Friday, October 21, 2011

The Dumbest Generation, by Mark Bauerlein

I heard about The Dumbest Generation, by Mark Bauerlein, from Thomas Jefferson Education.  It was highly recommended and I was excited to read it.  After I had finished, I felt a bit battered.  Not the reaction I was expecting.  I guess I tend towards book that make me 'feel' good about myself.  This one, not so much.  Geesh!

Well, it made me feel good about the path I am on in regards to educating myself and my children.  But it also made me feel REALLY stupid.  Which, to be fair, I am on the ignorant side.  His subtitle is: 'How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future-Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30'.  Well, I'm 33, but I definitely should not be trusted!  Although I did not grow up in a techy world like he discusses.  The end results are the same.  *sighs* 

His overall point is that technology is not all it's cracked up to be.  And that we need to rethink some of our techie-ed.  The computer CAN be a great tool for learning, but few students actually use it as such.  Instead, it's caused them to be 'wired' and need to have constant change and stimulation.  And also, to consider their peers preferences over and above that of tradional thinkers and history in general.  In a word, or 2, they are the 'Dumbest Generation' and that needs to change.

He starts out by explaining how people under the age of 30 have a serious knowledge deficit. I'm not under 30, but I definitely could not answer many of the questions he considered common knowledge. And I fully agree.  We have come to think that we are a 'people unto ourselves' and that 'history won't repeat itself', which is absurd and pompous of us of course.  Thomas Jefferson Education talks about that very thing.  And it gives a great way to fill in that deficit in ourselves and our children.  As does classical education.  Any education based on reading classic works and studying history and THINKING, are great ways of filling in that serious deficit in people.  And that is important if America is to remain free and great. 

He spends 3 chapters on explaining who these 'techies' are and why they became this way.  How our turning from education based on classics, to education based on cultural relevancy and ease and technology, has turned out a number of generations that are seriously lacking in common sense, and are tuned, instead, to pressure from their own peers.  He even spends a chapter talking about how the leaders gave up their authority in the kids' lives instead of insisting on them growing up and getting a real education.  This started happening in the 1960s, along with flower power and 'freedom'. 

The final chapter is a somewhat depressing polemic about how this deficit has and will affect America.  Depressing.  I've known this for awhile now, so I shouldn't have found it depressing.  I truly do believe I am helping to educate my children in just the way that America needs, to remain strong and free.  And to glorify God, and understand history so it doesn't have to repeat itself. 

He ends with this: 'Adults everywhere need to align against youth ignorance and apathy, and not fear the 'old fogy' tag and recoil from the smirks of the young.  The moral poles need to reverse, with the young no longer setting the pace for right conduct and cool thinking.  Let's tell the truth.  the Dumbest Generation will cease being dumb only when it regards adolescence as an inferior realm of petty striving and adulthood as a realm of civic, historical, and cultural awareness that puts them in touch with the perennial ideas and struggles.  The youth of America occupy a point in history like every other generation did and will, and their time will end.  But the effects of their habits will outlast them, and if things do not change they will be remembered as the fortunate ones who were unworthy of the privileges they inherited.  They may even be recalled as the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever.' 

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