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

( 25 )

Overview

This shocking, surprisingly entertaining romp into the intellectual nether regions of today's underthirty set reveals the disturbing and, ultimately, incontrovertible truth: cyberculture is turning us into a society of know-nothings.

The Dumbest Generation is a dire report on the intellectual life of young adults and a timely warning of its impact on American democracy and culture.
 
For decades, concern ...

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

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Overview

This shocking, surprisingly entertaining romp into the intellectual nether regions of today's underthirty set reveals the disturbing and, ultimately, incontrovertible truth: cyberculture is turning us into a society of know-nothings.

The Dumbest Generation is a dire report on the intellectual life of young adults and a timely warning of its impact on American democracy and culture.
 
For decades, concern has been brewing about the dumbed-down popular culture available to young people and the impact it has on their futures. But at the dawn of the digital age, many thought they saw an answer: the internet, email, 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 aware, diversify their tastes, and improve their verbal skills has had the opposite effect. According to recent reports from the National Endowment for the Arts, 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: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future is a startling examination of the intellectual life of young adults and a timely warning of its impact on American culture and democracy.
 
Over the last few decades, how we view adolescence itself has changed, growing from a pitstop on the road to adulthood to its own space in society, wholly separate from adult life. This change in adolescent culture has gone hand in hand with an insidious infantilization of our culture at large; as adolescents continue to disengage from the adult world, they have built their own, acquiring more spending money, steering classrooms and culture towards their own needs and interests, and now using the technology once promoted as the greatest hope for their futures to indulge in diversions, from MySpace to multiplayer video games, 24/7.
 
Can a nation continue to enjoy political and economic predominance if its citizens refuse to grow up? Drawing upon exhaustive research, personal anecdotes, and historical and social analysis, The Dumbest Generation presents a portrait of the young American mind at this critical juncture, and lays out a compelling vision of how we might address its deficiencies. The Dumbest Generation pulls no punches as it reveals the true cost of the digital age—and our last chance to fix it.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From the title forward, Emory University English professor Bauerlein's curmudgeonly screed lets the generalizations run wild. Dismissing the under-30 crowd as "drowning in their own ignorance and aliteracy," Bauerlein repeatedly laments how "teens and 20-year olds love their blogs and games, and they carry the iPod around like a security blanket." Rather than descend into a "maelstrom of youth amusements" (i.e., "rapping comments into a blog"), Bauerlein would have youngsters delve into the great books. (Nip ignorance in the bud, he reasons, because once adulthood sets in, "It's too late to read Dante and Milton.") Bauerlein's considerable research is obvious, but has he ever read a well-edited blog or interviewed an intellectually curious and tech-savvy student? Instead, he writes in a black-and-white myopia that comes close to self-parody; indeed, if it's true that "Twixters 22-to-30-year-olds don't read, tour museums, travel, follow politics, or listen to any music but pop and rap, much less...lay out a personal reading list," one can't help but wonder why Bauerlein, as an educator, doesn't take some responsibility.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

These two thoughtful, well-written books both decry the sorry state of literacy in this country and its myriad implications. Bauerlein (English, Emory Univ.), former director of research and analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts, is no stranger to the evidence of the decline of reading in America and its cultural consequences in our society. He focuses on the "new attitude, this brazen disregard of...books and reading" among young people. Journalist Jackson is more inclusive in her devastating account of how all of us-not just students-have lost the capacity to pay sustained attention to anything longer than a PowerPoint presentation, claiming that she sees "stunning similarities between past dark ages and our own era." Much of Bauerlein's book is reminiscent of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, and readers will probably take similar issue with some of Bauerlein's elitist pretensions (e.g., that kids read Harry Potter because other kids read it, not because they like it). These are well-informed and well-argued books, however, and both are highly recommended for all libraries.
—Ellen Gilbert

From the Publisher
"It wouldn't be going too far to call this book the Why Johnny Can't Read for the digital age." —-Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585427123
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/14/2009
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 142,291
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Bauerlein

Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University and has worked as a director of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts, where he oversaw studies about culture and American life. He lives with his family in Atlanta.

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Read an Excerpt

When writer Alexandra Robbins returned to Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, ten years after graduating, she discovered an awful trend. The kids were miserable. She remembers her high school years as a grind of study and homework, but lots more, too, including leisure times that allowed for "well-roundedness." Not for Whitman students circa 2005. The teens in The Overachievers, Robbins's chronicle of a year spent among them, have only one thing on their minds, SUCCESS, and one thing in their hearts, ANXIETY. Trapped in a mad "culture of over-achieverism," they run a frantic race to earn an A in every class, score 750 or higher on the SATs, take piano lessons, chalk up AP courses on their transcripts, stay in shape, please their parents, volunteer for outreach programs, and, most of all, win entrance to "HYP" (Harvard-Yale-Princeton).

As graduation approaches, their résumés lengthen and sparkle, but their spirits flag and sicken. One Whitman junior, labeled by Robbins "The Stealth Overachiever," receives a fantastic 2380 (out of 2400) on a PSAT test, but instead of rejoicing, he worries that the company administering the practice run "made the diagnostics easier so students would think the class was working."

Audrey, "The Perfectionist," struggles for weeks to complete her toothpick bridge, which she and her partner expect will win them a spot in the Physics Olympics. She's one of the Young Democrats, too, and she does catering jobs. Her motivation stands out, and she thinks every other student competes with her personally, so whenever she receives a graded test or paper, "she [turns] it over without looking at it and then [puts] it away, resolving not to check the grade until she [gets] home."

"AP Frank" became a Whitman legend when as a junior he managed a "seven-AP course load that had him studying every afternoon, sleeping during class, and going lunchless." When he scored 1570 on the SAT, his domineering mother screamed in dismay, and her shock subsided only when he retook it and got the perfect 1600.

Julie, "The Superstar," has five AP classes and an internship three times a week at a museum, and she runs cross-country as well. Every evening after dinner she descends to the "homework cave" until bedtime and beyond. She got "only" 1410 on the SAT, though, and she wonders where it will land her next fall.

These kids have descended into a "competitive frenzy," Robbins mourns, and the high school that should open their minds and develop their characters has become a torture zone, a "hotbed for Machiavellian strategy." They bargain and bully and suck up for better grades. They pay tutors and coaches enormous sums to raise their scores a few points and help with the admissions process. Parents hover and query, and they schedule their children down to the minute. Grade inflation only makes it worse, an A- average now a stigma, not an accomplishment. They can't relax, they can't play. It's killing them, throwing sensitive and intelligent teenagers into pathologies of guilt and despair. The professional rat race of yore—men in gray flannel suits climbing the business ladder—has filtered down into the pre-college years, and Robbins's tormented subjects reveal the consequences.

The achievement chase displaces other life questions, and the kids can't seem to escape it. When David Brooks toured Princeton and interviewed students back in 2001, he heard of joyless days and nights with no room for newspapers or politics or dating, just "one skill-enhancing activity to the next." He calls them "Organization Kids" (after the old Organization Man figure of the fifties), students who "have to schedule appointment times for chatting." They've been programmed for success, and a preschool-to-college gauntlet of standardized tests, mounting homework, motivational messages, and extracurricular tasks has rewarded or punished them at every stage. The system tabulates learning incessantly and ranks students against one another, and the students soon divine its essence: only results matter. Education writer Alfie Kohn summarizes their logical adjustment:

Consider a school that constantly emphasizes the importance of performance! results! achievement! success! A student who has absorbed that message may find it difficult to get swept away by the process of creating a poem or trying to build a working telescope. He may be so concerned about the results that he's not at all that engaged in the activity that produces those results.

Just get the grades, they tell themselves, ace the test, study, study, study. Assignments become exercises to complete, like doing the dishes, not knowledge to acquire for the rest of their lives. The inner life fades; only the external credits count. After-school hours used to mean sports and comic books and hanging out. Now, they spell homework. As the president of the American Association of School Librarians told the Washington Post, "When kids are in school now, the stakes are so high, and they have so much homework that it's really hard to find time for pleasure reading" (see Strauss). Homework itself has become a plague, as recent titles on the subject show:

The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning (Etta Kralovec and John Buell); The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (Alfie Kohn); and The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It (Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish).

Parents, teachers, media, and the kids themselves witness the dangers, but the system presses forward. "We believe that reform in homework practices is central to a politics of family and personal liberation," Kralovec and Buell announce, but the momentum is too strong. The overachievement culture, results-obsessed parents, out-comes-based norms…; they continue to brutalize kids and land concerned observers such as Robbins on the Today show. Testing goes on, homework piles up, and competition for spaces in the Ivies was stiffer in 2007 than ever before. A 2006 survey by Pew Research, for instance, found that more than half the adults in the United States (56 percent) think that parents place too little pressure on students, and only 15 percent stated "Too much."

Why?

Because something is wrong with this picture, and most people realize it. They sense what the critics do not, a fundamental error in the vignettes of hyperstudious and overworked kids that we've just seen: they don't tell the truth, not the whole truth about youth in America. For, notwithstanding the poignant tale of suburban D.C. seniors sweating over a calculus quiz, or the image of college students scheduling their friends as if they were CEOs in the middle of a workday, or the lurid complaints about homework, the actual habits of most teenagers and young adults in most schools and colleges in this country display a wholly contrasting problem, but one no less disturbing.

Consider a measure of homework time, this one not taken from a dozen kids on their uneven way to the top, but from 81,499 students in 110 schools in 26 states—the 2006 High School Survey of Student Engagement. When asked how many hours they spent each week "Reading/studying for class," almost all of them, fully 90 percent, came in at a ridiculously low five hours or less, 55 percent at one hour or less. Meanwhile, 31 percent admitted to watching television or playing video games at least six hours per week, 25 percent of them logging six hours minimum surfing and chatting online.

Or check a 2004 report by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research entitled Changing Times of American Youth: 1981–2003, which surveyed more than 2,000 families with children age six to 17 in the home. In 2003, homework time for 15- to 17year-olds hit only 24 minutes on weekend days, 50 minutes on weekdays. And weekday TV time? More than twice that: one hour, 55 minutes.

Or check a report by the U.S. Department of Education entitled NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress. Among other things, the report gathered data on study and reading time for thousands of 17year-olds in 2004. When asked how many hours they'd spent on homework the day before, the tallies were meager. Fully 26 percent said that they didn't have any homework to do, while 13 percent admitted that they didn't do any of the homework they were supposed to. A little more than one-quarter (28 percent) spent less than an hour, and another 22 percent devoted one to two hours, leaving only 11 percent to pass the two-hour mark.

Or the 2004–05 State of Our Nation's Youth report by the Horatio Alger Association, in which 60 percent of teenage students logged five hours of homework per week or less.

The better students don't improve with time, either. In the 2006 National Survey of Student Engagement, a college counterpart to the High School Survey of Student Engagement, seniors in college logged some astonishingly low commitments to "Preparing for class." Almost one out of five (18 percent) stood at one to five hours per week, and 26 percent at six to ten hours per week. College professors estimate that a successful semester requires about 25 hours of out-of-class study per week, but only 11 percent reached that mark. These young adults have graduated from high school, entered college, declared a major, and lasted seven semesters, but their in-class and out-of-class punch cards amount to fewer hours than a part-time job.

And as for the claim that leisure time is disappearing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues an annual American Time Use Survey that asks up to 21,000 people to record their activities during the day. The categories include work and school and child care, and also leisure hours. For 2005, 15- to 24-year-olds enjoyed a full five and a half hours of free time per day, more than two hours of which they passed in front of the TV.

The findings of these and many other large surveys refute the frantic and partial renditions of youth habits and achievement that all too often make headlines and fill talk shows. Savvier observers guard against the "we're overworking the kids" alarm, people such as Jay Mathews, education reporter at the Washington Post, who called Robbins's book a "spreading delusion," and Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, whose 2003 report on homework said of the "homework is destroying childhood" argument, "Almost everything in this story is wrong." One correspondent's encounter with a dozen elite students who hunt success can be vivid and touching, but it doesn't jibe with mountains of data that tell contrary stories. The surveys, studies, tests, and testimonials reveal the opposite, that the vast majority of high school and college kids are far less accomplished and engaged, and the classroom pressures much less cumbersome, than popular versions put forth. These depressing accounts issue from government agencies with no ax to grind, from business leaders who just want competent workers, and from foundations that sympathize with the young. While they lack the human drama, they impart more reliable assessments, providing a better baseline for understanding the realities of the young American mentality and forcing us to stop upgrading the adolescent condition beyond its due.

This book is an attempt to consolidate the best and broadest research into a different profile of the rising American mind. It doesn't cover behaviors and values, only the intellect of under-30-year-olds. Their political leanings don't matter, nor do their career ambitions. The manners, music, clothing, speech, sexuality, faith, diversity, depression, criminality, drug use, moral codes, and celebrities of the young spark many books, articles, research papers, and marketing strategies centered on Generation Y (or Generation DotNet, or the Millennials), but not this one. It sticks to one thing, the intellectual condition of young Americans, and describes it with empirical evidence, recording something hard to document but nonetheless insidious happening inside their heads. The information is scattered and underanalyzed, but once collected and compared, it charts a consistent and perilous momentum downward.

It sounds pessimistic, and many people sympathetic to youth pressures may class the chapters to follow as yet another curmudgeonly riff. Older people have complained forever about the derelictions of youth, and the "old fogy" tag puts them on the defensive. Perhaps, though, it is a healthy process in the life story of humanity for older generations to berate the younger, for young and old to relate in a vigorous competitive dialectic, with the energy and optimism of youth vying against the wisdom and realism of elders in a fruitful check of one another's worst tendencies. That's another issue, however. The conclusions here stem from a variety of completed and ongoing research projects, public and private organizations, and university professors and media centers, and they represent different cultural values and varying attitudes toward youth. It is remarkable, then, that they so often reach the same general conclusions. They disclose many trends and consequences in youth experience, but the intellectual one emerges again and again. It's an outcome not as easily noticed as a carload of teens inching down the boulevard rattling store windows with the boom-boom of a hip-hop beat, and the effect runs deeper than brand-name clothing and speech patterns. It touches the core of a young person's mind, the mental storehouse from which he draws when engaging the world. And what the sources reveal, one by one, is that a paradoxical and distressing situation is upon us.

The paradox may be put this way. We have entered the Information Age, traveled the Information Superhighway, spawned a Knowledge Economy, undergone the Digital Revolution, converted manual workers into knowledge workers, and promoted a Creative Class, and we anticipate a Conceptual Age to be. However overhyped those grand social metaphors, they signify a rising premium on knowledge and communications, and everyone from Wired magazine to Al Gore to Thomas Friedman to the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation echoes the change. When he announced the American Competitiveness Initiative in February 2006, President Bush directly linked the fate of the U.S. economy "to generating knowledge and tools upon which new technologies are developed." In a Washington Post op-ed, Bill Gates asserted, "But if we are to remain competitive, we need a workforce that consists of the world's brightest minds…; First, we must demand strong schools so that young Americans enter the workforce with the math, science and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the knowledge economy."

And yet, while teens and young adults have absorbed digital tools into their daily lives like no other age group, while they have grown up with more knowledge and information readily at hand, taken more classes, built their own Web sites, enjoyed more libraries, bookstores, and museums in their towns and cities…; in sum, while the world has provided them extraordinary chances to gain knowledge and improve their reading/writing skills, not to mention offering financial incentives to do so, young Americans today are no more learned or skillful than their predecessors, no more knowledgeable, fluent, up-to-date, or inquisitive, except in the materials of youth culture. They don't know any more history or civics, economics or science, literature or current events. They read less on their own, both books and newspapers, and you would have to canvass a lot of college English instructors and employers before you found one who said that they compose better paragraphs. In fact, their technology skills fall well short of the common claim, too, especially when they must apply them to research and workplace tasks.

The world delivers facts and events and art and ideas as never before, but the young American mind hasn't opened. Young Americans' vices have diminished, one must acknowledge, as teens and young adults harbor fewer stereotypes and social prejudices. Also, they regard their parents more highly than they did 25 years ago. They volunteer in strong numbers, and rates of risky behaviors are dropping. Overall conduct trends are moving upward, leading a hard-edged commentator such as Kay Hymowitz to announce in "It's Morning After in America" (2004) that "pragmatic Americans have seen the damage that their decades-long fling with the sexual revolution and the transvaluation of traditional values wrought. And now, without giving up the real gains, they are earnestly knitting up their unraveled culture. It is a moment of tremendous promise." At TechCentralStation.com, James Glassman agreed enough to proclaim, "Good News! The Kids Are Alright!" Youth watchers William Strauss and Neil Howe were confident enough to subtitle their book on young Americans The Next Great Generation (2000).

And why shouldn't they? Teenagers and young adults mingle in a society of abundance, intellectual as well as material. American youth in the twenty-first century have benefited from a shower of money and goods, a bath of liberties and pleasing self-images, vibrant civic debates, political blogs, old books and masterpieces available online, traveling exhibitions, the History Channel, news feeds…; and on and on. Never have opportunities for education, learning, political action, and cultural activity been greater. All the ingredients for making an informed and intelligent citizen are in place.

But it hasn't happened. Yes, young Americans are energetic, ambitious, enterprising, and good, but their talents and interests and money thrust them not into books and ideas and history and civics, but into a whole other realm and other consciousness. A different social life and a different mental life have formed among them. Technology has bred it, but the result doesn't tally with the fulsome descriptions of digital empowerment, global awareness, and virtual communities. Instead of opening young American minds to the stores of civilization and science and politics, technology has contracted their horizon to themselves, to the social scene around them. Young people have never been so intensely mindful of and present to one another, so enabled in adolescent contact. Teen images and songs, hot gossip and games, and youth-to-youth communications no longer limited by time or space wrap them up in a generational cocoon reaching all the way into their bedrooms. The autonomy has a cost: the more they attend to themselves, the less they remember the past and envision a future. They have all the advantages of modernity and democracy, but when the gifts of life lead to social joys, not intellectual labor, the minds of the young plateau at age 18. This is happening all around us. The fonts of knowledge are everywhere, but the rising generation is camped in the desert, passing stories, pictures, tunes, and texts back and forth, living off the thrill of peer attention. Meanwhile, their intellects refuse the cultural and civic inheritance that has made us what we are up to now.

This book explains why and how, and how much, and what it means for the civic health of the United States.

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Table of Contents

The Dumbest Generation Preface to the Paperback Edition
Introduction

One. Knowledge Deficits
Two. The New Bibliophobes
Three. Screen Time
Four. Online Learning and Non-Learning
Five. The Betrayal of the Mentors
Six. No More Culture Warriors

Bibliography
Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 25 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

4 Star

(9)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    One of the worst books I ever read

    As a member of this so called, "Dumbest Generation," I am offended by this book, and have every right to be. Bauerlein makes no solutions as to how to fix this problem he calls the Digital Age. It's just a bunch of statistics that go on and on for pages. The statistics are doing all of the talking. Bauerlein fails to mention his take on each statistic. I understand that he thinks my generation will fail, but why? He offers no strong theories or well developed arguments. Just a whole bunch of percentages and numbers and facts.

    The theories he does expand on I found invalid. Saying that teenagers need to see more ballets and/or classical music concerts is absurd. He actually expects that of a busy school aged person? He even dares to call the Harry Potter Book series a fashion statement. He claims that kids read the books because their friends were, not because they actually wanted to read for fun. Most of the concepts he suggested I disagreed with. So much so, that I found it frustrating to read. I actually had to put down the book because I was so angered by his words.

    I will be the first to agree that this younger generation is different and some things that we do will be bad. But this book will make everybody give up on our generation. There is a war between the older and younger generations according to Bauerlein, and this book did absolutely nothing to help either side. I see the potential and the innovations that the Digital Age has brought. But Mr. Bauerlein clearly has given up on the people who WILL one day be running this country.

    I gave the book two stars because I felt one star would be too harsh for a guy who is clearly delusional and forgot that it is HIS generation who has made my generation the way it is.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not necessarily the dumbest, but certainly one that doesn't seem to read

    The hyperbole of the title it eyecatching; however, I take issue with the generation's being labeled the dumbest. The major thesis, it seems to me, is that the current generation of young people (my own children's age) is too much wired into instantaneous communication and only considers the immediate to be relevant.
    I would submit that while the first part of the thesis is correct, the latter part is one probably applied by every generation to the one following it.
    The book is something of an eye-opener for most people, I would think; however, as a retired teacher, I have seen this coming all along. I would submit that everyone would gain some benefir from reading it, but of course, the people that would gain the most benefit are the ones that the author is writing about.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2010

    Generation Last?

    Last night, Betty White hosted NBC's 'Saturday Night Live' after a massive online campaign fueled by 'Millennials'caused a massive buzz in the media. Conan O'Brien will be returning to TV later this year thanks to the internet based activism of his fans. This speaks volumes. While the Boomers fought for social change, the Millennials seem to be fighting for solely for their own amusement and entertainment. In the 1960's there were the Freedom Riders fighting the injustices of racial segregation. There were Nader's Raiders leading the charge against corporate dominance. In today's tanking economy, the Millennials seem to care more about Conan O'Brien's job security than their own.

    No, I am not an over the hill Boomer griping about "those damn kids." I qualify as a Millennial. I am under 30 and a bit concerned that my generation has its priorities backwards. I do not own an iPod, I am not on Facebook, I rarely surf the web, and prefer to get my news from print. I must seem to my peers as a 20-something George Wallace supporter seemed to the hippie of 1968.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A good topic focus but overly statistical!

    Generally was a good read. But I soon found myself skimming over the large amount of statistical data that took away from the larger theme of the emergent social problem with our "millinials". His point was not as compelling as it could have been given the subject and our current poor state of affairs in the education arena.<BR/>Having read another author on the subject just prior to this book, it was glaringly apparent that the previous book on this subject area was far better. Charles Murray's recent book is a reality check that clearly brought into focus for me the stark facts of our problem. I strongly recommend this book as opposed to Bauerlein's.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 3, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Can you say "Grumpy old man?"

    He's right: this generation [myself included:] can internet themselves stupid, and I surely don't use the internet for entirely intellectual pursuits, but he offers exactly ZERO solutions. Shall we disconnect the internet?<BR/><BR/>Bottom line: read more classics, see more plays, listen to better music, go to more museums.<BR/><BR/>Classic grumpy-old-man. Full of supporting arguments, and I don't deny his claim, but with no solutions, it's just 230-something pages of the same painful complaints.<BR/><BR/>I get it: my generation's screwed up. What do YOU suggest we do about it?<BR/><BR/>Sheesh. Makes me want to put on my iPod and play my Xbox.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012

    Manifesto of an angry teacher

    This book is ultimately counterproductive to the very thesis it tries to support. I don't understand how telling me im stupid is supposed to solve anything. It is just offensive.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    tricky title

    A. About the title

    Purchased the hardcover July 2008. I was going on a trip. I wanted a real book - non-fiction, non-computer-oriented, and non-how-to. I wanted meaty. I wanted the book skinny and lightweight. To feel more astute, like university. Found "The Dumbest Generation" in the InfoAge section at my favorite brick-n-mortar bookstore.

