The Dumbest Generation: how the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardies our future [or, don’t trust anyone under 30] by Mark Bauerlein
Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University and has worked as Director of Research and Analysis for the National Endowment for the Arts.
This book provides page after page of argument that young adults (under 30) are not exercising their minds in ways that will provide our country with the intelligent leadership which is needed to meet the demands of the future. Here is a lengthy quote that sums up:
“The ramifications for the United States are grave. We need a steady stream of rising men and women to replenish the institutions, to become strong military leaders and wise political leaders, dedicated journalists and demanding teachers, judges and muckrakers, scholars and critics and artists. We have the best schools to train them, but social and private environments have eroded. Some of the kids study hard for class, but what else do they learn when they’re young? How do they spend the free hours of adolescence? They don’t talk with their friends about books, and they don’t read them when they’re alone. Teachers try to impart knowledge, but students today remember only that which suits their careers or advantages their social lives. For the preparation of powerful officials, wise intellectuals, and responsible citizens, formal schooling and workplace training are not enough. Social life and leisure time play essential roles in the maturing process, and if the knowledge principle disappears, if books, artworks, historical facts, and civic debates – in a word, an intellectual forensic – vacate the scene, then the knowledge young people acquire later on never penetrates to their hearts.
Democracy doesn’t prosper that way. If tradition survives only in the classroom, limping along in watered-down lessons, if knowledge doesn’t animate the young when they’re with each other and by themselves, it won’t inform their thought and behavior when they’re old. The latest social and leisure dispositions of the young are killing the culture, and when they turn 40 years old and realize what they failed to learn in their younger days, it will be too late” (pp 234-235).
I actually know a few young people who seem to be on a much more positive road than this author presents. Part of the reason is that these young people are attending very good school systems, but most of it is due to the character of their parents. They have been brought up to appreciate culture and history and are expected to interact with issues and people outside of their own social scene. I’m sure there are more great young people like them in this nation, but I agree with the author that the over-use of social networking sites (and video games) is certainly dumbing down our society. And they will be the ones who are running our governments, our banks and our nursing homes one day!
My solution – use your library, talk about these issues with others, and do everything you can to encourage young people to stretch their minds!
Labels: Dumb Generation