Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Dumbest Generation book reflection by Mary Day

Mark Bauerlein’s The Dumbest Generation filled me with mixed emotions when I read this book. Are today’s young American’s truly the dumbest generation? I think it depends on who you ask.

I don’t believe that the future of today’s digital natives is as dismal as the author tries to make this generation appear. Although he brings up valid arguments and backs them up with convincing evidence in the form of research and analysis of test scores when he discusses how test scores are decreasing in history, civics and foreign affairs, one has to ask, “Who really is to blame for this?” It is theirs, or do other’s share the blame such as parents who often times have no clue to what they are doing, or what information they are looking at, or where they are and who they are with.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying, the author doesn’t make these comments and generalizations lightly without a vast amount of factual data to support his arguments. But I wondered to myself how much different is this digital native era from previous eras concerning what they cared about, or their lack of civic responsibility? There will always be people who care about the world and what happens in it, and some adults today are as apathetic about current events as the youth Bauerlein talks about in his book. So the fact that he generalizes all youth today in this category bothered me. I felt the author was too pessimistic, because I do believe there are sufficient youth out there that do care about the past, the present, and the future of our country.

I came upon a book review article from the Los Angeles Times that called this book a “dooms day scenario,” and I tend to agree. We as educators must continue to stimulate and challenge our students to continue to use technology in a positive way to help them become more well-rounded and worldly, and we will succeed if we perform our jobs correctly. We can show them the way, whether or not they accept the challenge and “take off” is up to them. Just like in previous history, some will, and others will not. I do not think democracy as we know it is threatened by our youth’s lack of interest. I have faith that they will be productive and responsible citizens as their predecessors were in the past.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Dumbest Generation Book Reflection

The Dumbest Generation discusses the downfall of a fast-paced, digital age. The continuous point that the book describes we have advanced technologically; however, educationally it is the inverse. Students no longer know history, nor do they have a desire to learn the classics. They simply do not care, rather instead they would like to Facebook or text. Adults are not becoming adults until later in life, many twenty-some year olds are back living with their parents and not taking active responsibility for his or her life. Simply banking off of his/her parents is the common twenty-year olds life.
Fast-paced is the way the youth and young adults expect everything to work. Very few people are taking the time to read books; rather they just simply “Google it.” Another concern that the Bauerlein brings to point is the increasing amount of the population that is narcissistic. As the book points out, two-thirds of US under graduates are scoring above average on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. With more people scoring higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, he points to lower levels of pro-civic and pro-social values. The youth simply lacks a clear direction and desire to help others.
After reading the book, I agree with some points that the author makes; however, I feel that the book goes to extreme levels to leave a negative mark on the youth. Stating that the youth is fairly narcissistic, is a truly accurate statement. Working within the classroom has allowed me to see that, as a teacher, many of my students do have an attitude of carelessness. From my perspective, I feel this change has occurred because a lot of youth lack clear supervision and leadership from home. Schools can try to teach; however, students are most impacted by their own family members. Parents need to set high expectations, as not to deviate to a level where they feel they need to be friends with their kids; rather instead do what is best for his or her child’s future. Every child deserves the right to value education and actively seek out knowledge from the past and present to make him or her better citizens. As parents, teachers, schools, and community members we all need to work together to teach children to value all education, not just technology education in order to be a complete educated being.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reflection - Bart Torbert

Reflection – “The Dumbest Generation”

As a skeptic of technology as a better way to educate, I found myself nodding in agreement with much of this book. Do I think things are as bad as the author Mark Baurlein thinks? Probably not.

I am worried, not about the vast number of hours spent on the internet, but the things that aren’t being done while we mindlessly check our Facebook for the 30th time of the day (or 300th?) The social universe that we spend so much time on, has reached such a level of importance that the good things that can be done on the internet (research, drill and practice) are not done well, if at all.

I think Mr. Bauerlein has done effectively what he claims our current group of scholars are not doing; making strong decisions about facts that he has carefully researched. The book is full of references to research (maybe too full?) and the superlatives he uses in his conclusions are troubling to those who believe him word for word.

My daughter has a blog that is actually read by a relatively large group of friends. I find it informative, and fun, but wonder why it is on the internet for YOU to read. Our pages and pages of self-authored information about ourselves, proves Mr.Bauerlein’s point that we are narcissistic and should probably be reading more worthwhile authors.

One of the advantages of being old is that I’ve seen stupid things come and go. Popped collars, Bermuda shorts, the XFL football league, Michael Jordan playing baseball come to mind. I feel that I will outlive the digital age. I think teachers with a pulse and face-to-face conversation will be valued and we will use our computers for what they do best.

I hope.

Chapter 4 - Dumbest Generation

It’s a bit ironic that I’d be reporting that online learning is failing our students in an online class. Chapter Four of “The Dumbest Generation” cites a number of sources that point to this generalization.

Included are students’ inability to identify trustworthy sources on the internet (, laziness of search effort, (less than 1% of Google searches ever extend to the second page), and the inability to sort information into meaningful folders.( www.InsideHigher

Since 1996, when President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act which includes subsidies for technology in schools, we have thrown an increasing amount of money at hardware needs, sometimes at the expense of science equipment, field trips, and music programs. Having students involved in technology programs has not resulted in increased performance in most cases, though the students themselves seem to enjoy the process more.

The acquisition of language, which is tied to classroom success, doesn’t often come from the classroom itelf, and certainly not the online learning community. Much of the preparation work needed for academic achievement takes place in a favorite reading spot at home, discussions at dinner, or kids playing table games.

Educators and parents have put themselves on a pedestal of importance that is not real. Adolescents care much more about what other adolescents think than what the significant adults think. Add to this problem the fact that adolescents now have access to each other not just at school, but while riding in their parents’ car, at home in the evening and even into the wee hours of the morning due to the social networking given them by cell phones and the internet. Facebook, IM, and Twitter have kept people in touch, not with new influential mentors, but with the same group of middle school students through early adulthood and beyond. It’s hard to break out and become something greater when you have the anchor of your youth holding you back. This book refers to this as horizontal modeling rather than the preferred vertical modeling.

The Nielsen Norman group has spent considerable time investigating how we read, among other things, web-sites. They have found that users spend very little time searching for information that they find relevant or interesting. Online newspapers are hardly scanned. Few even read the whole headline and only 19% of the newsprint gets any attention at all. Also of concern is the lower-literacy readers skip more information than medium or high level readers.

The Nielson group makes recommendations to web publishers to keep readers engaged. This includes predictable layout, lowest level reading on the home page, ensuring a first page search engine result, paragraphs with half the word count of print material, shorter sentences and bulleted lists.

In the 18-year-old life, there are unlimited choices of things to occupy their minds. Hundreds of TV channels, video games, and web diversions. They do not have to put up with being “bored” by something as mundane as reading for fun, visiting museums, listening to “art music,” browsing a library, or joining a school club or team. We are all to blame for plunking our children/students/friends in front of a screen and failing to climb out of adolescence.