Good, Ol’ Fashioned Generation Baiting

Mark Bauerlein has a new book in which he calls the current under-30 crowd the “Dumbest Generation,” though it’s not really their fault so much as that they are growing up in the “digital age.” The Boston Globe has pruned out “8 reasons why this is the dumbest generation“. I’ll give you the reasons, but for their justification, read the whole thing. In short:

1. They make excellent “Jaywalking” targets.
2. They don’t read books — and don’t want to, either.
3. They can’t spell.
4. They get ridiculed for original thought, good writing.
5. Grand Theft Auto IV, etc.
6. They don’t store the information.
7. Because their teachers don’t tell them so.
8. Because they’re young.

In his review of Bauerlein’s book, David Robinson writes.

Adults are so busy imagining the ways that technology can improve classroom learning or improve the public debate that they’ve blinded themselves to the collective dumbing down that is actually taking place. The kids are using their technological advantage to immerse themselves in a trivial, solipsistic, distracting online world at the expense of more enriching activities – like opening a book or writing complete sentences.
Mr. Bauerlein presents a wealth of data to show that young people, with the aid of digital media, are intensely focusing on themselves, their peers and the present moment. YouTube and MySpace, he says, are revealingly named: These and other top Web destinations are “peer to peer” environments in the sense that their juvenile users have populated them with predictably juvenile content. The sites where students spend most of their time “harden adolescent styles and thoughts, amplifying the discourse of the lunchroom and keg party, not spreading the works of the Old Masters.”

Society seems to believe that more technology is inherently good, kind of like throwing more money at a problem. But technology and money are no substitute for quality time. I manage some of these young turks and some of the above observations do ring true.
But, I don’t want to sound like the stock Scooby Doo villain complaining about “those darn kids” (especially because I always wanted to hang with the Mystery Machine crowd!). I tend to think that #8 from the Globe’s list is the most relevant point of them all: “Because they’re young.” Remember, we were all pretty clueless once, and, like the current under-30 crowd, we didn’t realize it either.
The trick is to get “those darn kids” up to speed in the ways of the professional and public world. And we need to be patient about it. We’ve all benefited from the guiding hand of old timers who set us straight–often with the help of a few well-placed, sarcastic “observations.” It’s called growing up. Eventually, they’ll “get it.”

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