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426 of 464 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, once he finally gets rolling
I am old enough to know how to do mental arithmetic. Excluding the copious bibliography, this is a 236 page book that does not really get rolling until page 163. That's two-thirds of the way through. The first several chapters are a laborious accounting of all of the new generation's shortcomings. The chapter titles are "Knowledge Deficits", "The New Bibliophobes,"...
Published on June 19, 2008 by Graham H. Seibert

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386 of 438 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Explanation of Problem But Wrong Cause
I'm a member of Generation X, and most of the items Dr. Bauerlein blames for the ignorance of Generation Y were not in widespread use when I was a teen. We didn't have the Internet, cell phones, iPods, or sophisticated video game systems, and my town did not even get wired for cable until my freshman year of high school. Yet we did not spend our leisure time in the type...
Published on September 20, 2008 by CrimsonGirl


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426 of 464 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, once he finally gets rolling, June 19, 2008
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This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
I am old enough to know how to do mental arithmetic. Excluding the copious bibliography, this is a 236 page book that does not really get rolling until page 163. That's two-thirds of the way through. The first several chapters are a laborious accounting of all of the new generation's shortcomings. The chapter titles are "Knowledge Deficits", "The New Bibliophobes," "Screen Time," and "Online Learning And Not Learning." He marshals exhaustive documentation to demonstrate that today's kids do not read much and consequently do not have a very impressive vocabularies, knowledge of history, or familiarity with math and science.

In the last 10 years I have been a high school teacher and a grad student at the university. I would have granted these points rather readily. Moreover, most people who would dispute these points are not going to sit down and read a book that delights in exercising a postgraduate level vocabulary. My most poignant critique of this book would be that, excellent as it may be, the writing alone make it inaccessible to "The Dumbest Generation." If not them, who is Bauerlein trying to convince?

After he has successfully brushed off the dummies Bauerlein's last couple of chapters, which attempt to explain the phenomenon, make a series of very good points. We adults who are supposed to be in charge of our children's formation and education have abdicated our responsibilities. We have found it easier to cave in to them. To mistake a facile familiarity with the use of electronic gadgetry to socialize with deep understanding. To ascribe literary merit to their puerile Facebook blogs. To let them retreat for hours to their bedrooms surrounded by cell phones, telephones, computers, and every form of video and audio entertainment. To back away from engaging them in meaningful adult conversation about serious topics. They are growing up without adult guidance, only the now obligatory strokes to their self-esteem. The result is a disaster.

We allow our children to reject their cultural heritage in toto, not because they have examined it and found it wanting, but because it would be simply too much work to become familiar with it. Bauerlein cites young artists who have only contempt for the discipline that made Rembrandt and Picasso the great artists that they were. They proclaim that everything can be successfully invented ad novum, not on the basis of any evidence but on the conviction that it is not worth the effort to learn from what has been done previously. They are simply lazy and self-absorbed.

I am familiar with Bauerlein's geographical references in the Washington, DC area. He starts by talking about Walt Whitman high school, the subject of "The Overachievers," a chronicle of obsessive high school students. My daughter recently graduated from that school, and I would say that her peers put little premium on genuine learning. Some did study very hard to ace the standardized tests, but the passion for socializing certainly outweighed the passion for learning.

I could say the same for the elite private schools in which I taught. There is a minority, but it is a distinct minority, who relish discussing ideas. Even there, most kids seem to be caught up with the anti-intellectualism of our popular culture. There is a general disdain for hard work. Some of this disdain has its origins in the self-esteem movement. The schools want to avoid anything that will tend to highlight differences in innate ability among students. Even talented students are readily complicit in this game, because it means more time for their friends and other pursuits.

It was not much better at the University of Maryland, to which I return to pursue an advanced degree. Some of the older students in the College of Education seemed genuinely interested in the coursework. For most it was simply something to get out of the way so they can get on with their lives. The statistics Department was substantially better, but it is telling that out of a Department of 60 some graduate students, I was close to the only WASP male. The department was overwhelmingly Asian, and overseas Asians at that. Good students, but not a good reflection on American secondary education.

