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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) Paperback – Bargain Price, May 14, 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 208 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, May 14, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It’s an irony so commonplace it’s become almost trite: despite the information superhighway, despite a world of knowledge at their fingertips, the younger generation today is less informed, less literate, and more self-absorbed than any that has preceded it. But why? According to the author, an English professor at Emory University, there are plenty of reasons. The immediacy and intimacy of social-networking sites have focused young people’s Internet use on themselves and their friends. The material they’re studying in school (such as the Civil War or The Great Gatsby) seems boring because it isn’t happening right this second and isn’t about them. They’re using the Internet not as a learning tool but as a communications tool: instant messaging, e-mail, chat, blogs. And the language of Internet communication, with its peculiar spelling, grammar, and punctuation, actually encourages illiteracy by making it socially acceptable. It wouldn’t be going too far to call this book the Why Johnny Can’t Read for the digital age. Some will disagree vehemently; others will nod sagely, muttering that they knew it all along. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"If you're the parent of someone under 20 and read only one non-fiction book this fall, make it this one. Bauerlein's simple but jarring thesis is that technology and the digital culture it has created are not broadening the horizon of the younger generation; they are narrowing it to a self-absorbed social universe that blocks out virtually everything else."
-Don Campbell, USA Today

"An urgent and pragmatic book on the very dark topic of the virtual end of reading among the young."
-Harold Bloom

"Never have American students had it so easy, and never have they achieved less. . . . Mr. Bauerlein delivers this bad news in a surprisingly brisk and engaging fashion, blowing holes in a lot of conventional educational wisdom."
-Charles McGrath, The New York Times

"It wouldn't be going too far to call this book the Why Johnny Can't Read for the digital age."

"Throughout The Dumbest Generation, there are . . . keen insights into how the new digital world really is changing the way young people engage with information and the obstacles they face in integrating any of it meaningfully. These are insights that educators, parents, and other adults ignore at their peril."
-Lee Drutman, Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher (May 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585427128
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585427123
  • ASIN: B002PJ4L0Y
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,010,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Graham H. Seibert TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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.
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