"The Dumbest Generation, How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future [or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30]"

by Mark Baurlein


notes by Dwayne Phillips


.Preface to the Paperback Edition, 2009

..Late-teens and early-twenty-somethings...These are the years in which they read good books, discuss great ideas, judge past events, and form moral scruples. If it doesn't happen in high school, in college, and in the home at this time, it probably never will.

..When I was 16...I didn't like them (parents, Walter Cronkite, etc) and didn't want to talk to them, but I couldn't reach under the table with my handheld and connect with buddies.

..The Digital Age...is a displacement.

.Introduction, 2008

..This book...sticks to one thing, the intellectual condition of young Americans, and describes it with empirical evidence, recording something hard to document but nonetheless insidious happening inside their heads. The information is scattered and underanalyzed, but once collected and compared, it charts a consistent and perilous momentum downward.

..while the world has provided them extraordinary chances to gain knowledge...young Americans today are no more learned or skillful than their predecessors...

..Instead of opening young American minds to the stores of civilization and science and politics, technology has contracted their horizon to themselves, to the social scene around them.

.Chapter 1 - Knowledge Deficits

.Or a better way to put it is to say that they are encased in more immediate realities that shut out conditions beyond.

.A lot, it turns out. That's the conclusion drawn by a host of experts who in the last ten years have directed large-scale surveys and studies of teen and young adult knowledge, skills, and intellectual habits.

.Partly because of No Child Left Behind, which tests reading and math, and partly because of an emphasis on job-skills development, the public school curriculum devotes an ever smaller share of class time to music and the other arts.

.Whatever good news these surveys impart - high rates of volunteering, for instance - is eclipsed by the steady pileup of apathy and in-cognizance. Each time a grand initiative comes along to reinvigorate the curriculum...test scores two years later dash the hopes of the innovators.

.In 2002, when the National Association of Scholars administered a test to college seniors whose questions came from a Gallup survey of high school students in 1955, it found that the former scored no better than the latter.

.On one crucial measure, the current generation has a distinct advantage. It enjoys assess to first-rate culture and vital facts that earlier cohorts couldn't even imagine.

..1. they spend more time in school

..2. there are more libraries and museums available

..3. they have more money to use

.This is the paradox of the Dumbest Generation. For the young American, life has never been so yielding, goods so plentiful, schooling so accessible, diversion so easy, and liberties so copious. .The Internet doesn't impart adult information; it crowds it out.


..1. The author gives numbers of countless surveys showing how poorly today's youth scores on all sorts of tests. I wonder about the people giving these surveys. Many seem to profit from "we need more money to teach the topic that I am surveying." See the point that 2002 students scored no worse than 1955 students. The kids are no dumber than their grandparents.

..2. And the author doesn't seem to ask "what are the parents, aunt, uncles, and school administrators doing? What role do they play in this dumb generation?"

..3. In my experience, the kids know the information is on the Internet where they can find it easily. Therefore, they don't waste the time memorizing it.

.Chapter 2 - The New Bibliophobes

.The author contends that kids don't read books, and that is a tragedy.

.It's a new attitude, this brazen disregard of books and reading...but no generation trumpeted a-literacy (knowing how to read, but choosing not to) as a valid behavior

.How serenely the undergrad announces the transfer from "the whole book thing" to the Internet

.Anti-book feelings are emboldened, and heavy readers miss out on activities that unify their friends.

.Kids read Harry Potter not because they like reading, but because other kids read it.

..Reading Harry Potter...is to bond with your peers.

.From 1982 to 2002, reading rates fell through the floor.

.The author shows numbers from several surveys.

.Reading is still worthwhile - The more kids read out of school and in school, the higher their scores.

.leisure reading does have substantial influence on school performance.

.In their minds, a-literacy and anti-intellectualism pose no career obstacles, and they have no shame attached.

.the more you don't read, the more you can't read.

