Notes for Mark Bauerlein The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future
Key concepts: aliteracy, civic knowledge, culture war, culture warrior, disabling narcissism, dumbest generation, Flynn Effect, knowledge language, Matthew Effect, Millennials, organization kids, Sesame Street effect, social language, viewer literacy.
Related theorists: Ian Bogost, Randy Bomer, David Brooks, Paul N. Edwards, James Paul Gee, N. Katherine Hayles, Henry Jenkins, Stephen Johnson, John Kemeny, Lev Manovich, Jakob Nielsen, Don Norman, Emily Nussbaum, Richard Poirier, Will Richardson, Alexandra Robbins, Philip Roth, Sherry Turkle.
PREFACE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
Growing number of books criticizing digital tools and technologization.
(viii) In the past year, several books have joined The Dumbest Generation to set the purpose and uses of the tools in a critical spotlight. . . . Together they form an imposing counervailing force, an alliance to slow the headlong rush to technologize learning, reading, writing, and social and intellectual life.
Intellectual growth stunted by social demands heightened by technologies.
(ix) When youth identity envelops them, parent talk at the dinner table only distracts them. The lure of school gossip, fear of ridicule, the urge to belong—they swamp the minds of the young and stunt their intellectual growth.
Kids need reprieve and mentoring, but adult efforts threatened by incessant peer-to-peer contact by digital tools.
(ix) Kids need a reprieve and a retreat. . . . Mentors steer young
minds toward deeper wisdom and young tastes toward finder
(ix-x) Yet how can adults impart it when peer-to-peer contact extends to every minute and every space of the day and night? That's the threat digital tools pose to parents and teachers.
Managing omnipresence the new habitus of the digital age; it interrupts cultivation of habits of analysis of reflection enjoyed by former generations.
(x) This is the new habitus of the Digital Age. Youths undergo an
intense awareness of one another, a high-pressure social feeling. The
stakes are high—is anything worse than exclusion?--and so they have
to tune in, to manage that omnipresence.
(xi) Every cell-phyone call interrupts a chapter of Harry Potter or a look at the local paper. These are mind-maturing activities, and they don't hve to involve Great Books and Big Ideas. They have only to cultivate habits of analysis and reflection, and implant knowledge of the world beyond.
Opportunity cost of digital diversions that supplant prior limits to teen life.
(xi) They mark the opportunity costs of digital diversions, and as they accumulate over the months, the costs rise higher than they seem at any one moment. . . . What did exist, though, was a climate in which the voices of elders and the value of history and civics, books and ideas, exercised more pressure on the young. Teen social life had a limit, and in those other hours the forces of adulthood were felt, if resented.
Displacement of old media and traditional literacy by new media communications technologies.
(xii) The Digital Age has embroiled the young in a swirl of social groupings and contests, and it threatens their intellectual development. This is not a benign evolution of old media into new media, traditional literacy into e-literacy. It is a displacement. . . . Parents and teachers have a new rival in the lives of kids: not just a circle of friends, but a spreading glossy marketplace of communications technology with a certified youth meaning.
Robbins found evidence of inescapable corporate rat race in precollege years of exceptional students, displacing other life questions; Brooks calls them Organization Kids, well matching inhabitants of Boltanski and Chiapello projective city, for which acts of gamefication producing results overshadow educational activities themselves.
Hazard of gamefication is displacement of ultimate goals with achieving results for discrete projects.
(2) These kids have
descended into a “competitive frenzy,” [Alexandra] Robbins
mourns, and the high school that should open their minds and develop
their characters has become a torture zone, a “hotbed for
Machiavellian strategy.” . . . The professional rat race of
your—men in gray flannel suits climbing the business ladder—has
filtered down into the pre-college years, and Robbins's tormented
subjects reveal the consequences.
(3) The achievement chase displaces other life questions, and the kids can't seem to escape it. . . . He [David Brooks] calls them “Organization Kids.” They've been programmed for success, and a preschool-to-college gauntlet of standardized tests, mounting homework, motivational messages, and extracurricular tasks has rewarded or punished them at every stage. They system tabulates learning incessantly and ranks students against on another, and the students soon divine its essence: only results matter.
Beyond exceptional cases revealing systemic ill of competitive frenzy focusing on measurable results, most children spend more time with media than homework.
teachers, media, and the kids themselves witness the dangers, but the
system presses forward.
(4) For, notwithstanding the poignant tale of suburban D.C. seniors sweating over a calculus quiz, or the image of college students scheduling their friends as if they were CEOs in the middle of a workday, or the lurid complaints about homework, the actual habits of most teenagers and young adults in most schools and colleges in this country display a wholly contrasting problem, but one no less disturbing.
No overall improvement for all the enhanced learning techniques; overall downward trend toward increasing leisure activities and less time spent reading.
(5-6) The better
students don't improve with time, either. . . . These young adults
have graduated from high school, entered college, declared a major,
and lasted seven semesters, but their in-class and out-of-class punch
cards amount to fewer hours than a part-time job.
(6) One correspondent's encounter with a dozen elite students who hunt success can be vivid and touching, but it doesn't jibe with mountains of data that tell contrary stories. The surveys, studies, tests, and testimonials reveal the opposite, that the vast majority of high school and college kids are far less accomplished and engaged, and the classroom pressures much less cumbersome, than popular versions put forth.
Bauerlein claims his book focuses on examining empirical research that when collected reveals declining intellectual condition of young Americans rather than their behavior and values.
(7) This book is an attempt to consolidate the best and broadest research into a different profile of the rising American mind. It doesn't cover behaviors and values, only the intellect of under-30-year-olds. . . . It 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.
Paradox of information age is idealization of knowledge and communications, accompanied by less reading and knowledge of traditional intellectual objects beyond artifacts of youth culture.
overhyped those grand social metaphors, they signify a rising premium
on knowledge and communications.
(8-9) while the world has provided them extraordinary chances to gain knowledge and improve their reading/writing skills, not to mention offering financial incentives to do so, young Americans today are no more learned or skillful than their predecessors, no more knowledgeable, fluent, up-to-date, or inquisitive, except in the materials of youth culture. They don't know any more history or civics, economics or science, literature or current events. They read less on their own.
The closed American mind has not opened, although conduct has improved, producing sense that the kids are alright.
(9) The world delivers facts and events and art and ideas as never before, but the young American mind hasn't opened. . . . Overall conduct trends are moving upward.
Attention extended to virtual social space forming extensive, autonomous generational cocoon so that minds plateau at social joys of age 18, endangering civic health of the United States by ignoring cultural and civic inheritance.
Compare position that ingredients for making informed citizens in place to sweet spot for learning programming that peaked in 1980s, supplanted by postmodern interface enjoyment leveraging visual and tactile proficiencies over symbol manipulation as Manovich discusses Bruner and Kay.
(10) All the
ingredients for making an informed and intelligent citizen are in
(10) But it hasn't happened. . . . A different social life and a different mental life have formed among them. Technology has bred it, but the result doesn't tally with the fulsome descriptions of digital empowerment, global awareness, and virtual communities. 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. Young people have never been so intensely mindful of and present to one another, so enable in adolescent contact. Teen images and songs, hot gossip and games, and youth-to-youth communications no longer limited by time or space wrap them up in a generational cocoon reaching all the way into their bedrooms. The autonomy has a cost: the more they attend to themselves, the less they remember the past and envision a future. They have all the advantages of modernity and democracy, but when the gifts of life lead to social joys, not intellectual labor, the minds of the young plateau at age 18. . . . Meanwhile, their intellects refuse the cultural and civic inheritance that has made us what we are up to now.
Astonishing ignorance of young person on the street actively cut off from world affairs, encased in immediate realities, affirmed by standardized tests and other national surveys.
Simply put, it is the astonishing lifeworld of someone who can't
answer these simple questions. . . . And your friends must act the
same way, never letting a historical fact or current affair slip into
the cell phone exchange.
(13) It isn't enough to say that these young people are uninterested in world realities. They are actively cut off from them. Or a better way to put it is to say that they are encased in more immediate realities that shut out conditions beyond—friends, work, clothes, cars, pop music, sitcoms, Facebook.
Anti-intellectual outlook is a common, shame-free condition of American youth consumer culture enmeshed in juvenile matters; gives research findings from math/science/technology and fine arts.
(16) Most young Americans possess little of the knowledge that makes for an informed citizen, and too few of them master the skills needed to negotiate an information-heavy, communication-based society and economy. Furthermore, they avoid the resources and media that might enlighten them and boost their talents. An anti-intellectual outlook prevails in their leisure lives, squashing the lessons of school, and intead of producing a knowledgeable and querulous young mind, the youth culture of American society yields an adolescent consumer enmeshed in juvenile matters and secluded from adult realities. . . . The insulated mindset of individuals who know precious little history and civics and never read a book or visit a museum is fast becoming a common, shame-free condition.
Philip Roth coined term Dumbest Generation in novel The Human Stain; Bauerlein applies to the large segment of young Americans entering adulthood ignorant and little concerned with liberal arts learning and civic awareness.
(26) We could add knowledge deficits in foreign languages, world religions, and politics, filling out a portrait of vigorous, indiscriminate ignorance. Together they justify a label coined by Philip Roth in his 2000 novel The Human Stain: “The Dumbest Generation.” Too large a segment of young Americans enter adulthood and proceed to middle age with other concerns, the contents of liberal arts learning and civic awareness receding into a dim memory of social studies class or activated fleetingly by a movie about World War II.
Paradox of slipping knowledge skills in abundance of resources.
Compare paradox of dumbest generation to awareness Seneca had of Roman society immersed in technological conveniences losing touch with wisdom and tradition, only to be secondarily critiqued by Quintillian.
(30) On one crucial
measure, the current generation has a distinct advantage. It enjoys
access to first-rate culture and vital facts that earlier cohorts
couldn't even imagine.
(32) 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. . . . But it's a shallow advent. As the survey research shows, knowledge and skills haven't kept pace, and the intellectual habits that complement them are slipping. . . . But the enlightenment hasn't happened. . . . The mental equipment of the young falls short of their media, money, e-gadgets, and career plans.
(33) I'm speaking of intellectual habits and repositories of knowledge, not anything else. . . . Intellectual outcomes are distinct, and the trends they show don't always follow the same pattern as other features such as race and income.
Decline in general knowledge not noticed because most knowledge purveyors niche oriented.
(34) Knowledge has become so specialized and niche-oriented that knowledge purveyors don't notice a decline of general knowledge among large population segments.
Young Americans are rich in material possessions and adolescent skills, poor intellectual possessions and adult skills; the occasions and tools available for learning but are brashly and habitually misused.
(35) The situation
marks an important contrast: material possessions vs. intellectual
possessions, adolescent skills vs. adult skills. Young Americans
excel in the first and fail in the second.
(36) Greater spending power for teens and 20-year-olds has steered them away from books, museums, and science shows, not toward them. The Internet doesn't impart adult information; it crowds it out. Video games, cell phones, and blogs don't foster rightful citizenship. They hamper it.
(36) All the occasions and equipment for learning are in place, but he uses them for other purposes. Adolescents have always wasted their time and chances, of course, but the Dumbest Generation has raised the habit into a brash and insistent practice.
Task of humanist critics like Bauerlein to uncover how the Dumbest Generation systematically squanders its enormous potential, focusing on their time not spent in school.
Philosophers of computing likewise tasked with uncovering how potentials squandered as everyday programming declined in parallel with reading, or never got going in the first place.
(37) It remains to
us to uncover how they do it. We must identify and describe the
particular routines of the members of the Dumbest Generation that
freeze their likings in adolescence despite more occasions for high
culture, that harden their minds to historical and civic facts
despite more coursework, that shut out current events and political
matters despite all the information streams.
(37-38) The unique failings of the Dumbest Generation don't originate in the classroom, then, which amounts to only one-eleventh of their daily lives. They stem from the home, social, and leisure lives of young Americans, and if changes in their out-of-school habits entail a progressive disengagement from intellectual matters, then we should expect their minds to exhibit some consequences in spite of what goes on in school.
(38) Here lies the etiology of the Dumbest Generation—not in school or at work, but in their games, their socializing, and their spending. It begins with a strange and spreading phobia [of reading books].
THE NEW BIBLIOPHOBES
Current generation flaunts aliteracy as valid peer behavior, knowing but choosing not to read books because it is counterproductive.
Earlier generations resented homework assignments, or course, and
only a small segment of each dove into the intellectual currents of
the time, but no generation trumpeted a-literacy
how to read, but choosing not to) as a valid behavior of their
(42) More than just dull and nerdish, reading is counterproductive. Time spent reading books takes away from time keeping up with youth vogues, which change every month.
Popular books like Harry Potter signal social happenings rather than intrinsic allure, and a steady withdrawal from other books.
(43) Even the foremost youth reading phenomenon in recent years, the
sole book event, qualifies more as a social happening than a reading
(43-44) Kids read Harry Potter not because they like reading, but because other kids read it. . . . It opens you to a fun milieu of after-school games, Web sites, and clubs. Not to know the characters and actions is to fall out of your classmates' conversation.
(44) Harry Potter has reached astronomical revenues, but take it out of the mix and juvenile book sales struggle.
(44-45) The headlong rush for Harry Potter, then, has a vexing counterpart: a steady withdrawal form other books.
Literary reader rates among 18-24-year-olds drop significantly in last twenty years, even with very low threshold for what counts as literary reading.
(46) At 17-point
drop among the first group [18-24-year-olds] in such a basic and
longstanding behavior isn't just a youth trend. It's an upheaval. . .
. If all adults in the United States followed the same pattern,
literary culture would collapse.
(47) To qualify as a literary reader, all a respondent had to do was scan a single poem, play, short story, or novel in the previous 12 months outside of work or school.
(48) The same reading discrepancy between young adults and older Americans shows up in the latest American Time Use Surveys, sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Leisure reading correlates directly on reading comprehension scores and academic progress.
While leisure reading doesn't reflect in-class reading trends, it may
bear directly upon reading comprehension scores.
(51) The NAEP Trends 2004 includes other data comparisons that echo the implication that leisure reading is a significant factor in academic progress.
Kids reject books like vegetables, unconcerned that aliteracy poses career obstacle.
(53) In their minds, a-literacy and anti-intellectualism pose no career obstacles, and they have no shame attached. Uninterested in reading and unworried about the consequences, kids reject books as they do their vegetables, and the exhortations of their teachers fall flat.
Students do not realize connection between general intellectual interest and academic performance; compare to Kemeny valuing act of teaching the computer to perform calculations in place of doing them oneself.
(54) The connection between general intellectual interest and
academic performance doesn't register. Students aim high, but the
attitudes undercut them and they don't seem to realize it.
(55) The low rates suggest that for a majority of college students intellectual life belongs mainly in the classroom.
Gives elite examples of historical figures whose leisure reading helped them through troubled youth as counterexamples to modern bibliophobia.
(58) Their testimony sets the bibliophobia of today's youth into merciless relief. Books carried them out of torment and torpor, and the readings transformed them into something more and better than they were before. . . . Douglass and other greats who attributed their growth to reading don't shame the current generation because of their personal brilliance or their literary choices, but simply because of their acute appreciation of the written word.
Benefits of reading books include providing place for reflection, finding role models, expressions of feelings, and moral convictions, sensing plot, character, argument structure, and aesthetic styles.
Benefits of programming could be compared to benefits of reading, and Matthew Effect ought to hold as well.
(58) Books afford young readers a place to slow down and reflect, to find role models, to observe their own turbulent feelings well expressed, or to discover moral convictions missing from their real situations. Habitual readers acquire a better sense of plot and character, an eye for the structure of arguments, and an ear for style, over time recognizing the aesthetic vision of adolescent fare as, precisely, adolescent.
Matthew Effect of childhood reading skills correlate to later reading and learning has sinister corollary for those who do not read as children.
(59) Reading researches call it the “Matthew Effect,” in which those who acquire reading skills in childhood and learn later in life at a faster pace than those who do not. . . . A sinister corollary to the cognitive benefit applies: the more you don't read, the more you can't read.
Problems of poor reading and writing skills of workplace entrants and need for remedial courses by college freshmen.
(63) The drafters of the benchmarks responded to two current problems—one, the excessive number of high school graduates entering the workplace with atrocious reading and writing skills, and two, the excessive number of entering freshmen who end up in remedial courses.
Viewer literacy shifts emphasis to technological aptitudes, treating digital literacy as full-fledged intellectual practice; compare to Hayles discussion of close, distant, and hyper reading.
(65) The recourse to
however, modifes the terms of the debate. It says that the import of
books and the practice of literacy themselves have changed.
(66) Such assertions accept digital literacy as a full-fledged intellectual practice, a mode of reading and learning a lot more exciting and promising than the old kinds. In spite of the confidence, though, there is no “ample and growing body of research” on the digital facility of adolescents, only the commonplace assertion of their techno-aptitudes.
E-literacy derives from valorization of digital practices moreso than bibliphobia, yet knowledge and skill levels have not increased; echoes critique of writing in Plato.
E-literacy—that's the new virtue, the intellectual feat of the
rising generation. . . . E-literacy derives not from bibliphobia,
then, but from the miraculous and evolving advent of digital
technology, the Information Age and the Electronic Word. The more
young adults master the practices of digital life, the better they
(68) If the young have acquired so much digital proficiency, and if digital technology exercises their intellectual faculties so well, then why haven't knowledge and skill levels increased accordingly?
Technology expresses youth culture of Millennials, viewed as possessing innate ability to construct knowledge online.
(72) And not only is the machinery ever-improving, ever more
prosthetic. It has a special relationship to teens and 20-year-olds.
More and more, it seems, the technology itself is their possession,
(73) [quoting 2005 Forrester Research report] “The 'Millennials'--those born between 1980 and 2000—have an innate ability to use technology, are comfortable multitasking while using a diverse range of digital media, and literally demand interactivity as they construct knowledge.” Young users don't just possess good skills—they have “innate ability.” They don't just tinker online; the “construct knowledge.”
Contrast between uniformity of screen experience and uniqueness of each book.
(76) Each book is a new world, and the object itself is unique. . . . The screen, however, is always the same, a generic object. There is nothing special about it except its function as gateway to something else.
Studies conclude leisure time kids spend with media equivalent to full time job.
(77) On average, the subjects in the study log six hours and 21 minutes a day. And because they spend many of those minutes multitasking, playing a video game while listening to the radio, for instance, eight- to 18-year-olds actually take in eight and one-half hours of media content.
Bedroom has become multimedia center leading to more individualized, unmonitored use.
(78) The 10-year-old's bedroom has become, as Kaiser puts it, a
“multimedia center.” . . . They never need exit their bedroom
doors, and in most households, parents won't interrupt them.
(79) The way children and teens use this equipment grows more individualized by the year, too, NetDay found.
Media use begets more media use, forming larger Gestalt environment, just as literary reading praised for begetting more reading.
Youngsters who spend more time with computers and games also watch
more television and listen to more radio. Multitasking enables it. As
“media use begets media use,” and as more connections and feeds
and streams and channels enter their private space, kids assimilate
them with accelerating ease, adding one without dropping
(80) They mature in and with the flashing, evolving multimedia environment, integrating each development into a new whole, a larger Gestalt.
Parents seek relief for other household tasks by putting children in front of screens.
(80-81) setting kids in front of the screen frees up time for cooking, cleaning, or just plan rest. . . . Half the parents agreed that television clams their children, while only one in six noted that it pumps them up. . . . With DVDs, video games, and computers added to television, the division of tastes between younger and older family members is handled smoothly, parents have more ways to pacify their kids, and screen minutes climb accordingly.
Claim is that screen time is cerebral, generating new forms of intelligence based on hyperalertness and multitasking, appealing to Jenkins distributed cognition, collective intelligence, and transmedia navigation.
(84) New technologies induce new aptitudes, and bundled together in
the bedroom they push consciousness to diversify its attention and
multiply its communications.
(84) That's the claim. Screen time is cerebral, and it generates a breakthrough intelligence. E-literacy isn't just knowing how to download music, program an iPod, create a virtual profile, and comment on a blog. It's a general development capacity, a particular mental flexbility. E-literacy accommodates hypermedia because e-literates possess hyperalertness. Multitasking entails a special cognitive attitude toward the world, not the orientation that enables slow concentration on one thing—a sonnet, a theorem—but a ligthsome, intinerant awareness of numerous and dissimilar inputs.
Stress on learning side over fun side of digital media gives children discretion over judging how they best learn, invoking Gee and Johnson on complex formal elements embedded in popular culture that Bogost argues are absorbed via procedural rhetoric.
(85) Over and over,
commentators stress the mental advance, the learning side over the
fun and fantasy side.
(86) The approach grants remarkable discretion to the kids, assuming that they know what “is best,” and that their preferences mark a distinct “learning style.”
(87-88) When Steven Johnson published Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter in early 2005, it sparked across-the-country newspaper reviews, radio spots, and television appearances, including one on The Daily Show. . . . Often the content of popular culture is coarse and inane, he conceded, but the formal elements—rules, plotlines, feedback, levels, interactivity—have grown more sophisticated, making today's games and reality shows into “a kind of cognitive workout” that hones mental gifts.
Screens praised for shaping consciousness, developing decision making skills in games, despite passing on juvenile content; likewise progressive complexity of television shows.
(88) Once again, the thinking element prevails, and screens are
praised for the way they shape the consciousness of users, not pass
along to them ideas and values. . . . The content is juvenile, yes,
but [quoting Johnson] “because learning how to think is ultimately
about learning how to make the right decisions,” game activity
evokes a collateral learning that carries over to users' real
(88) The advantages continue with the progressive complexity of television shows.
Objections to Johnson include ignoring moral, psychological, and philosophical complexities below the surface.
(89) The claim is bold, and it ultimately rests not upon the structural elemetns of screen materials, but upon the cognitive outcomes for those who consume them. If we tick to the latter, several objections to Johnson's breezy applause stand out. . . . The complexity he approves lies wholly on the surface—plotlines and verbal play—while other complexity (moral, psychological, and philosophical) go unremarked.
Flynn Effect of rising IQs seems linked to bias on spatial reasoning.
(90-91) In the general fund of mental talent, something remarkable
has happened. IQ scores have risen markedly over the century, about
three points per decade since before World War II, doing so, Johnson
observers, at the same time that popular culture has expanded and
(91) With the largest increases occurring in the area of “spatial reasoning,” however, some researchers attribute them to escalating cognitive demands of an increasingly visual environment. Johnson agrees, and gives screen diversions most of the credit.
(92) It is reasonable to think that media-wise youths have minds more attuned to visual information, that multitasking hours grant them a more mobile consciousness.
Key to paradox of apparent rising IQs and stagnation of civic talents in learned content versus culturally reduced material.
(93) The more test emphasize “learned content” such as vocabulary, math techniques, and cultural knowledge, the less the Flynn Effect shows up. The more they involve “culturally reduced” material, puzzles and pictures that require no historical or verbal context, the more the gains surface. Moreover, the significance of those gains apart from the test itself diminishes.
Bomer viewer literacy.
(94) The screen doesn't involve learning per se, but, as [Richard] Sweeney says, a particular “learning style,” not literacy in general, but “viewer literacy” (Bomer's term). It promotes multitasking and discourages single-tasking, hampering the deliberate focus on a single text, a discrete problem. . . . The model is information retrieval, not knowledge formation, and the material passes from Web to homework paper without lodging in the minds of the students.
Screen intelligence like interface intelligence leveraging visual and tactile modes over symbolic manipulation, does not transfer to non-screen experiences that build knowledge and verbal skills; ordinary book reading is rejected as alien and irritating.
(95) At the same time, however, screen intelligence doesn't transfer
well to non-screen experiences, especially the kinds that build
knowledge and verbal skills. It conditions minds against quiet,
concerted study, against imagination unassisted by visuals, against
linear, sequential analysis of texts, against an idle afternoon with
a detective story and nothing else.
(95) This explains why teenagers and 20-year-olds appear at the same time so mentally agile and culturally ignorant. . . . The relationship between screens and books isn't benign. As “digital natives” dive daily into three visual media and two sound sources as a matter of disposition, of deep mental compatibility, not just taste, ordinary reading, slow and uniform, strikes them as incompatible, alien. It isn't just boring and obsolete. It's irritating. . . . The bearers of e-literacy reject books the way eBay addicts reject bricks-and-mortar stores.
Antagonism of books versus computers indicates replacement rather than complement; a zero-sum game for time and money of young people.
(99) The computer is now the only book you need.
(99) Apple set up an explicit antagonism, not books and computers, but books versus computers, and it backed it up with a blooming, buzzing profusion of electronic gifts on sale inside.
(100) In this case, though, the things sought—young people's time and money—are finite. It's a zero-sum game.
Cornerstone of civilization replaced with dissimilar building block, imagination inspiring books with screen virtual realities; another ironic iteration of Platonic criticism of writing.
(101) To replace the book with the screen is to remove a 2500-year-old cornerstone of civilization and insert an altogether dissimilar building block. . . . Knowledge will reside less in the minds of people and more on the pages of Web sites. The past will come alive on the screen, not in the imagination. . . . Texts will be more visual, reading more “browsy” and skimming.
Belief that screen interactivity invites collaboration and activity where solipsistic, passive reading was the prior condition.
The interactivity of the digital screen solicits opinions and
judgments, and follows with feedback. You read and you write, listen
and speak out, plan and predict, watch a video and share one of your
(104) [Will] Richardson finds the opposite process at work, users ascending from couch-potato quietude to community and collaboration.
Sesame Street effect that only fun learning is good, also legitimating indiscriminate tinkering with electronic tools; each doing their part expanding collective intelligence seems appropriate.
Young people absorb the fervor inside their classrooms and at home
alone. Not only does it license them to tinker with e-tools as a
proper mode of study, solidifying the so-called “Sesame
(if learning isn't fun, it isn't any good). It also provides an
aggrandized sense of their own activity, their own voice.
(107) The brain metaphor is telling. Blogs, wikis, and the rest swell the public intelligence. Adolescents adept at them advance the collective mind and expand the storehouse of knowledge. They engage in creativity and criticism, dialogue and competition, kindling thought, not deadening it. Why, then, should bibliophiles and traditionalists carp so much?
No reciprocal effect for individual minds, which stall as collective machine intelligence augments.
(107) There is no
reciprocal effect. Digital enthusiasts witness faithfully the
miraculous evolution fo the digital sphere, but they also assume a
parallel ascent by its consumers, an assumption with no evidence
(108) The latest NAEP figures are but another entry in the ongoing catalogue of knowledge and skill deficits among the Web's most dedicated partakers. . . . The Web grows, and the young adult mind stalls.
Vocabulary, memory, analytic talents and erudition do not expand through online experience.
(109-110) 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. . . . For most young users, it is clear, the Web hasn't made them better writers and readers, sharper interpreters and more discerning critics, more knowledgeable citizens and tasteful consuemrs.
ONLINE LEARNING AND NON-LEARNING
Information and Communications Technology literacy an appropriate rubric for rating knowledge activities accomplished with digital electronic technologies developed by Educational Testing Service for profit United States corporation, whose findings revealed poor digital literacy skills.
Curious how putative philosophers of computing fare in such tests deemed to constitute digital literacy by large commercial testing corporation, comparing to the skills assessment instrument I used for the midterm exam in my last course on digital communications networks.
Are the criteria formative of Bauerlein inspirations still appropriate, and how do current users test out across all generations and beyond human into machinic.
ETS terms the missing aptitude Information and Communications
Technology (ICT) literacy, and it includes the ability to conduct
research, evaluate sources, communicate data, and understand
ethical/legal issues of access and use. To measure ICT literacy, ETS
gathered 6300 students and administered a 75-minute test containing
15 tasks. They included determining a Web site's objectivity, ranking
Web pages on given criteria, and categorizing emails and files into
(113-114) The first conclusion of the report: “Few test takers demonstrated key ICT literacy skills” (www.ets.org/ictliteracy.org).
(114-115) The major finding: “More than half the students failed to sort the information to clarify related material.” It graded the very comunications skills Web 2.0, the Read/Write Web, supposedly instills, and “only a few test takers could accurately adapt material for a new audience.”
Situation of poor writing at school and energetic writing at home fails to consider negative effect of popular technologies.
(118) So, we have a contradictory situation, poor writing in school and energetic writing at home online. Instead of pausing to consider a relationship between popular technologies and poor writing skills, though, the report careens in another direction.
Studies evaluating elearning often use measure of student enthusiasm to judge educational benefits, and most digital initiatives fall short for lack of long term outcome differentials than nonparticipants; seems difficult to assess longer term outcomes for fleeting direction of techniques, which we call culture, learning environments, ultimately influencing development of learning styles and quality of lifelong learning itself.
(119) Taking the
enthusiasm of 18-yhear olds as a measure of educational benefits may
sound like a dicey way to justify such a sweeping change in classroom
practices, but many studies out to evaluate e-learning do precisely
(120) 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.
Criticism of emphasizing circumstantial factors
in failure of studies to find positive benefits of digital literacy
initiatives and their underlying theories, failing to check headlong
dash to technologize everything.
(124) The authors of the studies aren't Luddites, nor are school administrators anti-technology. They observe standards of scientific method, and care about objective outcomes. Their conclusions should, at least, check the headlong dash to technologize education.
(124-125) All too often, however, the disappointment veers toward other, circumstantial factors in the execution, for instance, insufficient usage by the students and inadequate preparation of the teachers.
Time to analyze how worse intellectual dispositions of youth are strengthened by digital practices including gaming, blogging, manipulating devices.
(126) Digital natives are a restless group, and like all teens and young adults they are self-assertive and insecure, living in the moment but worrying over their future, crafting elaborate e-profiles but stumbling through class assignments, absorbing the minutiae of youth culture and ignoring works of high culture, heeding the season's movie and game releases as monumental events while blinking at the mention of the Holocaust, the Cold War, or the War on Terror. It is time to examine clear-sightedly how their worse dispositions play out online, or in a game, or on a blog, or with the remote, the cell phone, or the handheld, and to recognize that their engagement with technology actually aggravates a few key and troubling tendencies.
Digital practices disrupt informal, physical settings where reading, discussions, and physical play took place for prior generations, stunting vocabulary growth.
(126) much of the preparation work needed for academic achievement takes place not on school grounds but in informal settings such as a favorite reading spot at home, discussions during dinner, or kids playing Risk or chess. This is especially so in the nontechnical, nonmathematical areas, fields in which access to knowledge and skill comes primarily through reading. Put simply, for students to earn good grades and test scories in history, English, civics, and other liberal arts, they need the vocabulary to handle them.
Essential cultivation of oral mother tongue natural language depended upon for educational success harmed by digital practices; private zone verbal media should be appraised along with schools and teachers.
depends on the oral and written language the
infant-toddler-child-teen hears and reads throughout the day, for the
amount of vocabulary learned inside the fifth-grade classroom alone
doesn't come close to the amount needed to understand fifth-grade
textbooks. They need a social life and a home life that deliver
requisite words to them, put them into practice, and coax kids to
(128) And so, just as we evaluate schools and teachers every year, producing prodigious piles of data on test scores, funding, retention, and AP course-taking, we should appraise the verbal media in private zones too.
Progressive vocabulary expansion crucial to intelligence; rare word count of print far exceeds oral media.
(129) Print far
exceeds live and televised speech, even to the point that a book by
Dr. Seuss falls only slightly beneath the conversation of intelligent
adults on the rare-word-per-thousand scale.
(129) The incidence of rare words is a minute quantitative sum, but it signifies a crucial process in the formation of intelligent minds. . . . Exposure to progressively more rare words expands the verbal reservoir. Exposure to media with entirely common words keeps the reservoir at existing levels.
Dire intellectual effect of habitual consumption of low rare-word media; can a comparison be made to software monocultures?
(129-130) Years of consumption of low rare-word media, then, have a dire intellectual effect. . . . Education researchers have found that children raised in print-heavy households and those raised in print-poor households can arrive at school with gaps in their word inventories of several thousand.
Criticism of visual media for minimizing expansion of verbal intelligence and skills building in favor of spatial intelligence, worsened by endorsement by young Americans whose technological tools resemble their beloved toys, and Web use reflects adolescent recreations.
(130) Even if we
grant that visual media cultivate a type of spatial intelligence,
they still minimize verbal intelligence, providing too little
stimulation for it, and intense, longterm immersion in it stultifies
the verbal skills of viewers and disqualifies them from most every
academic and professional labor.
(131) Young Americans suffer the most from their endorsement, even as they adopt the vision and testify to the advantages of digital tools. Here one of the disabling tendencies of youth gains ground. . . . While the rhetoric of pro-technology voices soars, however, the reality of adolescent Web practices—the nine out of ten postings and game sessions and messages—is just what we should expect, the adolescent expressions and adolescent recreations of adolescents.
Poor quality and shallow content of teen writing ignored by adults who praise the depth and pace of immersion, but form bad habits.
(132) A more circumspect glance finds that bad grammar, teen colloquialisms, and shallow ironies litter the blogs, comment threads, and social networking sites, raising the vocabulary problem cited earlier. . . . Teen blog writing sticks to the lingo of teens—simple syntax, phonetic spelling, low diction—and actually grooves bad habits. Nevertheless, instead of telling J. and other teens heavy into Web 2.0 to pull away from the screen and devote a few more hours to algebra, chemistry, and French, [Emily] Nussbaum and other adult observers marvel at the depth and pace of their immersion.
Peer absorption for identity building is greatest unmentioned vice of digital media.
(133) The enhanced connectivity, and the indulgence of teachers and journalists, feed yet another adolescent vice that technophiles never mention: peer absorption. . . . For many of them, good standing with classmates is the only way to secure a safe identity, and so they spend hours on the channels of adolescent fare searching out the latest in clothes, slang, music, sports, celebrities, school gossip, and one another. Technology has made it fabulously easier.
Limits of social life once managed by family unit surpassed by communication technologies; significance of Web is nonstop peer contact rather than a universe of knowledge.
used to form in the schoolyard or on the bus, and when students came
home they communicated with one another only through a land line
restricted by their parents. Social life pretty much stopped at the
front door. With the latest gadgets in their own rooms and in the
libraries, however, peer to peer contact never ends. . . . “What
are you doing?” That is the genuine significance of the Web to a
17-year-old mind, not the universe of knowledge brought to their
fingertips, but an instrument of nonstop peer contact.
(134-135) Caesar conquered Gaul, Cleopatra seduced him, and Antony took his place after the assassination, but young Americans prefer to learn about one another.
Maturity involves vertical modeling based on relations with older people and traditions, but digital media encourages horizontal modeling of peers.
(136) Maturity comes, in part, through vertical modeling, relations with older people such as teachers, employers, ministers, aunts and uncles, and older siblings, along with parents, who impart adult outlooks and interests. . . . The Web (along with cell phones, teen sitcoms, and pop music), though, encourages more horizontal modeling, more raillery and mimicry of people the same age, an intensification of peer consciousness.
Digital media affords autonomous adolescence of personalized reality based on programmed visions, striations mirroring adolescent desires.
(137) In both cases, the absorption in local youth society grows, and adolescence appears ever more autonomous. For all of them, popular youths and marginal ones, the celebrated customization power of digital technology is disabling. . . . It's a prepackaged representation of the world, a “Daily Me,” a rendition of things filtered by the dispositions of young users. All of them groove the input, and the screen becomes not a vein of truth but a mirror of desire. . . . Reality is personalized, and the world outside steadily tallies the ego inside.
Education requires worthwhile encounters outside personal interests, thus digital media cocoon stultifying; compare outcomes to traditional practices.
psychological delights are intellectually stultifying. For education
to happen, people must encounter worthwhile things outside their
sphere of interest and brainpower. Knowledge grows, skills improve,
tastes refine, and conscience ripens only if the experiences bear a
degree of unfamiliarity.
(139) With poor results in evidence, we should reassess the novel literacies hailed by techno-cheerleaders and their academic backers, compare them to the old ones in terms of their effects, and determine whether the abilities acquired in game spaces and Read/Write Web sites transfer to academic and workplace requirements.
Screen reading not a supplement for digital natives but replacement for linear thinking, its new habits taken as inevitable.
Sustained linear, hierarchical, sequential thinking in decline along with book reading.
(140) The sense of
inevitability—technology's here to stay, so we might as well go
with it—prompts researchers to accept the practices technology
fosters, to tolerate and respect the habits young people develop as a
serious and catholic literacy.
(141) Screen reading isn't a supplement anymore, is no longer an “extension” of thinking skills beyond the “linear-sequential model.” It's a primary activity, and the cultivation of nonlinear, nonhierarchical, nonsequential thought patterns through Web reading now transpires on top of a thin and cracking foundation of print reading. For the linear, hierarchical, sequential thinking solicited by books has a shaky hold on the youthful mind, and as teens and young adults read linear texts in a linear fashion less and less, the less they engage in sustained linear thinking.
Nielsen Norman model of web users reveals little sustained linear, word for word reading habits, lack of concentration and otherwise insufficient reading habits for the 80 percent; to improve they need to develop more basic literacy and patience, not more computer literacy and screen time.
years of tests, analyses, retests, reports, and consultations have
crystallized into an unexpected but persuasive model of Web users and
Web page usability. . . . Only 16 percent of the subjects read text
on various pages linearly, word by word and sentence by sentence. . .
. Web designers who assume that visitors, even motivated ones, read
their prose as it is written misconstrue their audience.
(145) When users receive news information they supposedly care about, their concentration doesn't much improve.
(146) Overall, teens displayed reading skills, research procedures, and patience levels insufficient to navigate the Web effectively. They harbor the same traits of other Web surfers, only more so.
(147) Surrounded by youths skilled in technology, they take them as the norm, misjudging the vast majority of young users. . . . Nielsen's study suggests a different set of talents to improve the other 80 percent: not more computer literacy and screen time, but more basic literacy and more patience, things better attained elsewhere.
Nielsen Norman research shows Web reading less creative and complex than enthusiasts claim, forming reading and thought patterns focusing on retrieval and consumption.
(148) Web reading and Web learning on average, Nielsen demonstrates, are far less creative, complex, literate, and inquisitive than techno-enthusiasts claim. People seek out what they already hope to find, and they want it fast and free, with a minimum of effort. They judge what they see not on objective traits of the content delivered, the quality of language and image, but on subjective traits of familiarity and ease. . . . In general, the content encountered and habits practiced online foster one kind of literacy, the kind that accelerates communication, homogenizes diction and style, and answers set questions with information bits. It does not favor the acquisition of knowledge, distinctive speech and prose, or the capacity to reason in long sequential units. . . . Forming reading and thought patterns through screens prepares individuals for only part of the communications demands of the twenty-first century, the information-retrieval and consumer-behavior parts. The abilities to concentrate upon a single, recondite text, to manage ambiguities and ironies, to track an inductive proof . . . screen reading hampers them.
Nielsen research highlights what works, reminding us that the Web is now a consumer habitat, not an educational one; children develop habits the undermine classroom goals.
regards the prospect differently, not from the viewpoint of education
tied to a scheme of human progress and industry figures who stand to
profit from digital learning, but from that of an independent
researcher interested in what works. . . . If presented with a series
of sites with more and less challenging content, users do what nature
inclines them to do: patronize the least taxing and most customary
(149-150) The Web is a consumer habitat, not an educational one. . . . The habits young people form after school, on weekends, and over the summer are pleasing—fast scanning, page hopping, sloppy writing, associating thinking, no unfamiliar content—and while they undermine the values and demands of the classroom and the workplace (scrupulous reading, good grammar, analytic thinking), these habits won't go away.
Desire for greatest amount of content for least amount of work, exemplified by intellectual style of Wikipedia prose, yielding uninspiring knowledge language in competition with amusing social language.
(152) The mind
online drifts toard simplicity, familiarity, and visibility. It wants
the greatest amount of content for the least amount of
(153-154) Wikipedia prose sets the standard for intellectual style. Students relying on Wikipedia alone, year in and year out, absorb the prose as proper knowledge discourse, and knowledge itself seems blank and uninspiring.
(154) The language of popular knowledge sites conveys helpful information, but it is too dull to break the grip of adolescent speech on the young mind. Knowledge-language and social-language stand apart, far apart, and young users throw all their energy to the latter.
Parallel loss of gains in consumer choice and talkback capacity.
(156) Young people have too much choice, too much discretion for
educators and mentors to guide their usage. By the time they enter
classrooms outfitted for e-learning, they've passed too many hours
doing their own e-thing, grooving non-learning routines too firmly.
And once again, in Nielsen's consumer logic, the trend will only
increase. Fast scanning breeds faster scanning, and more scannable
online prose. Social networking promotes more social networking and
more personal profile pages.
(156-157) In a word, the gain in consumer choice and talkback capacity brings a parallel loss. . . . In pre-cable, pre-Internet times, competition was limited, and viewers sometimes watched programs that didn't jibe with their likings. The mismatch could be frustrating, but it occasionally served an edifying purpose: forcing people to recognize other peoples, different tastes, distant knowledge.
Compare analysis of Web users to Horkheim and Adorno mass consumers.
(158) With so much abundance, variety, and speed, users key in to
exactly what they already want. . . . Great art is tough, mass art is
easy. Dense arguments require concentration, adolescent visuals hit
(159) With the read/write/film/view/browse/buy/sell Web, adolescent users govern their own exposure, and the didactic and artistic content of smarter sites flies by unseen and unheard.
Threshold into adulthood has changed because the rituals that used to introduce adulthood shunted by digital realm as used by young Americans.
(160) What has changed is the threshold into adulthood, the rituals minors undergo to become responsible citizens, the knowledge and skill activities that bring maturity and understanding. Outside the home, the classroom, library, bookstore, museum, field trip, employer, and art space hosted the rituals and fostered the activities. The digital realm could do it, too, but not in the way young Americans use it.
Bauerlein will argue that blame for the misuse of the digital realm falls on custodians of culture who promote its intellectual benefits, rather than the kids or their parents.
(161) Parents like technology because it eases the demands of
parenting, but they might be a little less inclided to do so if they
weren't led to believe in the intellectual benefits of screen time.
When it comes to education, parents take their cue from others,
people who set learning standards and legitimize different
(161) If the pathways deteriorate, don't blame the kids and parents overmuch. Blame, also, the teachers, professors, writers, journalists, intellectuals, editors, librarians, and curators who will not insist upon the value of knowledge and tradition, who will not judge cultural novelties by the high standards set by the best of the past, who will not stand up to adolescence and announce, “It is time to put away childish things.” They have let down the society that entrusts them to sustain intelligence and wisdom and beauty, and they have failed students who can't climb out of adolescence on their own.
THE BETRAYAL OF THE MENTORS
Example of Art Show the twenty percent adolescents who believe their preferences bound authentic reality, but for the other eighty percent growth to age 17 unremarkable.
Mistake of concretizing self understanding on teenage peak years, in adolescence, is latent consequence of widespread digital media adoption as it happened in the United States from the 1970s onward.
(168) It is the nature of adolescents to believe that authentic reality begins with themselves, and that what long preceded them is irrelevant. For 15-year-olds in the United States in the twenty-first century, the yardstick of pertinence is personal contact, immediate effects. . . . The attitude marks one of the signal changes of the twentieth century in the United States. It insists that a successful adolescence and rightful education entail growing comfortable with yourself, with who you are at age 17.
Reich gave deep interpretation to youth lifestyle of 1960s, but youth lifestyle under sway of American capitalist consumer experience reflects a different underlying intellectual depth and expanse.
(169) [Charles] Reich interpreted youth lifestyle as a serious expression with deep political, social, and moral content, however flippant and anti-intellectual it appeared, and while his book comes off today like little more than a dated artifact in a time capsule, shorn of the radical, Bacchic 1960s rhetoric, the outlook he promoted carries on.
Twixters are natives of projective city, their aimless lifestyle justified as journey of self-discovery before engaging in their ultimate life work project, for example plateauing with doctoral dissertation and discipline defining works.
Time magazine story about Twixters ignores quantity and quality of intellectual labor expended in nonproductive self-discovery period.
(170-171) Despite their circumstance, Twixters aren't marginal
youngsters sinking into the underclass. They drift through their
twenties, stalled at work and saving no money, but they like it that
way. . . . Indeed, precisely along the lines of Reich's
understanding, they justify their aimless lifestyle as a journey of
(172) In casting Twixter lifestyle as genuine exploration and struggle, neither the author nor the researchers nor the Twixters themselves whisper a single word about intellectual labor. . . . Nobody ties maturity to formal or informal learning, reading or studying, novels or paintings or histories or syllogisms.
Twixter vision is social, peer oriented rather than knowledge oriented perspective cultivated by long habituation with books.
(172) In a word, the Twixter vision aligns perfectly with that of their wired younger brothers and sisters. It's all social, all peer-oriented.
Even the successful Art Show neglects cultural authority of artistic heritage, tradition carried by books by valorizing self-contained perspectives of student artists under influence of digital social media, thus by implicit a fortiori argumentation the eighty percent rest of mass communication is consumer oriented limited intelligence, restricted vocabulary outlooks as possible machine other perspectives.
(173-174) The truth is that nothing endorses arts education better than educated student-artists, and in neglecting tradition ArtShow overlooks one of art's strongest claims, the cultural authority of artistic heritage.
Indulgent attitude toward youth evident in school zones dogmatically accepted by custodians of culture.
(174) Spend some hours in school zones and you see that the indulgent attitude toward youth, along with the downplaying of tradition, has reached the point of dogma among teachers, reporters, researchers, and creators in arts and humanities fields, and pro-knowledge, pro-tradition conceptions strike them as bluntly unpleasant, if not reactionary and out of touch.
Poirier argument that discourse of counterrevolutionary intellectuals war against the young, a containment policy for which enclosure in readily manipulable digital media cocoons, the dumbest generation marks a plateau in human cognitive evolution.
Today war against young has passed to institutionally concretized electronic biopower of screen advertisements.
Few individuals represented the virtues of tradition and knowledge
better than [Richard] Poirier.
(179) The moderate tone lays all good sense on the side of adults, and youth sympathizers stand exposed, visibly impolite, erratic, and extreme. The very rationality of the discourse denies any credibility to youth protest. However civil, thoughtful, and reasonable it comes off, he [Poirier] declares, the discourse of counterrevolutionary intellectuals amounts to precisely a “war against the young.”
Foreign policy reflected in culture war forms of control; compare to Edwards closed world.
(179) The putatively rational and prudent judgments by levelheaded thinkers in fact repeat the foreign policies of the U.S. government, including the harshest ones.
Effects of educators indulging youth are routine irreverence and knowledge deficits; implied argument is that educators are at fault for participating in pedagogical practices that take indulging youth as a given, justifying, for example, gamefication.
(181) Poirier's essay marks a signal case of the generational romance, the transformation of youth from budding egos into attuned sensibilities. His argument models a different mentoring, an approach that may have respected the students but yielded a terrible outcome. Over the years, the indulgence of youth circulated among educators and settled into a sanctioned pedagogy with a predictable result: not an unleashing of independent, creative, skeptical mental energies of rising students, but what we have seen in previous chapters, routine irreverence and knoweldge deficits.
Indulgence of youth weakens already fragile continuity of tradition; connecting adult thinking with unpopular war further weakened it.
(182) The continuity of tradition was always a fragile thing, and it
wouldn't take much for generation-to-generation handoffs to go wrong,
but when the things that ensured it fell under reproach—classrooms
and teachers themselves—adolescents could add a brand-new moral
weapon to their resistance. If sensible adult judgment complemented
bombing raids in Vietnam, adult critics of youth weren't just cranky
pedants. They were creepy plotters, and they might as well join hands
with Pentagon strategists and corporate bosses.
(182) It didn't take long for Poirier's provocative sallies to become professional observance. By the 1980s, the rebellious, anti-Establishment posture of young adults had become the creed of America's educational institutions.
Treating disaffected youth as injustice indulges them and downgrades authority position of mentors, devaluing remote traditions for having no bearing since their only prior justification was by the rhetoric of recanting mentors; intellectual independence sabotages tradition.
(185) It is normal
for young people, temporarily, to act disaffected and feel unheard,
but for the mentors to turn this condition into an injustice is to
downgrade their position, with youths only too eager to play along.
No matter how benevolent the rhetoric of the mentors, though, the
thing it bestows—intellectual independence—does the majority of
youths no favors. . . . It sabotages something that may, perhaps, be
more fragile than the transmission of knowledge from old to young,
namely, the simple, sturdy conviction that knowledge itself is worth
receiving the conviction that traditions remote from their daily
circumstances have any bearing.
(186) If mentors are so keen to recant their expertise, why should students strain to acquire it themselves?
Mentors mistakenly assume approval leads to students working more to continue their inquiries; learner-centered classrooms do not lead students to seek out instructors outside class.
(186) The indulgers
assume that their approval will bring teachers and students closer
together, throwing students further into academic inquiry, inspiring
them to learn and study, but the evidence shows that this does not
(187-188) As “instructor domination” dwindles, as “learner-centered” classrooms multiply, then students should feel empowered to hunt down their profs at other times and places. But while “active, learner-centered” pedagogies have proliferated, more student-teacher contact hasn't happened, as subsequent NSSE reports show.
Absence of student-teacher contact in learner-centered environments attributable to institutions treating students as commodities and instructors esteeming student knowledge at expense of deauthorizing their own.
Interesting the attitudes weakening tradition now attributed to shortcomings of cultural custodians rather than technologies.
(188-189) College delinquency of this kind says nothing about these students' intelligence. It marks an attitude, a sign of disrespect, and we may blame several influences for its spread. When colleges treat students as consumers and clients, they encourage it, as does pop culture when it elevates hooky playing tricksters such as Ferris Bueller into heroes. College professors complain all the time about it, but they have their own part in their students' negligence, for they pass it along whenever they esteem the students' knowledge and deauthorize their own.
Appeal to maturity of perspective gleaned from encountering tradition and adults beyond peers as knowledge quality filtering mechanism.
Challenge for philosophies of computing because it may not be felt there has been time for a tradition to form, or the whole argument of seeking insight from tradition is short circuited by belief in sequence of rapidly obsoleted technological generations devalues all but the state of the art; ironic that Seneca invoked on love, when there is value in revisiting when contemplating technology.
from tradition, with nobody telling them that sometimes they must
mute the voices inside them and heed instead the voices of distant
greatness, young people miss one of the sanative, humbling mechanisms
of maturity. This is the benefit of tradition, the result of a
reliable weeding-out process. . . . Only with the passage of time
does the field refine and settle into its superior creations.
(190) Tradition provides a surer standard, a basis for judgment more solid than present comparisons, than political, practical, and commercial grounds.
(191) Contact with the past steadies and composes judgment of the present. That's the formula. People who read Thucydides and Caesar on war, and Seneca and Ovid on love, are less inclined to construe passing fads as durable outlooks, to fall into the maelstrom of celebrity, pop culture, to presume that the circumstances of their own life are worth a Web page.
Need for a critical filter, again ironically, like Quintillian of Seneca, a delicious detail missed by Bauerlein, who thinks away from technology whereas Latour and others develop science studies.
(191) Nobody likes a scold, but the critical filter has never been more needed. The rush of the “present age” noted by Arnold in 1853 has cascaded into a deluge. Digital technology has compounded the incoming flow, and young adults flounder in it the most. . . . Without the anchor of wise and talented men and women long gone, of thoughts and works that have stood the test of time, adolescents fall back upon the meager, anarchic resources of their sole selves. They watch a movie—say, Pretty Woman—and see it in the light of real and imagined high school romances instead of, in this case, fairy tales and 1980s finance wizards.
Disabling narcissism prevents accurate self assessments of talents and competencies.
(192-193) The behavioral features of narcissism are bad enough, but a set of other studies demonstrates just how disabling it proves, particularly with schoolwork. One consequence of narcissism is that it prevents young people from weighing their own talents and competencies accurately. . . . Education requires the opposite, a modicum of self-doubt, a capacity for self-criticism, precisely what the narcissism can't hear.
Unwilling versus ignorant lacks improvement mechanism; seems like echo of critique of writing in Phaedrus.
(193) The attitude is even more harmful than the knowledge deficiencies we've seen earlier. An ignorant but willing mind can overcome ignorance through steady work and shrewed guidance. . . . An unwilling mind can't or won't. It already knows enough, and history, civics, philosophy, and literature have too little direct application to satisfy. For many young Americans, that translates into a demoralizing perception problem, a mismatch of expectation and ability.
Confidence and enjoyment do not entail achievement, as shown by achievement levels between nations; teens unable to appraise capabilities, and aptitude and ambition do not align.
confident students perform better than un-confident students within
the relationship overturns.
(196) In other words, enjoyment and achievement have no necessary relation. . . . Confidence and enjoyment don't guarantee better students. Furthermore, they prevent the students from forming one of the essential ingredients of long-term success: an accurate, realistic appraisal of their present capacities.
(196) Optimism is nice, but not when it reaches delusional limits. Soon enough, the faulty combo of aptitude and ambition will explode, and the teenagers won't understand why. . . . The math skills they lack are requisite for the degrees they expect, but they don't make the connection.
Overly optimistic assessments of student proficiency by high school versus college teachers one consequence of indulgence by mentors.
(197) All too often, the mentors don't see the results of their indulgence, which emerge only after students leave their class, leaving teachers unaware of how the approach misleads their charges. . . . Instead, high school teachers consistently assess the skills of their graduating students much more highly than college teachers assess the skills of their entering students.
Development of healthy self criticism in light of tradition lost, not happening, and not being discussed; it is social and shortsighted.
One of the most precious tools they lack does not appear in
predominant education philosophies, however, nor does it shape
training programs for teachers and professors, nor does it arise in
discussions of American competitiveness and innovation among business
leaders and politicians interested in education. . . . The tool is
precisely what has been lost in the shifting attitude in favor of
in the light of tradition.
(198) Their idols, their triumphs the envy of friends, not adults. Their self-criticism isn't enlightened and forward-looking, nor is it backward looking. It's social and shortsighted.
Young Americans need teachers who give them less relevance, less indulgence, and more relevant, adult role models; Bauerlein believes this loss results in less time spent in out of class activities that complement class work.
(199) What young
Americans need isn't more relevance in the classroom, but less. . . .
Young people need mentors not to go with the youth flow, but to stand
staunchly against it, to represent something smarter and finer than
the cacophony of social life.
(199) In the past, as long as teachers, parents, journalists, and other authorities insisted that young people respect knowledge and great works, young people devoted a portion of out-of-class hours to activities that complement in-class work.
Youth more disengaged from culture the more mentors engage them in their own terms; digital technology fosters segregated social reality.
(200) The more
mentors have engaged youth in youth terms, though, the more youth
have disengaged from the mentors themselves and from the culture they
are supposed to represent.
(200) Digital technology has fostered a segregated social reality, peer pressure gone wild, distributing youth content in an instant, across continents, 24/7. . . . The impulses were always there, but the stern shadow of moral and cultural canons at home and in class managed now and then to keep them in check.
Ingredients in place for producing WALL-E humans from the dumbest generation: keen wit wasted on screen diversions, excessive ambitions but merging on consumer goals, alienation from adult world through immersion in peer stuff rather than countercultural ideas and radical mentors.
(201) The ingredients come together into an annihilating recipe. Adolescent urgings, a teen world cranked up by technology, a knowledge world cranked down by abdicating mentors . . . they commingle and produce young Americans whose wits are just as keen as ever, but who waste them on screen diversions; kids whose ambitions may even exceed their forebears', but whose aims merge on career and consumer goals, not higher learning; youths who experience a typical stage of alienation from the adult world, but whose alienation doesn't stem from countercultural ideas and radical mentors (Karl Marx, Herbert Marcuse, Michel Foucault, etc.), but from an enveloping immersion in peer stuff.
Too late for them to catch up on knowledge and culture traits from missed liberal education in their twenties due to encroaching adult responsibilities but only becoming partial citizens.
Admits no time to read classics; consider bootstrapping through philosophy and history of computing and technology as backdoor entry of missed liberal education.
twenty-first-century teen, connected and multitasked, autonomous yet
peer-mindful, marks no great leap forward in human intelligence,
global thinking, or “netizen”-ship. Young users have learned a
thousand new things, no doubt. They upload and download, suft and
chat, post and design, but they haven't learned to analyze a complex
text, store facts in their heads, comprehend a foreign policy
decision, take lessons from history, or spell correctly. Never having
recognized their responsibility to the past, they have opened a
fissure in our civic foundations, and it shows in their halting
passage into adulthood and citizenship. . . . Perhaps during their
twenties they adapt, acquiring smarter work and finance habits. But
the knowledge and culture traits never catch up. It's too late to
read Dante and Milton. There is too little time for the French
Revolution and the Russian Revolution. Political ideas come from a
news talk guest or a Sunday op-ed, not a steady diet of books old and
(202) If young people don't read, they shut themselves out of public affairs. Without a knowledge formation in younger years, adults function as more or less partial citizens.
Lack of experience in cultural knowledge the unnoticed complement of STEM deficit, both endangering future of American society.
(203) When people warn of America's future, they usually talk about competitiveness in science, technology, and productivity, not in ideas and values. But the current domestic and geopolitical situation demands that we generate not only more engineers, biochemists, nanophysicists, and entrepreneurs, but also men and women experienced in the ways of culture, prepared for contest in the marketplace of ideas. Knowledge-workers, wordsmiths, policy wonks . . . they don't emerge from nowhere. They need a long foreground of reading and writing, a home and school environment open to their development, a pipeline ahead and behind them. They need mentors to commend them when they're right and rebuke them when they're wrong. . . . The formula is flexible, but with the Dumbest Generation its breakdown is under way, and with it the vitality of democracy in the United States.
NO MORE CULTURE WARRIORS
Lost twenty year range of humans dumbest generation PHI founds future philosophies of computing.
(209) Thus the amusing tale of a 20-year sleep becomes a parable of civic life. Before, the villagers were subjects. Now they are political agents, voters, and they tell Rip that he, too, is “now a free citizen of the United States”
Civic knowledge wound up in knowledge of events.
(210) The knowledge
factor is crucial, not for Rip, but for the others, and it extends
the meaning of democratic citizenship. The villagers explain to him
what has happened, recounting revolutionary events one by one as part
of their own need to remember, to arrange a sequence of changes that
ensures continuity with the past.
(211-212) Civic knowledge fills the void left by Old Word institutions whose authority has collapsed. This is why Thomas Jefferson counted so heavily on public schools to ensure the continuance of the Republic. Only the broad education of each generation would sustain the nation, “the diffusion of knowledge among the people,” he wrote in 1786. If “we leave the people in ignorance,” he warned, old customs will return, and “kings, priest and nobles . . . will rise up among us.” . . Jefferson, Madison, and the other Founders expected men in government to behave all too humanly, letting the influences they wield tempt them away from public goods and toward special interests. The scrutiny of informed citizens checked their opportunism, which is why the Founders valued a free press.
Democracy based on civic knowledge continuance requires informed electorate, meeting paradoxical free choice to opt out of civic life preferred by addicted consumers in projective cities.
Well explicated ironic, potentially tragic flaw of anonymous voting.
(212-213) Democracy requires an informed electorate, and knowledge deficits equal civic decay. . . . When government grows too complex and the effects of policy drift down into individual lives in too delayed and circuitous a way, citizenship knowledge appears an onerous and impractical virtue. . . . Individual freedom means the freedom not to vote, not to read the newspaper, not to contemplate the facts of U.S. history, not to frequent the public square—in a word, to opt out of civic life.
Expressive satisfaction of civic good actions alluded to by complex narratives taught to read through immersion in tradition for humans and machines; suggests correlation between quantity of short term associable long term cultural memory and moral satisfaction, as if insensible to dumbest generation lacking civic knowledge.
(214) Again we return to knowledge—knowledge of current events and past events, civic ideals and historical models. It supplies a motivation that ordinary ambitions don't. Voting in every election, reading the op-ed pages, sending letters to politicians, joining a local association . . . they don't advance a career, boost a paycheck, kindle the dating scene, or build muscle and tan skin. They provide a civic good, but the private goods they deliver aren't measured in money or prospects or popularity. Instead, they yield expressive or moral satisfaction, the pleasure of doing something one knows is right, and those vary with how much cultural memory each person has.
Connection between healthy vigilant citizenry and abundant knowledge.
(215) A healthy democracy needs a vigilant citizenry, and a healthily vigilant citizenry needs a reservoir of knowledge. Traditions must be there at hand, with citizens maintaining a permanent sense of what America is about.
Contention bred by knowledge in democratic society leading to transformative, sanative culture wars the internal sustaining mechanism of democracy.
Knowledge breeds contention, then, but that's how a pluralistic,
democratic society works through rival interests and clashing
(218) Knowledgeable antagonists elevate the process into a busy marketplace of ideas and policies, and further, at critical times, into something many people dread and regret, but that has, in truth, a sanative influence: a culture war. Culture wars break out when groups form the renounce basic, long-standing norms and values in a society and carry their agenda into mass media, schools, and halls of power.
(220) Culture wars break down the walls. They don't stop the sectarianism, and they can aggravate group commitments, but they also pierce the insulation of each group.
College professors avoid public attention but also only think and act within their niche, leading defeating disciplinary self-criticism to indulgence of student self interpretations ignoring traditional themes and examples: value of this proposition is as example of value of culture wars operations hearing other sides.
(221) The customary rites of professionalism and rehearsals of group identity didn't work, and college professors have been nervous about public attention ever since. Academics resented the publicity Bloom, Bennett, and other traditionalists received, while traditionalists grumbled that it had no effect on the campus. . . . But while none of the contenders were satisfied, the episode demonstrates the value of culture wars operations. . . . However intelligent they are, people who think and act within their niche avoid the irritating presence of ideological foes, but they also forgo one of the preconditions of learning: hearing other sides.
Knowledge and tradition constrain culture wars, for example how 1955 to 1975 was apparently youth war against Establishment, by identifying key objects of attention and method of action.
(222) The process can slide into the equivalent of a shouting match, and two things the keep it grounded and productive are, once again, knowledge and tradition. . . . They tie the arguments of the moment to founding principles and ideas, and hold them up against the best expressions of them through time. . . . Such object lessons ensure that skirmishes stay civil and evidence-based, and they censure a culture warrior who crosses lines of basic rights, freedoms, and respect.
National implications of dumbest generation reached as culture war outcome of youth movement is young adults under thirty prepared to be culture warriors like Jefferson and print culture, for full, not just partial, civic life.
(223) 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 is precisely a particular culture-war outcome, the
war over the status of youth fought four decades ago. From roughly
1955 to 1975, youth movements waged culture warfare on television and
in recording studios, outside national conventions and inside
university administration buildings, and the mentors who should have
fought back surrendered. This was a novel army, a front never seen
before, with adults facing an adolescent horde declaring the entire
arsenal of the Establishment illegitimate.
(223) Put bluntly, few members of the rising cohort are ready to enlist in them properly outfitted with liberal learning and good archetypes. An able culture warrior passes long hours in libraries and in public debate. . . . It is rare the under-30-year-old who comes close to qualifying, even as a novice. They don't read enough books and study enough artworks, or care enough to do so.
Idealization of NY intellectuals as studied by Dorman are former model culture warrior whose success credited to youthworld of ideas and argument informed by liberal study.
serious their ambition and disciplined their reading, the would-be
young intellectuals of today lack a vital component that earlier
intellectuals enjoyed from their teens through college and that they
credited for their later successes. It is: a youthworld of ideas and
arguments, an intellectual forensic in the social settings of the the
young. The New York Intellectuals are a case in point.
(225) The students may have been hotheaded sophomores, but they turned their fierce analysis upon the worldly questions of the day and upon themselves.
New Left culture war initiated the decline of intellectual life leading to dumbest generation by rejecting reading and learning obsolete and irrelevant topics; relates to my dilemma at heart of philosophy of computing that ignorance of technical details shunts formation of places for philosophical thought to occur, such as in working code of critical programming.
Elegant argument why exceptionalism has unexpected effects on future generations who adhere to it.
(226) Twenty years
later, a New Left came along and prosecuted a culture war that began
the steady deterioration of intellectual life among young
(227-228) They distinguished themselves from every other generation so dramatically, and chastised precursor intellectuals with such pious gall, that the entire relationship of past and present, revolutionary action and ideological tradition, broke down. . . . But while the writing of the Port Huron Statement required book learning, the reception of it didn't. . . . The successors of Old Guard DSD would draw an easy lesson: why bother to learn things and read books that are obsolete and irrelevant? A predictable descent commenced. The sixties generation's leaders didn't anticipate how their claim of exceptionalism would affect the next generation, and the next, but the sequence was entirely logical. Informed rejection of the past became uninformed rejection for he past, and then complete and unworried ignorance of it.
Examples of College Republicans and updated SDS where exceptional youth are manifest comparable to examples of extreme minority of exceptionally creative and successful digital natives; actions of conservatives too focused on common foes with insufficient internal contention, leftists employing topical arguments with little appeal to philosophical tradition.
people mention the College Republicans on different campuses, young
conservatives who do read The Weekly Standard
The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot
track the acts of Congress. . . . They are more intellectual than
their peers to the left, more experienced in polemic, and they grasp
the battling ideas and policies at play in the culture wars. . . .
But I've observed the they often lack one thing essential to an
exacting forensic. They operate too much in agreement with one
another, uniting too consistently against a common foe, liberals and
leftists on campus.
(229-230) There are some equally engaged students on the other side, too, one of recent note being an updated SDS. . . . In all the quotations from the leaders and remarks on their protests, not to mention the many letters The Nation printed subsequently, hardly any traces of theories, ideas, arguments, books, or thinkers emerge. Everything is topical. . . . Nothing about Foucault or feminists or Critical Race Theory, or more distant influences from radical tradition.
(230) However committed and intelligent these right- and left-wing students are, the social settings they frequent simply do not provide healthy breeding grounds for tomorrow's intellectuals.
Role of intellectuals includes occupying middle ground between professional and lay discourses, mediating confluence of niches, maintaining public exposure and academic rigor, and also producing next generation of thoughtful intellectuals.
(231) These associations do not fulfill the conditions that produce thoughtful intellectuals. Intellectuals must address the pressing matters, but they must also stand apart, living and breathing a corpus of texts, ideas, and events that are independent of current affairs. . . . Intellectuals occupy a middle ground between philosophical thought and popular discourse, between knowledge professionals and interested laypersons. The are positive mediators, reining in propensities on both sides. On one hand, by hauling academic inquiry into public forums, they keep knowledge from evolving into excess specialization and technical expertise, from withdrawing into the university and think tank as a useful technology or policy instrument. On the other hand, by remaining faithful to academic rigor and intellectual forebears, they keep knowledge from decaying into vulgar and cynical uses in the public sphere.
Need for pipeline of intellectuals for healthy society, eighty percent of lesser intellectuals as well as minority of superlative culture warriors.
(231) A healthy society needs a pipeline of intellectuals, and not just the famous ones. . . . Noteworthy intellectual groupings such as liberal anti-communists in the forties, Beats in the fifties, and neoconservatives in the seventies steered the United States in certain ideological directions. History will remember them. But in every decade labors an army of lesser intellectuals—teachers, journalists, curators, librarians, bookstore managers, diplomats, pundits, amateur historians and collectors, etc., whose work rises or falls on the liberal arts knowledge they bring to it.
Shared belief in value of liberal education because lay support needed for liberal arts to flourish, part of democratic faith; ignoring society ennobling traditions makes ignorant citizens, highlighting effects of general population leisure trends.
(232-233) Intellectuals may quarrel over everything else, but at
bottom they believe in the public and private value of liberal
education. . . . For intellectual discourse, high art, historical
awareness, and liberal arts curricular to flourish, support must come
from outside intellectual clusters. Laypersons, especially the young
ones, must get the message: if you ignore the traditions that ground
and ennoble our society, you are an incomplete person and a negligent
(233) This knowledge principle forms part of the democratic faith, and it survives only as long as a fair portion of the American people embraces it, not just intellectuals and experts. . . . This is why leisure trends among the general population are so important.
Dim intellectual, civic understanding, liberal education futures; downward heading of American mind towards WALL-E characters net effect of social pressures and leisure preferences of young Americans of the dumbest generation.
(233) 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. The social pressures and leisure preferences of young Americans, for all their silliness and brevity, help set the heading of the American mind, and the direction is downward.
Depiction and diagnosis of the Dumbest Generation: tradition-infused intellectual life cannot compete with screen-mediated social life, the latter killing culture.
Compare culture hooked on consumer goods to era Seneca criticized, then layer on Quintillian critique of Seneca and call for more serious style.
(234) The Dumbest
Generation cares little for history books, civic principles, foreign
affairs, comparative religions, and serious media and art, and it
knows less. Careening through their formative years, they don't catch
the knowledge bug, and tradition
as well be a foreign word. Other things monopolize their
attention—the allure of screens, peer absorption, career goals.
They are latter-day Rip Van Winkles, sleeping through the movements
of culture and events of history, preferring the company of peers to
great books and powerful ideas and momentous happenings. . . . Among
the Millennials, intellectual life can't compete with social life,
and if social life has no intellectual content, traditions wither and
die. Books can't hold their own with screen images, and without help,
high art always loses to low amusements.
(235) The latest social and leisure dispositions of the young are killing the culture, and when they turn 40 years old and realize what they failed to learn in their younger days, it will be too late.
Adults are blind or unconscionably unresponsive, and obliged to speak out to reverse moral poles.
Is the Dumbest Generation redeemable, or will their habits setting the course for a WALL-E future?
(235) If parents and teachers and reporters don't see it now, they're
(235-236) If they don't respond, they're unconscionable. It's time for over-30-year-olds of all kinds of speak out. . . . The moral poles need to reverse, with the young no longer setting the pace for right conduct and cool thinking. Let's tell the truth. The Dumbest Generation will cease being dumb only when it regards adolescence as an inferior realm of petty strivings and adulthood as a realm of civic, historical, and cultural awareness that puts them in touch with the perennial ideas and struggles. The youth of America occupy a point in history like every other generation did and will, and their time will end. But the effects of their habits will outlast them, and if things do not change they will be remembered as the fortunate ones who were unworthy of the privileges they inherited. They may even be recalled as the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever.
Bauerlein, Mark. The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2009. Print.