Bauerlein does not propose much in the way of remedies. I do not think that there are any. I live now in Kiev, where university level academics appear to have somewhat more rigor than in the United States, but the same pernicious effects are at work. The Internet cafés are so full of video game nuts that you can barely find the terminal to check your e-mail. No kid goes five minutes without initiating or receiving a call or an SMS on their cell phone.

Computer technologies in themselves are not bad. Word, Dragon Naturally Speaking, Excel and the Internet are Godsends for people who work with information. The question is getting kids to use them intelligently.

My own modest proposal would be to teach children how to use technology to do their schoolwork. It is a given that they all have computers. It is a tragedy that they do not know how to do anything useful with Excel, research a paper using the Internet to do much more than plagiarize, put together a PowerPoint presentation that is longer on substance that blinking whirligigs, or even use Microsoft Word to format the paper properly. I believe schools could teach this. I further believe that schools could use blocks to prevent rampant wasting of time cruising the Internet for material totally unrelated to school. I think that they could prevent the computer CD-ROM readers from being used to blare music during study halls. In a nutshell, I think that if we adults gave a damn about the future of the country, we might bestir ourselves to retake the control over our children and their education that we ceded in the 1960s. I'm not holding my breath.
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138 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As a card-carrying member of the dumbest generation, I endorse this book., January 17, 2009
By 
not4prophet (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
Mark Bauerlein begins his book by quoting an article about the frenzied, high-stakes world of American high school students. Students are pushed to succeed like never before, forced to spend their every waking minute in intense studies. Parents and teachers lean over their shoulders, brutally forcing them to ignore all leisure activity and focus solely on the goal of college. It all adds up to a nonstop barrage of academics that consumes are childrens lives, stresses them out, and even ruins their health.

The only problem with this analysis is that it's completely wrong. As anyone who's been in a classroom recently can testify, today's students have very light workloads. They refuse to do homework. They simply won't study. They care about their social lives, not about academics. This is the reality of the situation. If anecdotes won't prove the point, real research will. Bauerlein provides that research, citing multiple, large studies by universities, government agencies, and other reliable sources. The results are clear. We have raised a nation that lacks basic knowledge of math, science, history, English, foreign language, and civics. Today's young people are not only weak academically, but also unable to use their leisure time productively.

Bauerlein spends one chapter establishing that fact. The rest of the book is spent shooting down the various responses to it. Response one is that technology inevitably makes our kids smarter. Yet the facts just don't justify it. America has spent seventy billion dollars to bring technology into the classroom, yet our students continue to fall behind. Schools in other countries remain focused on the basics and easily outperform us. For all the political jabber, there's no reason to put so much faith in computerized classrooms.

Response two is that our children are shifting to a new type of learning, where the old rules simply don't apply. Kids don't need to know Newton's Laws or the Bill of Rights any more, they just need to know how to look things up online. This theory is a recipe for disaster, as Bauerlein points out. The human mind must think and decide with the information it has. The mere presence of information online doesn't guarantee that people will use that information. Moreover, technology by its very nature works against deep-seated intelligence by breeding short attention spans. This is not merely an old person ranting about all this new stuff. A research group at Apple has spent years researching how people process online information, and they confirm the results.

Response three is the most sinister. Some commentators don't really mind that our kids are getting stupider. They view education itself as oppressive, and think that new tech-centered living will be more liberating for humanity. While few would say so in as many words, many people have allowed this attitude to creep into their thinking. Bauerlein calls this "the betrayal of the mentors" and he hits it hard in the last two chapters.

Bauerlein's book is at war with a rival work of commentary, Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson. I reviewed that book last year and reached the same conclusion that Bauerlein does. Johnson's thesis is wrong because his definition of intelligence is wrong. Children need to learn more than rote problem-solving skills. They need a meaningful education that motivates them to become better people. Without that, our nation is in for a long cultural decline. The signs are already starting to show up.
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386 of 438 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Explanation of Problem But Wrong Cause, September 20, 2008
This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
I'm a member of Generation X, and most of the items Dr. Bauerlein blames for the ignorance of Generation Y were not in widespread use when I was a teen. We didn't have the Internet, cell phones, iPods, or sophisticated video game systems, and my town did not even get wired for cable until my freshman year of high school. Yet we did not spend our leisure time in the type of intellectual pursuits that Dr. Bauerlein imagines have been displaced by these modern items. Instead of literature, philosophy, high culture, political activism, or discussing current events we wasted our time on mindless drivel. We hung out at the mall or roller skating rink, gossiped on landlines, watched network soap operas, listened to pop music on the radio or our Walkman, flipped through "Tiger Beat" and other teen magazines, played video games on our Nintendos or Segas, and so on. And I really don't think my parents' generation was all that much different as teens, although the technology was obviously more primitive.

So if teens have been wasting their leisure time on mindless pursuits for decades, why then is Gen Y so ignorant compared to previous generations? Dr. Bauerlein pretty much lets the schools off the hook in "The Dumbest Generation" but I believe that the "dumbing down" of the curriculum is the root cause. Today's teens were raised in the era of the "self esteem" fad, "whole language", "constructivist math" (aka fuzzy math), and all sorts of politically correct multiculturalism nonsense. Little wonder then that so many of them struggle with academic basics.

"The Dumbest Generation" is an interesting book, but the author's arguments in support of his main premise did not strike me as particularly convincing.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silver Lining, December 5, 2008
This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
Overall, a very thoughtful summary of what I have started calling "Generation Next," because, despite having grown up with them, the only thing most of them know how to do on their computers is press the "Next" button. The statistics, studies, and trends cited in the book are right in line with my observations as a college instructor. In looking at causes, please do not leave out the evolving emphasis at universities on money and student retention ("Dumb it down before you flunk so many next time!"), and look carefully at statistics showing exponential growth in adminstrative budgets and flat budgets for tenure-track faculty, despite ballooning enrollments.

My one personal observation that does not come out in this book is the quality of students who manage to rise above the lowly trends of their peers. The small minority of students who learn to leverage new technologies and information access with old-school work ethic and critical thinking are nothing short of astounding. History demonstrates the vast impacts of the contributions of individuals, and it is my (probably delusional) hope that these outstanding students will keep our economy and democracy going. If these handful of students succeed, then the remaining social-oriented majority ought to make great sales reps.
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51 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some good facts in need of better analysis, August 22, 2008
By 
Amanda Kovattana (San Francisco Bay Area) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
In the hands of teens, the computer is clearly not the learning tool phenomena that had adults so enthralled. Just because information is at their fingertips doesn't mean they are using it. For teens the computer is a cross between television and a telephone used mainly to select teen appeal content and chatter endlessly with friends. Surprise surprise, the computer age just made it that much easier for them to insulate themselves from the adult world. But are these skills transferable or worthwhile?

Mark Bauerlein goes to great pains to list and explain the validity of his research and data to prove that despite so many writers raving about the digital generation being smarter in more innovative, search savvy ways than before, comments from college professors, employee recruiters and national stats indicate that young people are sorely lacking in basic intellectual skills.

Bauerlein seeks out hard evidence provided by a website marketing firm tracking eye movement, of subjects wired to computers, and recording their comments as they interacted with websites. Their findings? People don't read at the screen, they skim and look for what turns them on. They want websites to look the same so they can interact with a familiar interface and they resist long blocks of text. Computers are actually helping people to dumb down and not excercise intellectual skills at all. We suspected as much which is possibly why this book has an audience.

The rest of the book is not about the digital age, but about youth culture since it became the phenomena extraordinaire of the 60's and turned this nation into the youth worshipping culture that it is. Those who should be mentoring students by raising the bar, he contends, have bought into the youth phenomena and now promote adolescent insularity, unhampered by the burden of tradition especially in liberal arts. This was actually quite a helpful perspective because it helped me realize that American Youth Culture is an aberration of history further fueled by consumerism which benefits from an impulsive materialistic adolescent mindset. Bauerlein, however, does not provide such insight.

Rather he covers all the usual arguments about why a democracy needs knowledgeable civic minded citizens and that just isn't happening anymore. None of these arguments are convincing largely because he blames the participants and doesn't mention the mind-binding sameness of a materialistic world egged on by corporate controlled capitalism. His description of young people today describes my own anti-civic, anti-intellectual, self-involved youth 25 years ago thus reviewers have panned him for so broadly criticizing any generation still in these formative years and this is perhaps the biggest flaw of his book.

This English professor author is simply arguing for the old culture of intellectual rigor as it was prescribed in his day when books were king and intellectuals had longer arguments. And I agree a book has a lot more scope to grasp the big picture. Ironically he has failed to grasp one that doesn't sound worn and tired out which is too bad because the digital age clearly needs perspective just as the Internet needs more depth.

He does mention, as a good sign, that young people are a lot better behaved than their sexually wild, drug using predecessors were. This only makes me wonder if the digital age is creating a more conservative, easily controlled populace, but Bauerlein offers no correlations here.

Except for one mention of teens missing out on a soldering iron, he does not mention the core of this whole argument which is that teens are not getting outdoors or experiencing hands-on skills that would allow them greater self-sufficiency. They don't negotiate or manage for themselves their own free time because now it's all so much protective play dating thus they lack initiative in the workplace and managing skills for facilitating team work. Outdoor activity and skills of self-sufficiency were eroding in their parents' time in favor of grooming worker bees for the digi-mines which might well be the logical progression of the book reading intellectual activity he espouses.

Amanda Kovattana is author of Diamonds In My Pocket: Tales of a Childhood In Asia
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409 of 533 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shallow and mean-spirited, June 15, 2008
By 
Michael A. Males (Oklahoma City, OK United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
English professor Mark Bauerlein spends 250 pages telling us what America's young don't know. Here are some massive trends affecting students over the last 30 to 50 years he doesn't seem to know: the evolution from elitism toward universal education, the defunding of public education, college tuitions rising four times faster than inflation, erupting student debt, forced deferral of higher education, the influx of non-English-speaking students, the rise of the service economy... details like that.

What's even more amazing--in a book that lauds scholarship and intellectual inquiry--there is almost no original research, especially on the fundamental point the "dumbest generation" title claims to address. I expected Bauerlein to make his case by analyzing long-term surveys by the Higher Education Research Institute and Monitoring the Future and dozens of Digest of Education Statistics tables on trends, etc.--but he barely mentions them.

The reason, of course, is that the best education information exposes how superficial this book is. The biggest trend it omits (among many) is that since the 1950s, America has radically expanded its education system: high schools now include the poorest third of youth and colleges now educate more than just the richest fraction. The proportion of 16-24 year-olds who were enrolled in school or had graduated from high school rose from 60% to 91%, the percentage of high school graduates who had completed standard coursework tripled, the proportion of high school seniors taking SAT and ACT college admission tests doubled, and the percentage enrolled in college more than doubled.

Such rapid expansion bringing tens of millions of formerly uneducated youth into the education system would be expected to reduce average test scores. Remarkably, this didn't happen. Older students' reading and math scale comprehension scores are just as high, and younger students' are considerably higher, compared to 30 years ago. After bottoming out in the mid-1970s (when Bauerlein was in high school), standardized SAT and ACT scores rose slightly even as vastly greater percentages of high schoolers were taking the tests. If we compared the share of students fluent in two or more languages, the generational gains would be even more impressive.

Take a salient example: in 1975, American student scores on the ACT standard test of English, math, reading, and science averaged 20.6; in 2007, 21.2. Not much of an improvement in three decades, correct? Here's the gain: in 1975, just 17% of the nation's 18-year-olds took the test; in 2007, 30%. SAT and other standard tests show similar trends. Likewise, fewer than one-third of high school graduates of 30 years ago had completed a basic core curriculum (four English, three social science, two science, and two math credits), compared to over 80% today.

Bauerlein's limited analysis focuses only on the elitist "vertical" accumulation of knowledge (whether the average test taker is smarter today) while ignoring the more important "horizontal" gains (the spread of knowledge to broader segments of the population). If Bauerlein is really concerned about democracy, he should be cheering these egalitarian improvements.

One would expect Bauerlein to fully discuss the universalization of American education before calling today's students "dumb." Instead, he fills the book with quickie outtakes from some recent surveys absent historical context, secondhand numbers he apparently didn't analyze, silly television and mass-media quips, and quotes from teachers and others castigating the younger generation with epithets that were already hackneyed in Socrates' time. Bauerlein indulges the standard array of shallow prejudices against adolescents ("the 17-year-old mind," "the 18-year-old life," the "adolescent horde"), the usual snobbish praise of himself and middle-agers' self-anointed citizenship and intellectuality, and the same-old myth that kids today have too many rights. Meanwhile, his own narrowness is painful: nearly all the books he recommends are by classical European authors, as if 90% of the world's intellectual tradition didn't exist.

Put simply, this book is full of fluff and conceit, a lot of it blatantly unfair. Bauerlein cites some recent alarms (the same that recur every decade or two) to insinuate that today's youth represent an apocalyptic "decline" and "breakdown" compared to older America's presumably cultured, intellectual past (a past he never shows actually existed). He quotes the HERI survey to deplore today's "college delinquency" (being late, skipping classes, etc.) but fails to note the same survey reports these same behaviors going back 40 years. He complains about low voter turnout among 18-29 year-olds but somehow missed the massive increase in the 2004 election to record peaks. He cites a sketchy survey on political knowledge as evidencing young people's ignorance but fails to mention it also finds big knowledge gaps by race, sex, and education and income level.

Bauerlein doesn't even title his book right. His gripe is not that today's youth really are the "dumbest generation," but that "young Americans today are no more learned or skillful than their predecessors." That's an entirely different point, and it's contradicted by measures showing higher proportions of today's younger generation do know more.

But what is really disturbing about this book and its fans' uncritical praise is the self-adulation and complete lack of humility. Face it, we older Americans (I'm 57) aren't exactly setting cosmic records as intellectual beacons, enlightened leaders, and philosopher kings. This is yet another in the avalanche of egotistical books by Boomer and older Xer authors lavishly praising ourselves and our generation as morally and intellectually superior to the "dumb," "unworthy" young that utterly fail to represent the critical scholarship these authors say they prize.
--Mike Males, Ph.D., [...]
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106 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Current Prisoners In Plato's Cave, June 6, 2008
By 
Stanley H. Nemeth (Garden Grove, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
This is an astonishingly insightful book. The fact that it has not so far garnered avalanches of commendation on this site suggests to me the dunces of our age, comfortable with the present scheme of things, may be in confederacy against it. Its thesis is that the generations since the 60's have become increasingly self-absorbed and therefore sadly unfit to maintain a democratic society. For requisite intellectual combat, the young of our time lack both a liberal education and civic knowledge, essentials for the preservation and advance of the American experiment in government. The villain here, as Bauerlien presents it, is manifestly NOT technology itself. He is no Luddite. Rather, he pillories the increasingly eager self-absorption of the young in mere private social life, and the peculiar eagerness of Boomer mentors to approve such juvenility. Technology itself, after all, does not require that the young text message DURING college classes or fake bathroom emergencies to take cell phone calls. For too many of them, the highest and only reality is peer group interaction. The rest is blah, blah, blah.

In his early chapters, Bauerlien happily provides even more hard evidence of the mediocrity of current youth culture than the most strictly defensive parent, teacher or journalist might require to become alarmed. In his summarizing words, "a parent, teacher or journalist who doesn't see the problem would have to be blind." The young these days, by and large, are ignorant of beneficent tradition. Even the pen of a Jonathan Swift would be challenged to report on them, since what he could satirize as worst case behavior in his time has become pretty standard in ours. He mocked, it will be remembered, several town wits referring to an obscure author called Homer and had them in dispute as to whether there had actually ever been any ancient writers or not, the present moment being all.

