The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future

Feast of the Holy Apostle Matthias
The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30) by Mark Bauerlein

Bauerlein_Dumbest_Generation_Square.jpegTHE AUTHOR, Emory University English professor and former director of research and analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts, is not saying that “the Millennials”—those youth who’ve grown up in the Digital Age—are less intelligent than their predecessors. He is saying that due to their digital environment, they are working with a much smaller store of acquired knowledge, contrasting the dizzying quantity of information available online with that which has actually been embraced and mastered. Bauerlein collaborated with Dana Gioia in publishing the influential NEA report Reading at Risk, which combined careful research and a sense of urgency about the rapid decline of reading in America, especially among the young. The omnipresence of numerous screens—television, PC’s, laptops, iPads, tablets, increasingly sophisticated cell phones—and their facilitating unceasing immersion in texting and social media during all waking hours, has steadily pushed aside time devoted to reading or attendance to serious music, theater, or fine art. Bauerlein reports the sad collusion between avant-garde educators and the digital media industry to dethrone the book from its traditional place at the center of the school and the library, assuming that digital reading on laptops and tablets is equivalent to reading books. Citing study after survey after anecdote to back up his dark vision of the increasingly desiccated nature of youth literacy and general historical and cultural awareness, Bauerlein warns of a threat not only to the quality and workplace preparedness of the graduates of our schools, but to the vitality and coherence of our communities and of democracy itself.

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