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jaycee

Bibliobimbo

If there was a Reader's Anonymous, my family would probably have shunted me off into rehab already.

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

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) - Mark Bauerlein Now, to sum up my feelings on this book in a way that hopefully doesn't fulfill the author's dire prognostications: Bauerlein and I share, I think, a horror at the currently rising tide of anti-intellectualism in the USA. We trace the blame for this problem, however, to different sources. Bauerlein believes that the culture wars of the sixties promoted a belief among the young that there was nothing worthwhile to be gained from the past. I would argue that the roots of anti-intellectualism go much deeper and dismissal of the "experts" and the "eggheads" is a pervasive strain of American thought. My main problem with the book's argument is that Bauerlein seems to be saying that young people today are much more shallow, narrow-minded, and peer-obsessed than they were in the past. I just can't agree with that argument. I accept that kids today have many more sources of information and distraction than they probably did in the past; that doesn't mean I buy for one second the idea that the majority of teens (and people in general) 50 or even 100 years ago were striving to improve their minds and familiarize themselves with the world of ideas. Intellectual activity on the scale he's referring to has always been the province of a minority. The very studies Bauerlein cites show that, while students have not drastically improved in a variety of ways since the 1930s, neither have they drastically declined. There are some points that I agree with Bauerlein on: the echo chambers we can currently create for ourselves that prevent us from stumbling upon information we disagree with; the ridiculousness of the current craze regarding "self-esteem," our incredibly narcissistic culture, the elevation of youth culture to the exclusion of everything else, etc. I just don't think we can lay the blame for all this on young people.One point I found interesting was his continued harping on how young people today only listen to popular music, not classical or jazz. Jazz was the popular music of its time! He does admit that the passage of years has allowed us to determine what was great and what was merely a passing fad in regards to jazz, but he doesn't seem to take into consideration that jazz is not a dead artform. People are still making jazz. Some of it is very good, and some of it is terrible. Nor does he consider that 50 years from now, Skrillex may be regarded as one of the musical masters of the early 21st century. We just don't know.Another problem I had with the book is that he really harps on remembering FACTS. Students can't remember facts! Gosh, why would they? He sounds like Homer going on about how writing was going to ruin everyone's memory. Yes, with access to the internet and our various portable data devices, it's probably easier for us to look up the date of the battle of Shiloh than remember it. Isn't it more important that we know what the battle was about and it's larger ramifications? Not that I'm saying that students are learning that, either. I was startled that, although this book was finished in 2008, Bauerlein made no reference to No Child Left Behind and "teaching to the test" which I personally regard as a large part of students' narrow worldviews. Instead of being encouraged by teachers to learn for the sake of learning and for potential applications to their future, instead students are drilled in what they need to pass their exams. I think this gives them the idea that education is just something you have to muddle through in order to get a job, and then you'll never have to think about any of this crap again. Bauerlein admits that a large part of the problem he is detailing is just teens being teens. He feels, however, that we don't give teens enough of an incentive to want to become mature, intelligent adults, and in that I can't disagree with him. When the adults are acting like spoiled kids, why expect the kids to do better?