."Today's young people don't suffer from illiteracy; they just suffer from e-literacy. We can't spell and we don't know synonyms because there's less need to know. What smart person would devote hours to learning words that can be accessed at the click of a button? Spell-check can spell. Shift+F7 produces synonyms. What is wrong with relying on something that is perfectly reliable?" .Why do so many new entrants into college and work end up in remediation?


..1. It is the friends aspect. The kids treasure friends above all else. They read Harry Potter because their friends do. They keep up with minute-by-minute pop culture to keep up with their friends.

..2. What about Bible reading? It probably suffers as well, but there are unlimited Bible study resources at their fingertips. I think they look up the Bible the want when they want it. Just-in-time knowledge.

..3. The "remedial question." One reason so many kids are in remedial classes and remedial training on the job is that they have learned one way (e-literacy) and the placement tests and job skills tests test for the old way. Of course they flunk those tests. They are the wrong tests.

.Chapter 3 - Screen Time

.From yet another big survey "third- to twelfth-graders through questionnaires and week-long diaries. The foremost conclusion: the total amount of leisure time kids spend with media 'is a the equivalent of a full-time job.'"

.They yield a daunting screen time of 295 minutes a day.

.Multi-tasking - media us begets media use.

.Parents have more ways to pacify their kids, and screen minutes climb accordingly. The screen, the content, has educational benefits.

.That's the claim. Screen time is cerebral, and it generates a breakthrough intelligence.

.E-literacy...It's a general deployment capacity...hyper-alertness.

.Cameron Sinclair announced, "there is a real problem with education in the U.S., and, you know what, the students know it more than the teachers do, and they're beginning to mobilize, and they're forming their own ways of learning." .Millennials want to learn, but they want to learn only what they have to learn, and they want to learn it in a different style that is best for them.

..The approach grants remarkable discretion to the kids, assuming that they know what "is best."

.Leisure reading of any kind correlates more closely with a student's grades than any other media.

.But faced with 100 paper pages, the digital mind turns away. The bearers of e-literacy reject books.

.Teens and 20-year-olds hear the book-pushing voices of teachers and librarians as pesky whispers.

.Whey, then, should bibliophiles and traditionalists carp so much? Because that glorious creation of youth intelligence hasn't materialized.

.The web grows, and the young adult mind stalls.

.In an average young person's online experience, the senses may be stimulated and the ego touched, but vocabulary doesn't expand, memory doesn't improve, analytic talents don't develop, and erudition doesn't ensue.


..1. Many of the tests and measures that we older people use are based on the old paradigm. The kids learned in a different paradigm, so it isn't surprising that they do so poorly when tested with an old one.

..2. Give the kids an open-Internet test instead.

.Chapter 4 - Online Learning and Non-Learning

.ICT Information and Communications Technology literacy

..First, few test takers demonstrated key ICT literacy skills.

..Major, more than half the students failed to sort the information to clarify related material.

..only a few test takers could accurately adapt material for a new audience.

..many students entering college lacked information-technology skills necessary to perform academic work.

.The...results...belie the high-flying forecasts of digitally inspired dexterity and intelligence.

..While college-age students can use technology, they don't necessarily know what to do with the content the technology provides.

.In the last few years several studies and analyses have appeared showing little or no achievement gains once the schools went digital. Various digital initiatives have fallen short, quite simply, because students who were involved in them didn't perform any better than students who weren't.

.Digital natives are a restless group...It is time to examine clear-sightedly how their worse dispositions play out online...and to recognize that their engagement with technology actually aggravates a few key and troubling tendencies.

.Put simply...students...need the vocabulary...and the habits that produce those (vocabulary) skills originate mostly in their personal lives, at home and with friends, not with their teachers.

..apparent how lexically impoverished most speech is compared to written language.

..Exposure to progressively more rare words expands the verbal reservoir. Exposure to media with entirely common words keeps the reservoir at existing levels.

..children raised in print-heavy households and those raised in print-poor households can arrive at school with gaps in the word inventories of several thousand.

.Peer absorption...now have more contact with one another than ever before.

..Young adults prefer to learn about one another.

..The acclaimed empowerment that Web 2.0 has fostered goes almost entirely toward social stuff...that's the pull of immaturity.

.===>>> "I'm not trying to get a broader picture. I'm trying to get what I want."

..The psychological delights are intellectually stultifying.

..Nobody savors the process, but the mature adults realized the benefits. Adolescents don't, and digital connections save them the labor of self-improvement.

.Reading online

..screen reading differs greatly from book reading

..scanned the pages

..read in an F-shaped pattern

..when the page gets too complicated...they skip it

..the more web pages look like book pages, the less people read them

..The web is a consumer habitat, not an educational one


..1. The author constantly berates the kids, but his doesn't write well. Note all the use of verb-preposition, redundancy, and all sorts of just plain poor writing.

..2. He also berates the language on Wikipedia as "blank and uninspiring." But it is an encyclopedia! That is the style of such.

..3. And then the author discovers that the Web is about narrow-casting. Well, duh! Who doesn't know that already?

.Chapter 5 - The Betrayal of the Mentors

.Left to themselves, teens have no forward direction.

.It is the nature of adolescents to believe that authentic reality begins with themselves, and that what long preceded them is irrelevant.


..in 2005 these are 22 to 30 years old (born 1975 to 1983)

..college degree

..they pass through a series of service jobs

..they move back into their parents' home

..they engage in serial dating

..they have achieved little, but feel good about themselves

..they never whisper a single word about intellectual labor

..nobody tells them they have overlooked anything

..self-oriented, present-oriented, anti-tradition, knowledge-indifferent

.Spend some hours in a school zone...indulgent attitude towards youth...downplaying of any tradition.

.Over the years, the indulgence of youth circulated among educators...routine irreverence and knowledge deficits.

.By the 1980s, the rebellious, anti-Establishment posture of young adults had become the creed of America's educational institutions.

.Many indulge-rs believe that teacher-centered instruction bores the kids...student-centered instruction will inspire...but in fact those lesser students say otherwise.

.Young people miss one of the sanative, humbling mechanisms of maturity. This is the benefit of tradition.

.Psychological assessments show rising currents of narcissism.

.A mismatch of expectation and ability.

.High school teachers consistently assess the skills of their graduating students much more highly than college teachers assess the skills of their entering students.

.===>>The tool is precisely what has been lost in the shifting attitude in favor of youth: self-criticism in the light of tradition.

.Young Americans need someone somewhere in their lives to reveal to them bigger and better human stories...


..1. In this chapter, it is mostly the fault of the older generation for allowing the kids to always have their desires.

..2. This goes back to the picture of the missing kids on the milk carton. We never knew if our kids would disappear on any given day, so we treasured and sheltered them.

.Chapter 6 - No More Culture Warriors

.That is why Thomas Jefferson counted so heavily on public schools to ensure the continuance of the Republic.

.Here we arrive at the national implications of the Dumbest Generation. The benighted mental condition of American youth today results from many causes, but one of them...1955 to 1975, youth movements...and the mentors who should have fought back surrendered...Two generations on we see the effects of the sovereignty of youth...They don't read enough books...or care enough to do so. The don't ponder enough ideas or have the vocabulary to do so.

.A predictable descent commenced. The sixties generation's leaders didn't anticipate how their claim of exceptional-ism would affect the next generation, and the next, but the sequence was entirely logical. Informed rejection of the past became uninformed rejection of the past, and then complete and unworried ignorance of it.

.Democracy thrives on a knowledgeable citizenry, not just an elite team of thinkers and theorists.

.all unite on one premise: knowledge of history, civics, art, and philosophy promotes personal welfare and national welfare.

.This is why leisure trends among the general population are so important.

.As of 2008, the intellectual future of the United States looks dim. Not the economic future, or the technological, medical, or media future, but the future of civic understanding and liberal education.


..1. A very weak chapter in which the author argues that the most important thing in the world for democracy is liberal arts education centered on tradition and reading every great book written in the last five centuries. He even demeans science and technology and engineering education. Odd.

..2. I think he misquotes or at least misunderstands Jefferson. The important thing is an educated public, not money for public schools.