Previous Books‎ > ‎

October 2010

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



MON OCT. 25 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Bradner Library L 105
TUE OCT. 26 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Bradner Library
L 105
THU OCT. 28 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Radcliff Center RC 645


This shocking, surprisingly entertaining  romp into the intellectual nether regions of today's under-thirty set reveals the disturbing and, ultimately, incontrovertible truth: cyberculture is turning us into a society of know-nothings.


Mark Bauerlein is an English professor at Emory University and the author of 2008 book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30). Bauerlein earned his doctorate in English from UCLA in 1998 and has taught at Emory since 1989. Between 2003 and 2005, Bauerlein worked at the National Endowment for the Arts, serving as Director of the Office of Research and Analysis. While there, Bauerlein contributed to an NEA study, "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America." Apart from his scholarly work, he publishes in popular periodicals such as The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Post, TLS, and Chronicle of HIgher Education. He lives with his family in Atlanta.



 Questions from the Boston Globe:

In The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein gives eight (8) reasons not to trust anyone under 30. Do you agree?

1. They make excellent "Jaywalking'' targets.

Bauerlein writes: "The ignorance is hard to believe ... It isn't enough to say that these young people are uninterested in world realities. They are actively cut off from them. ... They are encased in more immediate realities that shut out conditions beyond -- friends, work, clothes, cars, pop music, sitcoms, Facebook."

2. They don't read books—and don't want to, either.

"It's a new attitude, this brazen disregard of books and reading. Earlier generations resented homework assignments, of course, and only a small segment of each dove into the intellectual currents of the time, but no generation trumpeted aliteracy ... as a valid behavior of their peers."

They can't spell.

Lack of capitalization and IM codes dominate online writing. Without spellcheck, folks are toast.

They get ridiculed for original thought and good writing.

"On MySpace, if you write clearly and compose coherent paragraphs with informed observations on history and current events, 'buddies' will make fun of you,'' Bauerlein says. Wikipedia writing is clean and factual, but colorless and judgment-free. Often the most clever students, with flashes of disorganized brilliance on MySpace, switch to dull Wiki-writing formats for school papers, he says. "If we could combine the style and imagination of MySpace with the content of Wikipedia, we might get good stuff."

Grand Theft Auto IV, etc.

The stats tell the story here. First week's sales: $500 million. The sales of GTA dwarf movie premieres, CD sales, or, Bauerlein notes, book sales. All that video use, Bauerlein says, has hurt in the classroom, too. Thousands of Massachusetts public school graduates are ending up in remedial reading and writing classes in college, according to a Globe story. 

They don't store the information.

"For digital immigrants, people who are 40 years old who spent their college time in the library acquiring information, the Internet is really a miraculous source of knowledge,'' Bauerlein says. "Digital natives, however, go to the Internet not to store knowledge in their minds, but to retrieve material and pass it along. The Internet is just a delivery system."

7. Because their teachers don't tell them so.

Or because their parents don't check their bedrooms at midnight to halt the instant messaging..."Kids are drowning in teen stuff delivered 24/7 by the tools, and adult realities can't penetrate," Bauerlein says. Another factor: "It's the era of child-centered classrooms and self-esteem grading."

8. Because they're young.

Do you remember how stupid you were when you were a teen-ager? Or all that you didn't know -- and thought you did? And the skills you gained by holding back on foolish comments? Oh, the now-old guy in this picture? He once wrote: "I was so much older then/I'm younger than that now."



We would like to hear from you! What did you think of The Dumbest Generation? Please e-mail your thoughts, comments, and questions to:
Deb Bee,
Oct 4, 2010, 12:58 PM