Bauerlein, I'm happy to report, does not follow his scientific analysis with a plea of impotence. He argues, instead, that adults in all spheres must speak out to reverse the order of things and encourage youth to see that adulthood rather than a Peter-Pan like endless adolescence is the desideratum. The young, by nature, do desire to be older. One has only to ask 5 1/2 year olds their age and they'll chime 6, to a person. That 25 year olds will say they're 21 is the greater problem in our time.

Freeing the young from Plato's cave has always been an uphill battle. Are there adults today, Bauerlien asks, who are willing to take the risks?
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A generation of declining intelligence...and people who don't want to admit it!, December 3, 2008
This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
Excellent research - gives a grim-but-true picture about the decline of academic intelligence in Generation Y. :-(

Lots of valuable statistics which can be lengthy and difficult reading at times, but I still give this a five star review because I don't know how the author could have prevented it. Without all the information, you wouldn't understand the problem, and the author would be heavily criticized (probably by the same reviewers who gave him low marks already) for not backing up his statements with research.

I am one of the under-30 crowd, but I'm objective and informed enough about my own generation to agree with the author. I am also an educator who can't believe the lack of expectations parents & other adults have for some of the kids I teach. If a child doesn't know basic multiplication facts at age 13, his parents should have enough common sense to trade his video games in for a deck of flashcards until he does (but instead they say, "well we just can't get him to practice."). When a sixth grader plagiarizes a research paper from Wikipedia yet is able to spend hours a night on MySpace instead of doing the work herself, there is a problem. And furthermore, when her mother isn't even fazed by her behavior, tries to make it seem like no big deal, and even jokes about the infraction later....its tragic. These are just two of numerous situations like this that I have encountered in the last year, and it indicates to me that this generation is hands-down the dumbest, because the adults of previous generations have low expectations or are too caught up in their own lives to care.

And the scariest thing is that this type of behavior is now the rule, rather than the exception. To all the reviewers who are blaming schools, funding, etc., try working in the field before you criticize it. The author is dead-on in his evaluations that kids spend more time with their gadgets than they do improving their minds. The schools have no control over how kids spend their time. The funding has nothing to do with getting kids to actually do their homework and pay attention in class. This book is a wake-up call, to every adult, that we need to do something, anything, to change the current trend and get kids to embrace the privilege that is education. Its for their own benefit!

THE DIGITAL AGE IS NOT THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM...THE CAUSE IS THAT KIDS ARE OBSESSED WITH IT AND NOTHING ELSE!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Nation of Idiots, October 13, 2010
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"Good habits formed at youth," exclaimed Aristotle as he railed against the sloth and ignorance of the kids of Antiquity, "make all the difference." Henry Adams, and Richard Hofstadter said much the same more recently. Enter Professor Bauerlein, Facebook, and the i-pod age.

He lambasts everyone--teachers, professors, parents--who disdain the classics and overindulge today's youth. His point is simple. Despite young peoples' tech savvy, they no longer read books. Bauerlein upholds youth's NATIVE intelligence. Kids today are "as witty as ever." Yet, their wit reveals itself only as deeply as mindless sitcoms, and the hip shibboleths of the day. Rather, Bauerlein emphasizes the intellectual HABITS of youth. He invokes a plethora of charts, graphs and surveys (making DUMBEST GENERATION longer than necessary). His conclusions, however, are indisputable. Let's face it, Americans have become as ignorant as they have fat. The "Jaywalking" segment of the Tonight Show, Bauerlein stresses, has become all too representative of the American mind.

"It isn't enough to say that these young people are uninterested in world realities," Mr. Bauerlein asserts. "They are actively cut off from them." He points out that the results of this malaise are painfully obvious.

