The Dumbest Generation

Essay add: 18-02-2016, 15:22   /   Views: 29
Techno-Logical Youth
Read a book, our nation depends on it! Technology is making you and me stupid! -- Wait, what? The digital age is a change and an improvement to our society, not a detriment, right? “The Dumbest Generation, How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our future [or, Don’t Trust Anyone under 30]” by Mark Bauerlein, sets out to prove just that. The title says it all-- the book documents and analyzes the decline of literacy and critical thinking amongst American youth under the age of 30, technology being the main culprit. I, being part of the ‘dumbest generation’, should be inclined to disagree. Bauerlein uses terminology as if we (the ‘dumbest generation’) are the beginning of the end. He suffocates the reader with his heavy reliance on statistics that range from convincing, to mildly plausible. He presents and compares his findings and surveys to what seems like any statistic that better supports his argument. He uses extreme scenarios, insignificant testimonials-- anything to support his thesis. However, while I cannot agree with the extent to which Bauerlein takes his argument, as well as the language in his delivery, I cannot contend with the overall message of the book.
It is not easy reading something that is, in essence, insulting you and a majority of people you know. Consequently, my natural reaction was to counter argue in support of my generation. And while I tried to disagree and challenge Bauerlein’s arguments, I couldn’t help but find myself in agreement throughout a majority of the book. Bauerlein brings up great points which I, when being completely honest with myself, cannot dispute. I would like to be able to say that I read an ample amount in my leisure time, but I, like many of my peers, simply do not. While I do not believe that the ‘dumbest generation’ is responsible for the impending downfall of the nation, it was an eye-opening read to see just how absorbed in technology not only we Millennials are, but the extent to which we are as a nation. That being said, increased screen time (time spent with technology) amongst our nation’s youth is not only detrimental to considerable psychological developments, but also jeopardizes the future leaders of our nation due to its inherent by-product of peer absorption, and the ‘bibliophobic’ nature they collectively generate.
Some may argue that technology is an educator; however it merely gives students the tools to improve upon their education. On average, today’s adolescence “yield a daunting screen time of 295 minutes a day, 2,065 minutes per week.” (Bauerlein 77). "Millennials", or anyone born between 1980 and 2000, are watching more TV, spending a vast amount of time on the internet, and playing video games; they have access to newer, and more technology than any previous generation could have dreamed of. Given the opportunities for information produced by technology in America today, one would think we were on the verge of a vast leap in intelligence. However, even with all of this technology at our fingertips, some intellectual capabilities are continuing to decline, or at least flat-line when compared to generations prior. Bauerlein collects impressive evidence that, while the internet contains a sea of texts and images available for inspection, the way people ‘connect’ with this content is by skimming, not reading. “The model is information retrieval, not knowledge formation, and the material passes from web to homework paper without lodging in the minds of students.” (Bauerlein 94). I personally find this statement to be true, considering I do read web pages or articles in the “F” pattern (skimming) Bauerlein describes, although when reading a novel, I take in a lot more and have a deeper, more intellectual understanding of the text. He sarcastically and quite honestly declared in his book, “If you can call up a name, a date, an event, a text, a definition, a calculation, or a law in five seconds of key-punching, why fill your mind with them?” (Bauerlein 94). While not proud of it, I can honestly say that if I can locate information on the internet, TV, or any other technological source rather than traditional books or libraries, I will always utilize them first. “Screen time” is responsible for offering youth yet another way of bypassing the traditional, proven methods of education.
Another major factor stunting intellectual development among millennials is “peer absorption”. Smart phones, texting, calling, instant messaging, e-mails, Skype and social networking are all ways American youth can constantly be connected with their peers at any given time of day. Preceding generations were arguably just as concerned about their peers as today’s generation; however, aside from talking on a landline, they were no longer connected to their peers once they got home. “With the latest gadgets in their own bedrooms and in the libraries, however, peer-to-peer contact never ends.” (Bauerlein 134) This absolutely applies to me seeing as how even while writing this paper, I have sent multiple text messages, made phone calls, checked e-mails, my Facebook page, et cetera. Now, maybe there's nothing wrong or detrimental with any of that, but when you look at the time spent -- or, when I do all of this, what am I not doing? Definitely not anything that will better construct this essay nor me for my future, the fundamental reason of college. We are essentially omnipresent amongst out peers, and our peers us. Due to this, Bauerlein argues that those of us under 30 are deprived of a vital element for transition from adolescence to maturity, the vertical modeling of older, more mature mentors like parents, teachers, employers, ministers, and so on. (Bauerlein 136). Though this holds a minor degree of truth, I would not say that because of the digital age mentors are now obsolete. I believe everyone can attribute valuable life lessons learned through their elders. Although I cannot pose a solution for this growing problem, youth today need to find a balance between their social agenda and their own personal development.
“Scar Tissue” by Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the band Red Hot Chili Peppers, was the last book I read for leisure— six months ago. Before that, “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” by Tucker Max. Both are autobiographies of the authors’ lives, with no real substance or deep thinking required. Then why did I read them? Other than being a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and favoring comedic drunken stories, a friend recommended them to me. Bauerlein illustrates my reading habits when he writes of the reading phenomenon Harry Potter, “Kids read Harry Potter not because they like reading, but because other kids read it.” (Bauerlein 43) Like many others of my generation, the only texts I read for leisure are those that I know I am likely to enjoy. That doesn’t mean I did not enjoy classic literature such as “Catcher in the Rye”, but it is doubtful I would pick it up in a bookstore or library when sitting next to it is “Scar Tissue”. “Bibliophobes”, as Bauerlein states it, are those that are a-literate. Those whom are a-literate are those that know how to read, yet choose not to. Bauerlein argues that the millennial generation places an extraordinary emphasis on self-gratification and, thanks to the digital age, enjoys extraordinary access to entertainment. As more information and media is obtained by the public through the internet, television, radio, et cetera, youth are finding fewer reasons to sit down and read. The topics and stories that are found in books are to some, something they cannot connect with. Also, with the internet providing any answer to any question that may arise, the need to memorize facts and historical events are diminishing. Even though extensive knowledge can be found on the internet, it is likely to go unread, as Bauerlein suggests that having to read more than a few paragraphs frustrate young learners. This creates a growing problem in America as “--members of the National Association of Manufacturers ranked ‘poor reading/writing skills’ the #2 deficiency among current employees”. (Bauerlein 63) As the American economy continues to crumble, a disadvantaged and uneducated work-force will only serve to worsen our state as a nation.
Technology has changed the way the world operates so much so that the digital age could be referred to as a revolution, just as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are referred as the Industrial Revolution. Mark Bauerlein makes very valid points about my generation and our intellectual habits, or lack thereof. Conversely, his severity and alarmist tendencies tend to undermine his argument. Is democracy as we know it going to crumble because of Facebook? No, but it definitely is not serving to better ourselves. Youth today must remember to use technology not only for entertainment, but more-so as a means for intellectual growth. Technology can both inhibit, and support the learning process for American youth. It can serve as a tool for intellectual assignments or as a distraction; the latter of which gives us the title “Dumbest Generation.”

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