Monday, September 28, 2009

Sooner or later you'll be an anarchist whether you like it or not.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Review of The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein (Part 3)

In closing, a bit of a stream...

There are certain passages in this book that were odd. For instance, the author castigates the results of a poll in 2005 where young respondents stated that they believed the political system was broken and corrupt. He seems to think that they are not informed enough to make this determination. Does he really think cynicism is only a pose? I would argue that it really isn't that tough. In 2005, Bush was still president because his opponent was an even bigger loser, and Iraq was descending into absolute chaos. It looked apparent that the political system is hollow. (It still does.) It isn't just the youth.

He also seems to be fixated upon the classics as a guide for everyday life. Although I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment regarding culture and humanity, I does very little for coping with the technological society as a whole. He does not seem to see that if it were not electronic diversions it would be something else--like hard drug abuse. At least, in general, the youth are not out on the streets victimizing each other. On the other hand, it does not prepare the young for hard cold reality when and if it occurs. Even if relatively sheltered, the classics will convey lessons that can be invaluable far beyond the intellectual plane. Culture is shaped and reflected by these works, but it has been eclipsed for decades to diversion and decadence. The next stage is cultural nihilism. Why the author would think technological and internet use along would be anything other than the symptom of a disease appears to be his fixation with youth even as older people do the same thing and now have passed it down.

I do agree that today's youth do have a tendency to exist in a bubble. Although anecdotal, I will illustrate my point with an example. One night, a friend once witnessed a 20 year old "kid" pull out a brand new IPod, which was predictably taken out of his hands by thugs. His response, "Hey, that's not funny." He seemed to believe it was a joke. Being knocked to the ground probably made him change his mind, but it need not have come to that. It isn't just intellectual development that is consumed by the machine. Maximum Advantage is not conducive to individual survival. It only cares about the heard. Paradoxically, it can make one feel more connected if only to keep out the cold. (And so, you pull out your toys at night at a downtown bus stop...)

The author does not obviously relate to the human need to feel connected. To him it's just texting and social networking. He does not seem to see is as just a narcotic for the physically unconnected even as he describes the disease. Why study the classics, when humanity seems a distant thing?

Also, there was a passage that made me fall off may chair will laughter, (P. 234):
The ramifications for the United States are grave. We need a steadt stream of rising men and women to replenish the institutions, to become strong military leaders and wise politicians,...
Wow. What's he smoking? "Replenish?" If this is what passes for deep thought among public intellectual these days (and it is), then no wonder there isn't much excitement about reading. True intellectual leaders need to be organic. Technology does not promote that sort of growth. The mentors have failed because they helped create this system.

In closing, I recommend this book for its well researched case concerning the rising dumbitude. I just don't agree that it applied only to the youth of America. At least this book is well written. Who cares about the author's reasons for writing it?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review of The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein (Part 2)

Continuing with my review...

Although well researched, the author's motivations appears to be based on errors and misconceptions. He frequently confuses causes with effects, and appears to live in a bubble (which is ironic as he often accuses his professorial colleagues of the same deficiency.) For instance, his laments the disinterest shown in the liberal arts and the career oriented focus of his students, but seems to make no connection between this attitude and the high cost of a college education (or even mentions the issue). If someone is going to go into $100K+ in debt (which cannot even be bankrupted), there had better be some payout at the end. It is simply bizarre that he would believe that someone would mortgage their future to simply become more well rounded. The liberal arts, for their own sake are fine, are simply too high a price. (I suspect many of his English majors are actually pre-law or the like.) In addition, as evidenced by the lack of apprentices in the construction trades, more people are choosing white collar careers over blue collar work, and therefore some students who would have previously taken different paths are now enrolling in college.

More later...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Review of The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein (Part 1)

Review of The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein

This books subtitle looked interesting: "How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)." So I went to the library and checked out a copy. The author, an English Professor who is about 50 years old, believes the U.S. has a problem as it's young people are so absorbed in electronic diversions that it atrophies the intellect and character of many. This book is well researched and does include citations and an index. (I have a distrust for books of this sort lacking in such.) The studies and other data provided lends credence to most of his arguments. As a former physics/math instructor before becoming an (un-)civil engineer, I noted many of the educational defiencies of which he writes. He is also right on the mark in his criticism of corporate, media and educational boosters of the wonders of technology. Those with a stake in promoting technology in class rooms and extol the virtues of the internet age, give examples of highly motivated and gifted children, but for the majority focus is on its base mediocrity. True, it's all there on the internet, but as with most things, the lowest common denominator mentality applies. Hence, the most popular sites on the internet are commercial ventures and therefore have a stake in keeping language and concepts to a low level of literacy and sophistication. The result is poor language and other cognitive/intellectual skills. Indeed, studies have shown that there is no real improvement in reading and math skills have occurred as the result of "wired" class rooms. As with many other consumerist concerns, don't believe the hype.

As criticism of the wholesale adoption of technology and its impacts on scoiety, this book is worth reading, but it certainly has flaws.

My main objections, which I will relate in future posts, concern the author's focus and perspective. Yes, it's true that people younger than 30 have these deficiencies, but plenty of older people do the same thing and share the same deficiencies. I have other issues as well.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

To grow old is to grow old.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Clifford D. Simak

This is the first installment of a series concerning authors and/or published works that I highly recommend. I will also include downloads of representative works.

The first effort will concern my favorite classic science fiction writer, Clifford D. Simak (1904 - 1988), a Midwestern newspaper man. Although lesser known than other authors his science fiction was a favorite of many of those authors, especially Isaac Asimov. His books are generally more "humanistic" most other science fiction of his time. His robots have feelings. He is one of the few authors whose works I collect as a matter of course.

Representative (PDF) Download: Shakespeare's Planet.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Many movements never move.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Ideologies are for those seeking domination by being dominated.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Don't believe your own hype.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Check the depth before you dive.