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

Mark Bauerlein
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 19 2009
This shocking, surprisingly entertaining romp into the intellectual nether regions of today's underthirty set reveals the disturbing and, ultimately, incontrovertible truth: cyberculture is turning us into a society of know-nothings.

The Dumbest Generation is a dire report on the intellectual life of young adults and a timely warning of its impact on American democracy and culture.
 
For decades, concern has been brewing about the dumbed-down popular culture available to young people and the impact it has on their futures. But at the dawn of the digital age, many thought they saw an answer: the internet, email, blogs, and interactive and hyper-realistic video games promised to yield a generation of sharper, more aware, and intellectually sophisticated children. The terms “information superhighway” and “knowledge economy” entered the lexicon, and we assumed that teens would use their knowledge and understanding of technology to set themselves apart as the vanguards of this new digital era.
 
That was the promise. But the enlightenment didn’t happen. The technology that was supposed to make young adults more aware, diversify their tastes, and improve their verbal skills has had the opposite effect. According to recent reports from the National Endowment for the Arts, most young people in the United States do not read literature, visit museums, or vote. They cannot explain basic scientific methods, recount basic American history, name their local political representatives, or locate Iraq or Israel on a map. The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future is a startling examination of the intellectual life of young adults and a timely warning of its impact on American culture and democracy.
 
Over the last few decades, how we view adolescence itself has changed, growing from a pitstop on the road to adulthood to its own space in society, wholly separate from adult life. This change in adolescent culture has gone hand in hand with an insidious infantilization of our culture at large; as adolescents continue to disengage from the adult world, they have built their own, acquiring more spending money, steering classrooms and culture towards their own needs and interests, and now using the technology once promoted as the greatest hope for their futures to indulge in diversions, from MySpace to multiplayer video games, 24/7.
 
Can a nation continue to enjoy political and economic predominance if its citizens refuse to grow up? Drawing upon exhaustive research, personal anecdotes, and historical and social analysis, The Dumbest Generation presents a portrait of the young American mind at this critical juncture, and lays out a compelling vision of how we might address its deficiencies. The Dumbest Generation pulls no punches as it reveals the true cost of the digital age—and our last chance to fix it.

 

Frequently Bought Together

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future(Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) + The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement + Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before
Price For All Three: CDN$ 42.59

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Review

"If you're the parent of someone under 20 and read only one non-fiction book this fall, make it this one. Bauerlein's simple but jarring thesis is that technology and the digital culture it has created are not broadening the horizon of the younger generation; they are narrowing it to a self-absorbed social universe that blocks out virtually everything else."
-Don Campbell, USA Today

"An urgent and pragmatic book on the very dark topic of the virtual end of reading among the young."
-Harold Bloom

"Never have American students had it so easy, and never have they achieved less. . . . Mr. Bauerlein delivers this bad news in a surprisingly brisk and engaging fashion, blowing holes in a lot of conventional educational wisdom."
-Charles McGrath, The New York Times

"It wouldn't be going too far to call this book the Why Johnny Can't Read for the digital age."
-Booklist

"Throughout The Dumbest Generation, there are . . . keen insights into how the new digital world really is changing the way young people engage with information and the obstacles they face in integrating any of it meaningfully. These are insights that educators, parents, and other adults ignore at their peril."
-Lee Drutman, Los Angeles Times
 

Review

"If you're the parent of someone under 20 and read only one non-fiction book this fall, make it this one. Bauerlein's simple but jarring thesis is that technology and the digital culture it has created are not broadening the horizon of the younger generation; they are narrowing it to a self-absorbed social universe that blocks out virtually everything else."
-Don Campbell, USA Today

"An urgent and pragmatic book on the very dark topic of the virtual end of reading among the young."
-Harold Bloom

"Never have American students had it so easy, and never have they achieved less. . . . Mr. Bauerlein delivers this bad news in a surprisingly brisk and engaging fashion, blowing holes in a lot of conventional educational wisdom."
-Charles McGrath, The New York Times

"It wouldn't be going too far to call this book the Why Johnny Can't Read for the digital age."
-Booklist

"Throughout The Dumbest Generation, there are . . . keen insights into how the new digital world really is changing the way young people engage with information and the obstacles they face in integrating any of it meaningfully. These are insights that educators, parents, and other adults ignore at their peril."
-Lee Drutman, Los Angeles Times

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Rant On An Important Topic Jan. 25 2010
Format:Paperback
The Dumbest Generation's central thesis is that the relatively new "Web 2.0" social technologies are creating an illiterate youth culture obsessed by triviality, pop culture and adolescent social life. It is an enjoyable pro-reading, anti-technology jeremiad in the tradition of Neil Postman (to whom Bauerlein pays homage), but it's not without its limitations.

Drawing on research from a number of government sources and reputable cultural institutions, Bauerlein's arguments can be both persuasive and problematic. For example, one of the best empirical studies he relies upon is a large-scale reading survey from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts that measured leisure reading rates in 1982, 1992 and 2002. The rate (based on reading a single book outside of school or work) shows a precipitous drop of 17% in 18-24 year-olds (from 59.8% to 42.8%) between 1982 and 2002. This is certainly troubling, but Bauerlain glosses over the fact that leisure reading for 25-34 year-olds also declined (from 62.1% to 47.7%), as it did for 35-44 year-olds (from 59.7% to 46.6%). Moreover, this decline in leisure reading occurred BEFORE the wholesale adoption of the social computing technologies that Bauerlein believes is at the core of today's "dumbest generation". If anything, the best evidence he provides suggests that the big change in the 1970's - the spread of cable TV - has been the worst offender. [Speaking of out-of-date, one of the newest and biggest social networking fads, Facebook, is barely mentioned, whereas another service that has already receded, MySpace, features prominently in Bauerlein's analysis.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By Angelo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am very impressed with this book. As a high school Physics and Mathematics teacher, I have noticed an alarming decline in fundamental skills and intellectual curiosity in my students over the last ten years. The rhetoric expounding that technology and the Web promotes "problem-solving" and "higher-order thinking" in students has only become more strident in the last decade -- unfortunately, these outcomes have proven to be an illusion, as clearly demonstrated by the results of many esteemed surveys and skill tests referenced in Bauerlein's book. My experiences in the classroom have proven to me that "problem-solving" and "higher-order thinking" cannot occur without a mastery of the fundamentals of the discipline, and now, after reading this book, I understand why my students are lacking these prerequisite skills.

While the Web is indeed an amazing resource for those of us with an interest in history, civics, the arts and the sciences, the Web does not create that intellectual curiosity in adolescents. In fact, the data referenced in this book proves that teenagers use technology almost exclusively as a social networking tool, and the time spent in peer interaction is taken from pursuits that would actually benefit the intellectual growth of our youth. Even Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, is skeptical of the learning potential of blogging and games: "It sounds like it's a lot of encapsulated entertainment... This ... sounds like a gigantic waste of time. If I was competing with the United States, I would love to have the students I'm competing with spending their time on this kind of crap." Perhaps this explains why more than 50% of the engineering doctorates granted by American universities go to foreign students.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To: The Dumbest Generation - Wake up!!! July 16 2009
Format:Paperback
First of all, I will state that I HAVE read this book and don't believe that people who haven't read or completed this book should be posting here or elsewhere.

Mark Bauerlein's "The Dumbest Generation" or "Don't trust anyone under 30" is well-researched and well presented book about how the digital revolution has, contrary to widely-held beliefs, made the Digital Generation less ambitious, bright and intelligent. The author is perhaps on to something when he says that The Digital Generation; referred to with various alternative names such as the digital natives, the Rising Generation, Generation X and Twixters are largely self-absorbed, illiterate and uncultured.

Much of the book centers on how the new generation has rejected reading whole-heartedly for other activities such as social networking, video games and creating personalized works of art. While the author recognizes that video games may improve hand-eye coordination, they do nothing to further one's reading skills or to learn mathematical formulas, nor learn the works of the Great Masters. He recognizes that there is a slew of literature on the internet, but how most people scan websites in an "F" fashion and don't really read the content and if there is content worth reading, it is written at a sixth or eighth grade level. His exhaustive research is clearly visible as he presents literally hundreds of other works on both sides of the argument. The Dumbest Generation is also betrayed by their mentors, who are teachers, guidance counselors and educators who teach them to be all they can be without the challenges, intellectual rigor and effort that comes with self discovery.

Still though, there are some criticisms.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Holds the Record for # of Derisive Snorts Produced in this Reader
There's an undercurrent of frustration running through Bauerlein's commentary on the wilful ignorance of today's youth culture. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Saahy
3.0 out of 5 stars Complex problems NEVER have simplistic answers....
While I do agree that some of the factors that has led to the malaise of the present generation are both the over-saturation of teenage social networking and the lack of singular... Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2011 by Ronald W. Maron
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring does not equal learning
Everyone who's been to school knows that a good subject can be absolutely ruined by boring teachers, and that's the problem with this book. Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2010 by Shadow
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!
I have to disagree with the review that it seems like the book was written by a grouchy old man. As I was reading it, I felt like I was not the only one who experiences the lack... Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2010 by C. Comeault
1.0 out of 5 stars Misses the mark rather badly
I've tried to read this book. I don't get far though. Grumpy old man just does that to me. I've even tried starting at a couple of different points in the book. Aaaaaaand, nope. Read more
Published on July 10 2009 by Doug Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary dumb generation
This is so very frightening. This slim book talks about the digital generation born between 1980 to mid 1990s. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2009 by Winston
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not buy
I will start by saying that I have NOT read this book. So, what good is my review you may ask? Well, I am 32 years old, so according to the logic of the book, I am to be... Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2008 by J. Dallas
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