Out in the real world of work, new (university) grads cannot read and write. "Deplorable," laments one employer. "Recent graduates aren't even aware when things are wrong," exclaims another. Frankly, the American mind has reached the point of diminishing returns. Since the War, each generation has spoiled its offspring. We see the denouement of this in today's youth, which has developed the shabbiest sort of entitlement mentality, ignorant of its own ignorance, if not actually proud of it. One of the surveys Bauerlein employs asked college students what books/poetry they had read outside of class in the previous 12 months. Nearly any material sufficed. "James Patterson qualified as much as Henry James, Sue Gratton as much as Sylvia Plath." The bar was "an inch off the ground," but still too high.

Professor Bauerlein's bottom line is clear: Technology is nice, but reading books is fundamental. There will never be a shortcut to building a knowledgeable mind. There is no substitute for the good, old-fashioned book. "The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.".....Aristotle
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You may not agree with his thesis but Mark Bauerlein's book will shock, surprise, and entertain you., March 10, 2010
This review is from: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) (Hardcover)
Review by Richard L. Weaver II, PhD.
The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)
Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, has written a truly superb book. Whether you agree with him or not, you will find his information interesting, insightful, and well-researched. Of course, the title is hyperbole --- exaggeration to grab attention. As a former professor myself, I saw the trend beginning as I retired, but I think Bauerlein has hit the nail on the head. And, remember, there are always exceptions to the rule. Not everyone, thank heavens, fits his descriptions. Not everyone behaves as those he characterizes. Because the new generation of young people (those under thirty, basically) is thoroughly ensconced in the digital age --- the Internet, e-mail, blogs, text messaging, interactive and ultra-realistic video games --- instead of becoming more astute, developing diversified tastes, and improving their minds, those under thirty have become...well...dumber. Depending upon exhaustive research, detailed portraits, as well as historical and social analysis, this book "presents an uncompromisingly realistic study of the young American mind" (from the jacket cover) --- and how we must address the deficiencies. This is a well-written chronicle of what's happening right now and, without a doubt, is continuing to happen on a more massive scale. You may not agree with his thesis (that cyberculture is turning us into a nation of know-nothings), but Mark Bauerlein's book, The Dumbest Generation: How the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future, will shock, surprise, and entertain you. His mass of evidence, studies, and examples is impressive, to say the least.

Bauerlein offers all teachers and librarians wonderful support with statements like this: "Books afford young readers a place to slow down and reflect, to find role models, to observe their own turbulent feelings well expressed, or to discover moral convictions missing from their real situations" (p. 58). His explanation of the "Matthew Effect," "in which those who acquire reading skills in childhood read and learn later in life at a faster pace than those who do not" is both outstanding and essential knowledge (p, 59).

He labels people's acuity with technology "screen literacy," then goes on to say that "screen intelligence doesn't transfer well to non-screen experiences, especially the kinds that build knowledge and verbal skills" (p. 95). Continuing with the same argument, he says screen literacy may stimulate the senses or touch the ego, "but vocabulary doesn't expand, memory doesn't improve, analytic talents don't develop, and erudition doesn't ensue" (p. 109). Bauerlein explains that, "For most young users, it is clear, the Web hasn't made them better writers and readers, sharper interpreters and more discerning critics, more knowledgeable citizens and tasteful consumers" (p. 110). He even goes so far to say about the Web universe, "They [people] don't realize that success in popular online youthworlds breeds incompetence in school and in the workplace" (p. 158). With respect to jeopardizing our future, Bauerlein suggests that when the rising generation reaches middle age, they "won't re-create the citizenship of its precursors, nor will its rank produce a set of committed intellectuals ready to trade in ideas, steer public policy, and espouse social values on the basis of learning, eloquence, and a historical sense of human endeavor" (p. 203). I hope you get the idea that I loved this book. It is challenging because of the ideas he promotes and supports, but it is a book that all concerned citizens should read. Although there are always exceptions, I think he has outlined a genuine problem and a dangerous direction for our future.
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