brave new digital world

Vitamin Z points to a First Things article called iPhones Have Consequences.

Sally Thomas takes a look at the effect that internet access ubiquity has had on the education of kids. It is not a pretty picture. Here are four quick hits, but you have to go read the whole thing.

The project of Emory professor Mark Bauerlein’s new book, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future; or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30, is to confront and dismantle the claim that digital technology is producing a higher-powered, better-informed, all-around smarter new generation than, say, the .01 percent of the Facebook population born in the 1960s.

But he also asks why, with all these advantages, so many young Americans sound like the high-school student who called a talk-radio show to complain about “all the boring stuff the teachers assign,” like “that book about the guy. [Pause] You know, that guy who was great.” “You mean The Great Gatsby?” asked the host. “Yeah,” said the caller. “Who wants to read about him?” The cultural candy shop is open as it’s never been open before, but evidence suggests that the kids aren’t buying.


Their ignorance would seem outrageous if it didn’t sound just like the kind of thing my college-professor husband has been reading in student papers, hearing in conversations with students, and seeing in course evaluations for years. This is a 100-level course, and we shouldn’t be expected to do such complex reading, griped an entire chorus of students from a world-religions 101 course, for which the core text was a trade paperback that myhusband’s father, a college dropout, had once been assigned in a Sunday School class. In another religion class, a student paper referred repeatedly to something called the momentous island, a phrase that mystified my husband until he realized that what the writer meant was that infamous school-prayer compromise, the moment of silence.


At its heart, Bauerlein’s book is not about machines at all but about what he calls “The Betrayal of the Mentors.” Simply put, the educational and cultural establishments have sold out tradition and authority in favor of “collaborative-learning” models and objectives like “working with every young person’s sense of self.” The average teenager, not surprisingly, views himself not as a student in need of enlightenment but as a kind of automatic savant.


Ideas have consequences and, according to Bauerlein, the consequence of this particular idea will be the coming of age of successive generations who know less and less about the ideas that gave us Western civilization, and who therefore have less and less investment in its continuation. “Knowledge,” writes Bauerlein, “supplies a motivation that ordinary ambitions don’t.”


One Response

  1. I have to say reading this makes me give another mark on the side of Brentwood as the education choice for the kids.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: