeans have, yet I don't hear Mr. Bauerlein sounding a warning for those children. What are we to infer from that? Hmm... who's the apologist now, and for what?The thing that Mr. Bauerlein misses is that every old generation says the same thing about the younger generation, yet the younger generation eventually grows up and takes over things for the oldsters, changing them to suit their needs as they go. Things are going to be different, sir, but as a wise man once said, "Those cultures who don't change, die."My mother taught me if I didn't have something nice to say then I should keep quiet. But when I read something like this book, which feels like a direct attack on me and my children, I will not keep quiet. Perhaps it's not the kids who need to grow up, Mr. Bauerlein, perhaps it's you.

  • Ian
    2019-05-22 15:17

    A bitter, old man laments about the stupidity of the current generation. He shrieks about how the current generation performed worse answering trivia questions about geography, history, and classical literature. This is why this generation can't find jobs! They are uneducated fools! I happen to be very good at this type of trivia, but I know that being able to parrot and regurgitate info like the largest fresh water lake in the US doesn't help in today's job market. Thanks to internet, anyone can simply google that info in 2 minutes. Knowledge still of course has a strong place in society and is necessary to help us improve. Trivia like what this professor is upset about is fairly worthless outside of Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. This old prune would go around slapping computer programmers for not being able to name the 3 Karamazov brothers. The reason this generation has high unemployment is due to macroeconomic factors such as slow GDP growth, outsourcing, companies trying to run on a skeleton crew to save expenses, and slashing of government jobs due to fear of debt. It isn't because we are uneducated or because we aren't good enough with standardized tests. The current Japanese generation also have high unemployment despite being the best standardized test takers and academic overachievers of any cohort in human history!!! If there are no jobs available, then high unemployment becomes inevitable! I happen to be pretty well read and did very well in school, and I also happen to be in fairly good shape right now by being in medical school. My success though hasn't come from my knowledge of history, geography, or classic lit. If instead of going for medical school I had just tried to get a job with my BS in psychology and mastery of trivia I would probably be unemployed too! Please avoid this book like the plague that struck Europe in the 14th century AD.

  • Craig
    2019-05-10 14:03

    The Dumbest Generation's premise is that today's kids are sorely equipped to handle the challenges of the lives they have ahead of them. The primary reason behind this, Bauerlain states, is that this upcoming generation (broadly people under 30 but more specifically people in high school) spend an ever decreasing amount of time reading. This rationale should come as no surprise when you consider that the author is an English professor. The author sees this decline first-hand in the classroom and makes it his mission to inform people of the situation.Because of the younger generation's short tether with all things digital and their apparent widespread disdain with "old fashioned" learning through books they have become a population of short attention-spanned narcissists, satisfied in only the here and now, their naively inflated self-importance, and with the spread of their most trivial inner thoughts and feelings through channels like MySpace and Twitter. Bauerlain broadens his argument to include the whole Internet, claiming that it not only encourages impatience and uneven reading patterns but it also allows for kids to lazily address today's questions with quick hit searches on sites like Wikipedia.Bauerlain supports his argument very well throughout the book with copious amounts of data, from which he draws pretty sensible conclusions. I plant myself firmly in his camp though I am easier to convince than many as I see this first-hand evidence of this myself in the workplace -- or at least the results of the reading-decline epidemic. Many of these impatient up and comers demonstrate a lack of focus, a strong sense of entitlement, a poor work ethic, and -- most importantly -- their thirst for continued learning virtually dried up. Knowledge is not typically sought out and needs to be delivered in easy-to-swallow packets, on their schedule, and in forms most convenient to them -- traits that I'd argue are not abundantly present in voracious readers.I thought the book fell somewhat short on providing solutions, preferring instead to state the accusation and spend many of its subsequent pages backing up the claim with data and repetitive statement of the problem. It's not enough to just point to the problem. To fully hit it head-on we need to be more constructive and not stop short of voicing suggestions.

  • Daniel Solera
    2019-04-24 10:58

    I was excited to read this book because I thought it would supplement my own personal theory about human development and the underbelly of technological advance. However, it did so only slightly. It postulates that kids these days are more likely to go to their rooms and watch YouTube videos than read Jane Austen or watch Jackass than listen to Brahms. This is true. In fact, that's something I'd likely do myself. But the book stops short of explaining the obvious in terms of neuroscience or behavioral change. I was hoping to get a clearer insight into how this shift from classical culture to mindless pop-culture would affect the workings of the brain (the source of what we'd consider "intelligence"), and then how it would affect the social order around us. Instead, the book takes a trite attitude and simply knocks down kids for not appreciating Tolstoy as much as they love Facebook. In other words, he skipped that middle section altogether. It was still a good read and his viewpoints are reinforced by statistical data. He also has a few jabs at the educational system in the mix, so it wasn't a considerable disappointment. Read it if you hate kids these days.

  • Diana
    2019-05-09 11:03

    Interesting read. I thought it funny how the book spent a great deal of time talking about how people aren't reading (especially the younger generation) and yet the author chose to write a book and...I was reading it! At times in the beginning I felt like I was reading the same information over and over and thinking I had just read this page as it was a lot like the page before and the page before. It got a bit long and dry at times. I found sentences to be very long at times and hard to follow due to the length. I don't agree with all the information presented about the youth of today and the fact the author believes if they miss opportunities for education and growth at a young age they will never acquire it. That is a pretty big generalization for all. The were other parts of the book I left he was pretty much generalizing about all youth as he wanted to describe them. I have two teens in my home and know their friends and we don't fit his mold. I don't fit his mold. The ending of the book felt like a rant by the author on I am not sure what. I didn't see how the last part tied in with the previous ideas of the book. I did like his example of Rip Van Winkles to the youth of today and that might have been the most memorable pages of the whole book to me. He was a very bias writer. He dislikes Reagan I liked Reagan. He was against Vietnam and my husband served in this war and I am proud of him. At times the authors biased writing was a bit much to be openned minded about his topic.

  • Mitzi Moore
    2019-05-18 13:10

    Baurlein is an intellectual snob who is still mad at the hippies. He quotes multiple research studies that show young people to be scarily deficient in knowledge, but one of them is Jaywalking from the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. One of his assumptions seems to be that people learn everything they ever need to know in high school and college. Not true. I'm 45 and I still learn new things every day--even things about ancient history. Most of the classic literature I've read was by choice and well after college.I gave this book two stars rather than one, because one chapter struck me. The author claims that young people aren't as savvy as we assume when it comes to technology. For example, they are poor searchers of information and cannot distinguish between what is relevant and what is not. I worried about this when I assigned my end-of-year research project to my high school freshmen. I was pleasantly surprised, however: they did a great job of selecting exactly the right facts, images, and videos to tell a story of how technology had changed the world during the time they had been enrolled in my class. They even cited their sources, despite what Bauerlein would have predicted. I will continue to make sure to hold my students accountable for learning how to search for information and prioritize what they find.This book took weeks to finish because it kept making me angry. To keep myself sane, I read it concurrently with Don Tapscott's book Grown Up Digital. The last chapter of that book is a rebuttal of this one. I'm glad I finished with Tapscott.

  • BC
    2019-05-01 12:15

    I really enjoyed this book, and it provided some proof of what I have been experiencing as a teacher at a university. Students - even at a university - are reluctant to read any more than they must, don't take an interest in the material, and don't take an interest in the world around them. As a university professor, Bauerlain has experienced all these things himself, and now has the research to back it up.As Bauerlain states, younger people (and I'm one of the under-30s; just barely, though) have an ability to find information on the internet, but absolutely lack the ability to do anything with that information. Critical reading skills are almost gone. More impressive, or more scary, is the lack of curiosity. The majority of students want to find out what they have to do in order to either pass, or get the mark they need to get into law-med-?-school.The points that Bauerlain makes are valid, and point to larger problems than just book or newspaper sales. His book should be read by all those interested in the future of education and culture in North America.

  • Jeff
    2019-05-15 10:57

    Warning: one o' my typical reviews follows—i rate the book 4 stars (i.e., really liked it) but i have written almost nothing positive about it. Beware.In my "review" of Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, i wrote that the first 2 chapters of The Dumbest Generation felt like a complete 180: whereas Brokaw provided no data to support the titular thesis that everyone of the generation that preceded his was inherently worthwhile and therefore should be revered as The Greatest, i anticipated (admittedly, based on very little input {2 chapters}) that Bauerlein would toss around craploads of data to "prove" that the titular generation that follows his is inherently useless and we should all fear for the future. (I glibly added that i did fear for my future, but only the immediate future in the sense that it will include another low quality book and/or unsatisfactory reading.) I'm very pleased to say i was wrong in one important way: Bauerlein's not trying to prove they're useless, though it might feel that way to members of the generation he's calling The Dumbest (i wouldn't blame them & their parents for being pissed off, either).One reason for the high rating is the quality of Bauerlein's writing. It exceeds Brokaw's in every possible way (i don't mean to damn him with faint praise) and includes the style of well-organized argumentation i expect (demand) of a book that begins by making brazen claims on its cover with title, subtitle, and sub-subtitle and then goes even farther. I don't believe every claim he makes—i probably disagree with almost every one of them, actually. Still, this book is extremely worthwhile reading if only because ... i was challenged, stimulated, energized, irritated, peeved, pleased, amused, and only occasionally confused by Bauerlein's barrage of survey results and controversy-philic conclusions. You, on the other hand, might be bored by how many percentages he reports and how many surveys he cites. You might, as i did, disagree with (most of) his claims but disagree in such a way that you recoil emotionally because they seemingly attempt to "damn" all of turn-of-the-millennium Young America. He don't stop with youngsters neither: Boomer and Gen X parents and educators get much of the blame for Generation Next's alleged lack of education, taste, and potential because the elders failed to teach/mentor their juniors properly. Protracted adolescence is not preferable to growing up, watching TV is not a cultural experience (not in the way reading a book is), and (allegedly) siloing oneself up exclusively within one's age group might lead to an entire generation fulfilling every codger/fogey/geezer's greatest fear: "if things do not change, they {the current generation} will be remembered as the fortunate ones who were unworthy of the privileges they inherited."It is also worth reading because of the frenzy of ideas. Many deserve deeper examination (and better rebuttal) than i attempt to give them (below). Most cannot be dismissed easily or entirely—simply having a feeling that they are wrong is insufficient. But ... i can't say this is a 5-star book because of what i deem to be fundamental flaws.Fundamental Flaw #1: Even though his title makes a claim of comparison about generations, Bauerlein never establishes baseline values or historical norms against which to set the findings about the titular generation. Comparing data from 1982 with 1992 and 2002 data does not make a convincing historical argument for the primary thesis and 1982 is about as far back as any of his surveys and standardized tests go. Reporting that 57% of U.S. high school seniors scored "below basic" and 1% reached "advanced" on the 2001 NAEP (Nat'l Assessment of Educational Progress) history exam sounds like irrefutably bad news. Are these scores worse than those of previous generations? Are they all-time worsts? I know we don't have that kind of data going way back, but just because a score sounds bad doesn't mean it is as bad as it sounds. For example, i could report that there are top professionals in America who succeed at one of the most important aspects of their job only 30% of the time and you'd probably think i'm crazy to say they're "top" pros. But when i clarify that i'm talking about batting averages, it all makes sense. Or i could report that there are professionals who ought to forced to leave their professions because they succeed 90% of the time at their main duties and you'd think i'm nuts unless i specified that i'm talking about cardiac surgeons. (hmmm, considering how difficult heart surgery is, i wouldn't be surprised to find out the very best in the U.S. are at ~90%, so maybe they ought not be forced to find other work)Anyway, Bauerlein mentions IQ tests. He explains that they must be reassessed all the time and the questions must be made harder. If they didn't change, almost everybody nowadays would score at genius levels. But he doesn't draws a different conclusion from this than i do. That alone is enough to make me wonder if the same thing explains why the test scores of "these kids nowadays" haven't become all genius level scores, despite all the advantages preceding generations have provided for them ("the privileges they inherited"). Adults expect more from youth than was expected of the adults when they were youths. It's only logical. You can't succeed nowadays if you only have the equivalent education of a pre-Industrial Revolution fourth grader. (no data to substantiate my claims)Anyway, it seems to me, there's probably a bell curve of adolescent/young-adult acceptability: every part of that bell—except for its "good" extreme lip—offends the parental and/or grand-parental generation as unworthy of reaping the benefits sown by the prior generation's hard work. I also contend that just as Brokaw's Greatest Generation "merely" rose to the occasion, so does every generation. When the Millennials face obstacles and challenges that threaten their survival, when they're truly forced to grow up or remain children, they will sink or swim. Even without the exact culture & education Bauerlein so desperately wants them to acquire, my money is on just as many of them surviving the treacherous ocean of life as every other arbitrarily delineated-in-time group of humans (i.e., every other generation). (ok, i'll finally shut up ... about this topic)Fundamental Flaw #2: The sub-subtitle, "Don't Trust Anyone Under 30." The title, i suspect, is meant to bring Brokaw's book to mind, a book that lauds Bauerlein's parents' generation. The subtitle seems to me Bauerlein's true goal, but the sub-subtitle appears to be merely a funny rejoinder that plays on a 60s counterculture mantra, "Don't trust anyone over 30." {by the way, though often attributed to Chicago 7 co-defendant Jerry Rubin, it's actually a fragment of a quote from Jack Weinberg, a leader of the Free Speech Coalition at UC-Berkeley; the full quote is, "We have a saying in the movement that we don't trust anybody over 30."—The Washington Post, March 23, 1970, p. A1; Weinberg later admitted he'd said it without conviction and in hopes of getting an annoying reporter to leave him alone} BACK TO THE sub-subtitle!It is completely contradictory to the most positive and constructive chapter in the book, namely "The Betrayal of the Mentors." If mentoring of kids by adults requires trust from the older generation along with their willingness to create a partnership rather than a master-servant dynamic, then even joking about not trusting anyone under 30 seems like a very bad idea. And to have it on the cover can create prejudice in readers' minds before they get to the stuff that i claim is the most positive.Oh, and the cover image is of Transformers(tm) raising an American flag à la the famous image of soldiers at Iwo Jima during WWII. Was that Bauerlein's idea? And how many of The Greatest Generation had a knee-jerky "how dare you!" reaction to it?Ironically funny closing note: i suspect Bauerlein didn't bother to proof the back cover because i can't imagine him approving such horridness. I thought, "Maybe in one of the final chapters he'll comment on the 20-something who penned the jacket copy and cite it as an example of how illiterate their entire generation is," but he didn't. The quality of prose is drastically inferior to Bauerlein's. Maybe they've corrected/improved it since the first printing that i have at hand:They are THE DUMBEST GENERATION. They enjoy all the advantages of a prosperous, high-tech society. Digital technology has fabulously empowered them, loosened the hold of elders. Yet adolescents use these tools to wrap themselves in a generational cocoon filled with puerile banter and coarse images. The founts of knowledge are everywhere, but the rising generation camps in the desert, exchanging stories, pictures, tunes, and texts, savoring the thrill of peer attention. If they don't change, they will be remembered as the fortunate ones who were unworthy of the privileges they inherited. They may even be the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever.{plagiarizes the last 2 sentences!}I'm fighting the urge to read Douglas Coupland's Generation X (even though it's a novel) and Thom S. Rainer's The Millennials next rather than sticking to the plan and taking A Walk in the Woods with Bill Bryson.By the way: if you're under 30 AND you've read this far without entirely skimming, i officially revoke your Millennials membership privileges!

  • Mohamed Ghilan
    2019-04-26 10:14

    Given the chosen title, let alone the specific content, it is not surprising that Mark Bauerlein did not garner a lot fans or high ratings for his book “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future“. But that is precisely what he set out not to do. “The Dumbest Generation” is a lament over the cultural and intellectual malaise that defines the under 30 year olds in America. Bauerlein uses anecdotes and statistics throughout to bolster his argument that the youth of today are in fact not as well-informed, intelligent, forward-thinking, or whatever else positive that can be said about them. He goes beyond the isolated examples that faintly shine every once in a while as a glimmer of hope for those who want to uphold a positive outlook.The statistics from assessment tests and the surveys Bauerlein brings forth provide damning evidence that today’s American youth are historically and sociopolitically illiterate, mathematically inept, vocabulary-deficient, all the while being unjustifiably confident in their future career prospects. This is very hard to argue against given the shocking figures reported by universities and future employers who suffer from having to provide basic training for incoming students and employees just so they can be able to handle basic cognitive tasks.To be clear, Bauerlein does mention that he is under no delusion that the youth of the past eras were any smarter. To the contrary, he concedes that the youth of the fifties and the sixties are no different than today’s Millennials when it comes to intellectual capacity. His concern is whether this capacity is being directed and utilized to its full potential in a way that allows one to grow out of childish concerns of adolescence into informed civic-minded concerns of adulthood. Based on the current trends and available statistics, Bauerlein concludes that adolescence has been extended, and we now have frivolous-minded children trapped in adult bodies. To understand why this is so, we must look to how modern advancements in technology, the Internet, and social media are being utilized by today’s youth.Bauerlein’s attack on the Internet as a medium for gaining knowledge was for me quite reminiscent of Guy Lyon Playfair’s attack on television in “The Evil Eye” and Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death“. As a medium, the available studies from cognitive neuroscience point to the inability of the Internet to engage the mind in the same way as reading a book can. This is not necessarily a problem in itself, unless the Internet becomes an alternative to reading books, which is what the youth have done. Bauerlein’s argument is not against the use of technology in education or the Internet per se. Rather, he cites assessment scores showing how exchanging traditional modes of education and reading completely for computer screens and gadgets has actually dumbed down this generation.To add insult to injury, surveys designed to test student and engagement and satisfaction with education give the false impression that such changes are for the better. This is where Bauerlein brings up such surveys to show how we have done something quite radical in comparison to previous generations – instead of the wisdom of experience and adult insight, we now use youth happiness as the moral benchmark upon which we judge the youth. In other words, the adults have disposed of their responsibility to mentor the youth into adulthood, and relegated it to the youth themselves. In doing so, the adults have failed this generation. Furthermore, given their narcissism and ignorance of civic issues at a deeper level than their topical here-and-now immediate awareness, today’s Dumbest Generation may be paving the way for the collapse of democracy in America.Bauerlein has not completely lost hope. He is sounding the alarm to try and turn everyone’s attention to the gloomy facts so something can be done about it. The Dumbest Generation is more a criticism of the adults who are supposed to be preparing today’s youth to be tomorrow’s mentors, but are failing quite miserably at doing so. The available data reported in this book paint a dark future, and to not see that is to either be blind or to be complicit. In order to get the most out of this book, the reader would need to get past the offensive title and set aside what they think about the intellectual state of the Millennials.

  • Lilian
    2019-05-16 09:55

    A word of warning, I am under 30, so according to the cover, you shouldn't trust me.Two chapters in and I already feel like hurling this book out the window. I felt bombarded with a staggering number of statistics, all basically telling me that my generation is spoiled rotten with entertainment while we cease to retain anything worthwhile for the "adult" world, turning us into ignorant, insolent people.This book feels like it was not intended to be read by "The Dumbest Generation." I roundly suspect it's because I am the young generation Bauerlein is referring to that I feel almost defensive. It is hard to digest a book that seems to be berating my indulgent habits with every sentence. Admittedly, the first chapter sent me off to Google where the pope lived and the Bill of Rights, if this was supposed to be common knowledge, I am seriously lacking.Bauerlein's assertions not only sound flawed and exaggerated, but borderline absurd: "They wrinkle their brows if offered a book about Congress, but can't wait for the next version of Halo." I may be wrong, but I don't believe the average person, from any generation, would prefer to read a book on Congress over playing a game. He goes on to write "...reading a book about the Roman Empire earns nothing but teasing." Well, that is news to me, but then again I am from the "dumbest generation." Not sure what society he is referring to, but in the one I know, people don't get teased for reading, in fact you would probably be admired for taking the initiative especially because it seems like so few of us have the patience, nor the interest to do so. When he talks about the younger generation being bibliophobic, I was frustrated. Apparently he did not plan anyone under thirty (I am eighteen) to read this. Every time I read his complaints toward the youth for not reading I wanted to say, "Well, you say we aren't reading...then why in the world am I reading your book right now?" I suspect I finished the book partly to prove him wrong. I also suspect it might be reverse psychology on his part. To say the author does not understand the youth would be an understatement.To prove the youth's obsession with fashion instead of history will hinder their future, he uses this hypothetical example: "If a student interviews for an internship wearing the hippest garments but can't name a single eighteenth-century artist, the curators will pass." Not sure why this imaginary student would even go in for the internship in the first place without doing a bit of research beforehand. While fashion might not get you an internship, Wikipedia and Google might. Trust me, I was the girl who crammed the history of the company off the Web I was applying to in high school.Though despite my complaints, Bauerlein does raise points I agree with such as: 1) the Internet has increased reading material, but the younger generation do not know more than their counterparts in their parent's generation. 2) rejecting history is not a staunch claim on retaining individuality, but misplaced pride.The idea of not reading or studying the classic masterpieces in art or literature under the assumption it decreases individuality, disgusts me.I almost wish this was satirical so that this would at least be a hilarious read.Overall, not horrible but I definitely forced myself to finish the book. If not for content, this book makes a great learn-fancy-vocabulary-so-I-can-sound-smart-later-book for I can rarely get through a page without a new word popping up like "pedagogy" (which sounds more like a goldfish to me). Fortunately, the conclusion was not as bad as I anticipated, though I admit to borderline elation when I was finished. Overall, if you are younger than thirty, I reckon you will want to punch Bauerlein in the face.

  • Stewart
    2019-05-11 15:17

    Mark Bauerlein's premise that the electronic world (Internet, Facebook, cellphones, iPads, etc.) is dumbing-down and disengaging younger people from the wider world is hard to dispute. "Most young Americans possess little of the knowledge that makes for an informed citizen, and too few of them master the skills needed to negotiate an information-heavy, communication-based society and economy." I have read the surveys and polls over the past three decades, some of which are quoted in the book, that have shown that many American adults can't find Iraq or Finland on a map or don't know their two U.S. senators or know basic science, history, or math, despite 12-plus years of formal education. The big problem I have with the book is that Bauerlein focuses exclusively on the under-30 group, when I think the problem he details can be found in almost all age groups in this country. He points to an "anti-intellectual outlook" in the American youth culture, but I would argue that anti-intellectualism permeates American society from teens to seniors now and throughout our history. When I am out in public, I see teens and adults in all age groups glued to their cellphones and iPads, oblivious to their immediate surroundings. Ignorance of the important issues of the day and the disengagement of voters from their government can be found at all age levels. Addiction to the Internet is not limited to under-30s, I think. Reading Bauerlein's book will make almost anyone depressed about the future of this country. Because I think the problem is more pervasive, I am even more pessimistic about the years ahead.

  • Kate
    2019-05-09 09:04

    Wonderful read! Puts our generation in its place. There is so much to say about this book, that I am quite going to fail at doing it proper justice. There are plenty of statistics to shock, horrify, and enlighten. The author does not get completely up on his high horse, but his style is poignant. The observations are astute and the numbers are there to back it all up. Upon finishing the book, one only hopes the predictions laid out in this book about the Millenials do not come to pass.

  • Sara
    2019-05-08 09:05

    This year, if you have the chance to read only *ONE* hand-wringing book about today's stupid kids who are engrossed in their stupid technology with stupid results, written by a crabby, smug, envious, out of touch, statistic-spewing Baby Boomer, do yourself a big favor and choose one other than this.

  • Brenda
    2019-05-02 09:08

    Bauerlein is a crotchety old republican bragging about is own "intelligence" and ragging on, "those darn kids."

  • Mel
    2019-05-06 12:54

    This is without a doubt the worst book I read all year. I read it for library school, thinking that it, like Jackson’s “Distracted” might have something useful to say on the subject of information literacy, or at least what skills people needed, but no. It was so poorly written and poorly argued. It was just tirade after tirade about how teens today are stupid and lazy and don’t appreciate the arts and books the way they should. It blamed technology for all of students’ ills, when it wasn’t blaming the students themselves. It quoted study after study, but never gave adequate referencing for the works, or the context of the study, or comparisons with other studies, just the results that supported the “kids are dumb” argument. I went through writing out why his arguments were wrong for the first 2/3rds but after awhile I just lost my will to live. I only managed to finish it in the hope that there would be something worth quoting in the last section. Ironically it is also painfully evident that while blaming technology for the teens’ ills, he’s not really familiar with it, and has obviously never used it beyond browsing MySpace pages. The first chapter sets the premise of the book, that teens today don't know anything because of their use of "nu medja" or that they spend all their time on the internet. But the flaw in his argument is that all the tests he quotes; don't show a decline from previous years. They always show that kids are dumb. It also doesn't explain why America is so far behind other developed countries where kids have access to the same internet technologies. He argues that kids have no knowledge of facts, but I remember being in a US high school in 1991 and being horrified by how easy and stupid the classes were. The idea of developing "civic ideas" was to read a story from the local newspaper. There was no analysis, no essay writing, no critical thinking and no perspective beyond the US. I'm not surprised of these results when the teaching standard was so poor before, and is unlikely to have improved. But despite the fact that kids have all fallen short in these areas before, he now assumes that the adults reading his book are aware of the facts that the kids don't know. This means that at some point, post high school, they acquire these skills. When is that period and are studies nowadays showing that they've stopped learning then? If things are the same how is numedja to blame? What's the difference between now and when I was growing up and the adults complained we were spending all our time watching TV and talking on the phone? How is it the internet is more evil that TV? Surely the problem arises not from what the kids do in their free time but rather the lack of education they are getting at school? Another criticism of the author is that he purposefully ignores subculture and class differences. What he is criticising is modern mainstream American values, the emphasis on materialism, popularity and the accumulation of wealth. These are things that don't go away when people grow up. Rather they're problems all American face. Often teenagers are the ones who fight against these values by identifying with subcultures, and becoming involved in social change. He completely ignores the province of the teenager to rebel and think for themselves. Chapter 2 looks at how teenagers just don't read anymore. He starts off with a quote by a teenager who says that his dad takes him to the library every week, but his dad doesn't seem to realise that print is dead. In this chapter he shows how in tests reading levels, particularly reading for enjoyment and personal growth, are down for teens compared with previous decades. However, what he totally ignores is that the tests used all focus on traditional print reading. There is absolutely no acknowledgement of any reading online. None of the questions seem to ask, "How many hours do you spend reading blogs? fan fiction? status updates?" He talks about how it would benefit kids to read science magazines, but do they look at kids reading the same stories on science websites (often websites of magazines?) no! The problem here is the opposite to the Library and information science world. He fails to acknowledge and incorporate the shift in focus from print to the web. Rather than dismissing all online interaction out of hand, he should look at the new ways information is being used and how it is being developed. I'm sure there must be research done on the amount of time people spend playing games vs. reading online. What about internet activism? Mailing lists? discussion groups? What about ebooks? Image searches? It all comes across as "you kids today with your MySpace and your YouTube, get off my lawn". The end of chapter 2 criticises the people who've made the argument that I have, that there is a growing e-literacy and e-literacy skills are important for the growing digital age. He asks why if this is the case do the tests not improve? To me the answer is because the tests are still old fashioned, they are not including the new style of learning and information. That and the education system in America is still failing. And until you improve education, nothing the kids do in their free time is going to improve scores nationwide. Next he focuses on ICT literacy. Arguing that even though kids use the web all the time they are still incompetent at it. He cites a study which has 40-50 percent of students not able to do things like find appropriate sources online, rate a website for reliability etc. Skills they really should have and don’t. However, he completely forgets that in the last chapter it was pointed out that half the teens weren’t using the internet, or social networking sites on the internet. Perhaps the half that is getting the poor results is the half that isn’t using it? I’m not saying that everyone who uses the web to talk to friends couldn’t benefit from some IL training, but I question whether these results really say what he wants them to. These types of surveys are designed to show an increased need for technology skills amongst students, not less time spent online and less use of technology in general. He also complains how the most competent users complain about the use of technology in teaching, not because they don’t like it, but presumably because it is outdated and doesn’t work well, and the teachers don’t know how to use it properly. He complains about the amount of computers put in schools, despite the fact that he quotes someone saying how they help African American and Hispanic students. He quotes countless surveys saying they make no difference to scores. But are they there to improve students’ scores on traditional subjects or help them get ready for work in the 21st century? Sometimes his arguments are so incoherent and ranting that I loose the thread of how things are supposed to be related. For instance, he starts to talk about language acquisition, and how this is important for kids before 5, but then writes about the low state of language on student blogs. Now the people writing blogs now didn’t have access to this technology pre-kindergarten so how is this related? He talks about how teens inhabit a “world of consumerism and conformity” and how is this different to the rest of the American populace? Is this a culture wide problem or something just unique to teens? Again he makes no statements about how society itself, rather than technology they use, may be shaping the teens lives. He also writes how boys struggle to achieve courage and girls to achieve poise. (WTF?) He criticises the type of reading people do on the web. How it is “non-linear” and makes them unprepared to read “proper” works. He makes the funniest and most ironic comparison here saying that if people are free to cut and paste texts as they like how will they cope with the Iliad, making it something for their own personal use! It’s not as if the Iliad grew out of an oral tradition, where every time it was told slightly differently by each different storyteller! It’s not like even once it was codified to paper it was performed in its entirety from start to finish. But rather people picked the chapters they liked best and had those performed at their dinners. In the next chapter after talking about how teens are not focused and not able to do anything to benefit others without being made to. He goes on to talk about “twixters” people in their 20s who while having college degrees, growing up middle class and living in cities, work service jobs, live with their parents or roommates, and “engage in serial dating”. He says all these things like it was a conscious choice of these people to not take on a “serious” role of adulthood but life out their frivolous lives. Ok, perhaps the reason these people are working in service industries is because having a degree no longer opens the jobs that it used to. People don’t work these jobs because they don’t want to get a “proper job” but because there are no jobs! The reason they live with other people is because they can’t afford to rent on their own, let alone by a house! Does the author have any idea of the world people actually live in? This is not some long enjoyed quest for “identity” this is economic recession! This chapter seems to be less about technology making youth suck, and just that they suck in general. An artist working in a programme for at risk youth to develop art skills is ridiculed by the author over and over for his distaste at the idea of kids all sitting around copying a Rembrandt, and saying they should find their own voice and style. This chapter breaks away from the argument that technology is to blame and looks at the “youth movement” from the 60s on, and now seems to hold this to blame. People have been valuing the opinions of youth too much while at the same time they feel disenfranchised. I’m sure there is a point to this chapter, but it mostly just seems to be slamming an age group. The last chapter looks at the impact this will have on “American democracy” how without civic understanding the country will be doomed to failure without once mentioning any of the political problems of the past 10 years that might influence a young person’s feelings towards politics. Of course he also doesn’t mention how the majority of the US population doesn’t vote and hasn’t voted in a very long time. Because it’s always so much easier to blame problems on the kids! I think his argument is that kids are dumb. I’m afraid I think that people in general are dumb, and therefore his arguments to blame technology for all our problems today seem simplistic and wrong. As he’s an English professor and not a social scientist, sociologist, psychologist, or even historian he seems to lack an understanding of how culture and society work. How what we are experiencing now is a continuation of problems from the past. You can’t just blame technology for your problems. If kids are dumb it’s because their parents and teachers are dumb and they’re not shaping up and taking responsibility for giving them a proper education and preparing them for life.

  • Brendan
    2019-05-05 15:11

    I’m going to characterize the book in a couple sets of bullets — things I think the book says, things I dislike about the book, and things I like about the book.Things the book says * Bauerlein argues that digital technology does not deliver on the promises its promoters have made. The millennials are told, from the moment they start mixing and Facebooking, that they see things in a different way, they are the digital generation, and that they are great. But these new skills don’t translate into real world performance, and they’re leaving school less informed, less thoughtful, less able, and more self-confident (paradoxically) than any previous generation. * The mentors have abdicated their (our) responsibility as guardians of tradition and have left the millennials underprepared for the future and unaware of their deficits. * Reading is AWESOME and not enough young people do it.Things I like about what the book says * We are at a crisis of education. Students aren’t being challenged in the classroom enough and the intellectual life their teachers take for granted has changed beyond recognition. * The cultural heritage democracy depends on–particularly a contextualized knowledge of history and philosophy–is almost entirely absent from the new generation leaving high school. We can expect to see a major problem maintaining the standards of intelligent debate when this gap exists. The most disturbing quote in the book: “Two-thirds of high school seniors couldn’t explain a photo of a theater whose portal reads ‘COLORED ENTRANCE’.” (17) * It’s important to instill in the young a respect for history and those who have come before them. Youth always believe themselves to be special — history and knowledge teach us how little of what we’ve done is actually special; humility breeds real intelligence.That I don’t like about what the book says * Bauerlein criticizes digital boosters as focusing on a narrow niche of students, people who epitomize the highest achievers of their generation, and making broad claims based on their behaviors. But Bauerlein does the same thing when he romanticizes the intellectual heft of students from the past. I doubt that a huge swath of middle-achievers in the 1950s went to museums for fun instead of playing baseball or hanging out with friends; the mall– not the library– was the Facebook of the 1980s. * Much of what he suggests about how knowledge works depends on a notion of individual depth that makes sense. If you don’t have the context to understand the history of race-relations in the U.S., it’s hard to speak adequately about the issue. But I think people in the digital age acquire a wider range of deep specialties which they can use to connect to other students and people. He underplays the value of these specialties. * He also overplays the visibility of the intellectual activities of the youth of the past. Writing about intellectuals of the past, he says “Do Intellectual Pockets exist today similar to Alcove 1 or to Port Huron? I don’t know of any” (228). I suspect these groups came to power later, and that people weren’t writing books about them at the time.In the end, I agree with many sentiments Bauerlein offers here, but I ultimately disagree with the “hell in a handbasket” reading of all our culture. As a scholar of the digital age, I’m interesting in looking at how to leverage new ways of communicating into productive work as fast as possible. From that perspective, Bauerlein stands like a man on the beach facing a breaker with his hand out, shouting stop as the wave bears down.

  • Colin Price
    2019-05-05 16:03

    My first reaction to this book was a picture of Andy Rooney engaging in yet another curmudeonly rant about some absurd irritant at the end of 60 Minutes. I suspected I would find more Luddite assertions about how the students of yesteryear were so much brighter and more capable than today's youth.I was wrong.The year of my birth puts me right on the borderline between Gen X and the Millenials, and as a teacher, I work with this generation every day, so I have something of a vested interest in this topic. Before I began, I wanted Bauerlein's thesis to seem ridiculous. I wanted my youth spent messing around with computers and Nintendo when the Digital Age was in its infancy to mean something, to have given me a gift that other generations had missed. I believe now that I have falsely attributed most of what I learned to things with screens rather than the copious reading and board game playing I did as a kid.The evidence Bauerlein presents is thorough and troubling, especially about the virtual death of reading. There is a chorus of voices out there telling us teachers that we need to teach kids "21st century skills" (the suitably nebulous Eduspeak for being able to adapt to new technology), but it is apparent that for all their vaunted technological dexterity, the only 21st century skill this generation (in which I am forced to include myself) of students have learned is how to waste prodigious amounts of time without gaining anything of lasting value.What is even more troubling to me is Bauerlein's assertion that our ennobling of youth culture has backfired. The rise of self-esteem rather than performance based pedagogy, the glamor of pop culture and media, and the now culturally acceptable anti-intellectualism adopted by kids are all products of our attempts to give kids a voice. We keep saying to them, "You're young, but you're important." To which they have responded, "Duh." And them promptly returned to their narcissistic caves, having been given approval by all kinds of adult mentors to reject tradition and anything outside their fad-driven bubble because they are so special. They are the future. Which to them, means the past is irrelevant.I really want to believe technology enhances learning. I still think if used responsibly it does, but my own anecdotal evidence from the classroom echoes the evidence presented in this book: the elevated claims of the technophiles has not enhanced literacy and knowledge, but killed it.

  • Jud Barry
    2019-04-21 14:54

    The author visited my library last night and for the most part delivered the main messages from this book:1. 24/7 digital connectivity (a.k.a. social networking, Internet 2.0) tends to exacerbate the peer-pressured, anti-intellectual predispositions of American youth. It didn't cause it, but it makes it worse.2. Facility with technology is not the same thing as intelligence.3. Reading books and reading online aren't the same. Reading books both encourages and requires long periods of focused attention that the online environment by its very nature discourages.In person, the author was friendlier and more genial than his prose. His personal style was engaging and respectful, especially of the youth in the audience; his vignettes of interactions with his 5-year-old son were touching and self-mocking.By contrast, his book favors warning-bell rhetoric. The British, so to speak, aren't coming; they're here, and they're texting for reinforcements. Whereas in person he didn't take any prisoners, the book fills the penitentiaries with vapid, self-regarding, callow youth and with "elders" so addled by the gameboy prowess of their youngers as to imagine that knowledge resides in successfully negotiating Grand Theft Auto. Personally modest in setting himself up as a curmudgeon perfectly content to receive the darts of young critics--"because it will make you better"--as an author he is more of a Cassandra: Bauerlein takes Reagan's freedom-is-lost-in-a-generation and says we're about to find out if the same is true of knowledge.At bottom Bauerlein's plea is for an expansive realm of learning that includes history, civics, and the arts, areas that tend to lie outside the sensationalism and commercialism that drive youth culture. Some youth are drawn to that realm of learning, but if Bauerlein is right, their numbers will fade in the technological triumph of a culture of immaturity.

  • Stephanie
    2019-05-22 12:53

    Ironically enough, I think Bauerlein effectively and indirectly summed up the general feeling of his own book by his criticism of another critic on page 184, saying that the language used was "so elevated, so melodramatic, aims more for affect than information".It made me laugh so I made sure to underline it.I'm not afraid of being analyzed by the former generation, and as it is, this book didn't personally offend me for my own sake, but it did offend me for the sake of his own charge. It was sloppily presented, I thought. The fact that he never really considered many social factors as having any affect on the "dumbing down" of this generation was sometimes overwhelmingly embarrassing. I sighed a lot as I read this. I thought it was just a weak excuse to say that technology has been the leading factor in the general lack in intellectualism in the U.S..Much of this was fairly political and very, very elitist. And I found a gaping hole in his logic in postulating that this generation more than any other is disregarding American tradition into oblivion, and that it is in danger of being lost to obscurity via our revolutionary ignorance. America was *founded* by revolutionary ignorance and arrogance, and that is something he failed to recognize, I thought.Anyway, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

  • Keith
    2019-04-24 15:58

    This book is a huge contrast to "The Kids Are Alright". In that book the contention is that technology today - video games, cell phones, computers have made today's younger generation smarter and more able to solve problems than the current generation. However, in "The Dumbest Generation" the argument is exactly opposite. The contention here is that screens - video games, cell phones, computers - have made the current generation one who haven't built the skills necessary to succeed in the world. Those skills include the ability to actually read and analyze text, communicate with more than a sound bite, to interact with the real world and people face-to-face. By not building their attention spans through the hard work of reading, the current generation is setting themselves up for failure.This book makes the point well and I would have given it more stars if it had provided more and cogent arguments and not have repeated the premise so many times. Maybe it was written for the current generation and not the ones who do know how to read.