    The title aside, Professor Bauerlein's book was more than fun. I was taken by it.

    Checked the author blurb, skimmed the table of contents, and a few chapters. I was curious what "dumbest" meant, how it was quantified, and what were the relationships and measuring sticks.

    To me, the statisticals matter more than answers. The factoids were news to me.

    Liked the book. I have quoted it, spoken about it, and purchased it for friends. Back in July 2008, I went through it once, then a second time. I noted pages and passages. Not many. Just a handful of nuggets.

    Until November 27, 2009, I still didn't like the title. And yet, when purchasing books for my Gen Xer nephew and niece for Christmas, I ordered another copy for myself. I had given my hardcover copy. 2008 away at work. I still had my nugget notes.

    Today, I looked up "dumb" on the internet. And, I received my new copy, the paperback edition copy. 2009. There's a new preface. I checked it. And reviewed the introduction, looking for Professor Bauerlein's declaration of "dumb".

    It remains hidden. I believe purposely so. As a Baby Boomer and voter, I appreciate Professor Bauerlein's tact. What's dumb?

    B. About Reading, and Writing

    In the last few months, I read "How to Read a Book" rev. 2007 by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. I like Adler, and in these uncertain times, I thought it would be a help in dealing with problem definitions, and proposed solutions. Not just books, but all reading, and writing.

    Adler's prose is crystal. His examples are discrete and sharp. He wrote "From your point of view as a reader, the most important words are 'those that give you trouble'. It is likely that these words are important for the author as well." Chapter 8 Coming to Terms with an Author.

    Now the title means more.

    Definition of "generation" - A form, type, class, etc., of objects existing at the same time and having many similarities or developed from a common model or ancestor.

    I was in college in the late sixties. I was online with bulletin boards in the DOS days. Was I a prototype for the title? Just maybe.

    C. A Nugget note - Introduction, pg. 10
    "... All the ingredients for making an informed and intelligent citizen are in place.
    But it hasn't happened ....
    This book explains why and how, and how much, and what it means for the civic health of the United States."

    D. Another Nugget note - Chapter Six - No More Culture Warriors, the last chapter, pg. 231
    "... In a prosperous society, the institutions of learning lean toward insulation and professionalism, while popular discourse drops to the least common denominator of mass culture. Intellectuals draw both back from the extremes, synthesizing them into the best democratic communication, an intelligent analysis of ideas and facts accessible to vast audiences."

    E. The content - The content is elegantly crafted, as in "read aloud", and worth considering. In an American way. Ironically, the Gen Xers will need to save themselves. Also, American.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2012

    Recommended for Everybody Interested in Where We are Headed

    After a slow start, the author cites his evidence to support the book's thesis. The book is very well-researched, and is compelling, if not depressing. Despite the apparently flippant title, the book is an academically-grounded work that I found convincing and probably accurate. It confirms some stereotypes while explaining their causes. Everybody who cares about where our society is headed should read this book.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    Good summary, but scary picture, of America's future

    I would agree with some of the other reviewers that the author's lament has probably, and probably always will be, applied to the younger generations. I would also say that it might be a little too "academic" for some readers. All that said, it is worth reading, especially if you're mid-career like me, to try to understand some of the new and future coworkers. The first chapter alone, when he discussed the "Jaywalking" segments is enough to make anyone cringe. Given that the younger generation has all the technology available that they do, you do have to wonder why they seem to know so little about the world around them.

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  • Posted January 14, 2009

    An Interesting Argument

    I went to ParentsDigest.com for help on understanding teens and this summary caught my attention. I think perhaps the author's argument is oversimplified, but his basic premise is plausible. I do think we should try to put ourselves in this generation's shoes since we 'older folks' did not have any of this technology, not to mention the social networking, that kids have access to today. It is easy for us to condemn them for relying heavily on gadgets that we did not have and so were not a problem for us to resist.

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