May 14, 2008 -- Chat with Mark Bauerlein, author of "The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future."
Superbad__Guest_: How does the generation that has the internet, a tool that gives more people more access to any information at any given time since the invention of the printing press be the dumbest generation. I think that you ask someone in 1930 if the new generation was worse than the old one they would say it was. I could give 8 reasons why we vastly outpace our current mothers and fathers, but then again i am not trying to sell a book
Mark_Bauerlein: Yes, Superbad, elders have always complained about juniors, and juniors have resented it. And that's a good thing for both sides, and for a society as a whole. There should be some tension between the generations, with elders rebuking kids for their inexperience and ignorance and hubris, and kids rebuking elders for their rigidity and impatience. In the best cases, each side tempers the worst traits of the other.
Not_so_much__Guest_: How did you think of this topic?
Mark_Bauerlein: I think it hit me when I walked into the library and every single computer terminal was occupied by a n 18-year-old, face intent on the screen, fingers tapping out messages at a rat-a-tat pace, while up in the bookstacks you could lie down for hours and nobody would bother you.
Not_so_much__Guest_: I think that it is extremely bold for you to write this. Yeah you can string som good sentances together, and teach at a college I have never even heard of but what makes you qualified? I think that you are mistaken
Mark_Bauerlein: Well, Not_so_much, a lot of the research for the book was compiled while I worked in a research office in the Federal government. By the way, Emory U. is always ranked in the Top 20 by US News & World Report.
Not_so_much__Guest_: Where is Emory University? Wait maybe I should look it up, no you would probably judge me.
Mark_Bauerlein: Just west of Atlanta.
Tony__Guest_: I beg to differ with your assessment of the dumbest generation. First, ignorance is not the same as stupidity. Second, we were not the ones to plow holes through our cities and knock down beautiful historical buildings in the name of progress and urban renewal.
Mark_Bauerlein: Yes, every generations has its sins, and Boomers and X-ers have much to account for. No argument here.
JimboE1990: Mr. Bauerlein, how can you make such ridiculous and baseless claims about my generation? i would bet that i've read 2 or 3 times more books than you had by the time you were my age (17), as ive read near one-hundred outside of school, ranging from jose saramago to ernest hemingway to james joyce. also, im not entangled in some private world devoid of reality: i intern for a united states congressman, and instead of having a big graduation party after high school, i am donating all my graduation money to a food bank. Finally, i wrote a fifeen page senior thesis proving the existence of a soul. Am i to believe that your generation is somehow better than mine? It's foolish, based in nothing but ridiculous conjecture, and frankly, an embarassing projection on YOUR generation for how out-of-touch it is with reality. Shame on you, sir. What statistics do you have to back this up? What evidence besides ridiculous stereotypes and ageist discriminations? anything? anything at all?
Mark_Bauerlein: Okay, here are some numbers:
Mark_Bauerlein: Today, only 43 percent of 18-24-year-olds every reads a novel, short story, poem, or play on her own. That's down from 60 percent in 1982.
Mark_Bauerlein: In 1984, only 9 percent of high school seniors NEVER read for fun. By 2004, that number had more than doubled (19 percent).
Mark_Bauerlein: If voluntary reading is a sign of intellectual curiosity, your generation is a lapse. As an avid reader, your an exception to the general rule.
Bob__Guest_: Are you as arrogant as your book title suggests?
Mark_Bauerlein: Umm, no.
COMMON_SENSE__Guest_: AGREE 1000000000000%. GLAD THAT YOU WRITE THIS BOOK.(I HAD IT IN MIND)
Mark_Bauerlein: Thanks. Too many stewards of knowledge (teachers, intellectuals, journalists) are unwilling to rebuke adolescents for their adolescence. We need more of it.
tomorrowistoday7: Re your Grand Theft Auto question: I'm just curious, Professor Bauerlein: how much did stickball, Jerry Lewis, and Laugh-in help you with your critical thinking?
Mark_Bauerlein: Now, Lewis' The Nutty Professor is one of the great comic films. The Bellboy, too.
pds__Guest_: Mark, do you feel that corporate America is fostering this problem? The entry level jobs in my industry are now overseas.
Mark_Bauerlein: In some ways, perhaps, but corporate America is feeling the pain of poor skills among the young. A College Board report a few years ago estimated that corporate American spends $3.1 billion per year (!) on remedial writing training for employees. A New York Times story on it ran under the header: "What Corporate America Can't Build: A Sentence."
abl__Guest_: Mark: Aren't generalities like this completely unfair to Americans between the age of 20 and 30? If anything, these young people are becoming more engaged in politics and charitable work than those between the ages of 30-40.
Mark_Bauerlein: Generalities are okay if they're backed up by the right evidence. The book contains copious data from private, academic, and public agencies and organizations on test scores, remedial course taking, leisure habits, consumer expenditures, historical knowledge, civic behavior . . .
Mark_Bauerlein: As for political activity among the young, we do see a spike for Obama, and we saw a rise in the youth vote in 2004. But remember that we're still well below voting rates for the first time 18-year-olds got the vote, back in 1972. At times, youth voting rates have sunk down into the teens. We'll see if this year's activism sticks.
FeelingInsulted__Guest_: I can't help but feel insulted by your position that I am a member of the dumbest generation (I am an 18 year old college freshman). I feel like you (or the globe's 8 point mashup) has grossly overgeneralized my generation and culture. Weren't you ever told that rock and roll would rot your brain? Do you believe it?
Mark_Bauerlein: Lots of things in youth culture rot your brain, and the important thing is that they are counterbalanced by better things. The point isn't to eliminate teen stuff entirely. It is to preserve a space in a young person's life for an encounter with history, fine art, civic ideals . . . and that is getting harder when teens have peer-to-peer contact 24/7.
Doug__Guest_: Are you so afraid of the digital era, that you have to bash the youth for your personal misunderstandings?
Mark_Bauerlein: I am afraid of the Digital Age, yes. We don't know where the technology is going. We don't know what the consequences will be. And in our enthusiasm for all the empowerment and customization of digital tools, we're not recognizing some of the important things that are being lost.
Doug__Guest_: I also find that your sources are uncredible, and to base your book off of statements from people of your older generation to describe a younger generation, is moronic
Mark_Bauerlein: Sources in book: US Dept of Education, Pew Research, Census Bureau, Kaiser Foundation, National Survey of Student Engagement, National Association of Manufacturers, Book Industry Study Group, Business Rountable . . . These are the most respected data sources around.
NotSoMuch__Guest_: this generation will prove you wrong, and make you look dumb in every aspect
Mark_Bauerlein: It would be great to be proven wrong about every harsh judgment in the book. What is the intention? What is the motivation? Not to trash the kids, but to criticize them into more book reading, more study, more learning. I bet when teens today reach their 40s and look back upon their education, they will admire the teacher who was hard as heck on them, and refused to accept mediocre and lazy efforts. And they may realize that those rigorous and judgmental teachers cared more about their minds and futures than did those teachers who thought self-esteem building was their highest duty.
Eric_NH__Guest_: Is it better to be part of the dumbest gereration or the laziest? The last generation left us with huge defecit and huge energy and polution problems.
Mark_Bauerlein: You're right, and one of the best signs among the young is the environmental consciousness. In fact, we see all kinds of excellent behavioral measures among youth, such as lower rates of violent crime and better attitudes toward parents. The thesis here only bears upon their knowledge and intellectual habits, not their social attitudes.
Eric_NH__Guest_: Thomas Edison never wrote down phone numbers because he knew he could look them up.... leveraging access to information. Is he also "dumb"?
Mark_Bauerlein: This is a big question. The danger of the Internet as such a miraculous source of knowledge and information is that it makes people think that they needn't internalize knowledge and information. It's all there on the screen, right, so why bother to take the time to memorize and recall.
Mark_Bauerlein: Well, that's to say that knowledge doesn't have a formative role in your character and outlook. Is that knowledge of the past just information? Is Abraham Lincoln just a fact? Is the Civil War just an event with dates and sites? No, these are the materials of the developing mind, or at least they should be. They should shape who you are on the inside, not just be outside materials to retrieve when you need them.
