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.

No comments: