Are You Part of the Dumbest Generation?

I am part of the much-maligned Generation X. After us came the Ys or Millenials. Now, an Emory Prof is wondering whether those Millenials, born between 1982 and 2000, are part of an ‘intellectually devoid generation’. The ASCD Blog takes a look at Prof. Mark Baurlein’s work, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young American’s and Jeopardizes Our Future.

I haven’t read the book but have begun to read the reviews on the author’s site and it looks to highlight many trends that we see around us and experiences that many of us have had in daily life since the rise of the internet and other forms of media. Here is a nice excerpt from that describes something I did with a print newspaper article today.

Elsewhere, Bauerlein also echoes Carr by citing a study of online reading habits which has discovered something called the “F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content.” This is the technique of reading horizontally across the first few lines of text, then halfway across for a few more, and finally vertically the rest of the way down the page. There can be few of us who do not feel a twinge of guilty recognition at this description. Busted!

I am not sure if all of this means that we have the dumbest generation coming of age, most of the people and activities that I highlight on this blog are active doing things while on campus (such as starting ventures) rather than following traditional educational methods of reading massive texts and writing detailed reports (full of footnotes from other thick readings). This is the biggest problem that I have as a PhD student — reading long papers/books versus doing research interviews/studying businesses/working on my business.

There is no doubt that the decline in ‘reading’ and increased use of me centered media (like this blog and facebook) must have downside risk, but to say that our democracy is in danger? I just don’t know. The young people I see on campus and in my research are motivated and action oriented. While I don’t really know their reading habits, I see there output and it seems to support democracy, society and a strong economy. Any thoughts?

2 thoughts on “Are You Part of the Dumbest Generation?

  1. Nick

    With regards to the excerpt, it seems to me (as a member of Generation Y) that we’ve grown accustomed to the huge amounts of information now available to us as a result of the internet and adapted by employing new methods to absorb as much as possible.

    Because we follow politics and history less does not mean we are dumber. I’d like to see if they’ve compared the younger generations’ knowledge of technology to that of the older generations. It’s a change in values and environment, not a change in intelligence.

  2. I agree with Nick. I wish people would realize we have MORE information available to us than ever before. Shame on older generations for saying we’re dumb, you’re just afraid! We too, will be saying the same thing someday (although, I hope I don’t).

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