Eric_NH__Guest_: Is it wise to ignore the benefits and efficiency of information availability and be left at a competitive disadvantage?
Mark_Bauerlein: Absolutely correct, Eric. We should use these resources to our best advantage. But we shouldn't overlook the fact that ease of access can also produce lazy mental habits, that memory, for instance, improves with exercise, that eloquence comes with immersion in the best writings.
Eric_NH__Guest_: Do you think IM could increase the richness of a relationship?
Mark_Bauerlein: It can, Eric, yes, and it can also trivialize it. That depends on the users. But I would say that the acceleration of messaging can also make the content superficial. YOu will take a lot more time to compose a letter on paper with pencil and post it in the mail. Sometimes more communication means less meaning.
RdStAs2010__Guest_: My generation not only necessarily receives undergraduate education, but in many circumstances seeks out graduate and even post-graduate education in order to perform its best. How can a generation that receives so much more education that our predessors seriously be considered stupid? Is the premise of that conclusion simply based on spell check and google? That is so unfair.
Mark_Bauerlein: It's an odd phenomenon, RdStAs2010. Young people have more schooling than ever before. We've got 17 million kids in college now, and the numbers will continue to rise (especially the girls). But we don't see any improvements in
Mark_Bauerlein: ---historical knowledge
Mark_Bauerlein: ---civic awareness
Mark_Bauerlein: ---reading scores
Mark_Bauerlein: ---international competitiveness
Mark_Bauerlein: ---social networking
Mark_Bauerlein: ---instant messaging
Mark_Bauerlein: ---cell phone minutes
Bigkat__Guest_: With the ever-growing effects of technology with regards to business, do you give any merit to the general technological aptitude of the "dumbest generation" compared with that of previous generations who are clearly less technologically savvy?
Mark_Bauerlein: Sorry, Bigkat, but the idea of young people being technologically savvy is largely a myth. There are studies by EDUCAUSE and Educational Testing Service that ask kids to handle research problems online, and the kids perform poorly. Yeah, they can manage an iPod, but do a web search on an academic subject, and they come up short.
BostonPub__Guest_: Mark, I'm curious to see how it follows that children are to blame for their failings, and not the older generation that is supposed to set standards ? don't you perceive in that lack of cultural standards the result of worshipping postmodern thinkers?
Mark_Bauerlein: You betcha, which is why there's a chapter called "The Betrayal of the Mentors" in the book. Too many teachers lost faith in the importance of learning, and they passed the attitude on to the kids. If they are the Dumbest Generation, yeah, it's our fault. (I"m 49.)
Vin__Guest_: I just wanted to say I am very disappointed with this new generation of kids i have traveled all over Europe and the conversations you can have with 17 year olds is amazing talking about economics politics and etc.. it seems like a time warp these kids in Europe are like what America use to be in the 1940?s want to be better in mind and wealth and support family. If you even watch these reality shows all about me me me and MTV having reality shows that glorify yelling at your parents calling them stupid I married a European lady and we have decided to raise them up in Europe and they will come here for university. Its just so sad that we are going backwards instead of forwards.
Mark_Bauerlein: Check out international comparisons, and we look pretty bad. On the National Geographic Geographic Literacy Survey, American youth came in next to last (Mexico was worse).
DumbIdiot__Guest_: Were you always an a--hole? Do you always make blanket statements about entire groups of people? I know more than my fair share of people whom are only interested in Nascar, beer and American Idol, and they are most definitely not of my generation.
Mark_Bauerlein: Only blanket statements backed up by mounds of evidence.
artie__Guest_: Do you think this dumb generation is beyond redemption?
Mark_Bauerlein: What will happen to youth is this: they will leave the soft zones of school and social life and hit the US workplace, which is a hard and unforgiving world. YOu can ask for an extension on a term paper, but try that at work and you'll soon be gone. So, during their 20s, young people learn the rigors of work and competence and responsibility. By age 30, they compete with anyone anywhere. But while their workplace habits improve, they have missed the opportunity to learn about history and fine art and civic life and literature and philosophy. Those things only happen in high school and college. Nobody is going to pick up Paradise Lost at age 30. You need a class and a teacher to take it in. It's too late.
Magoo20022: Do you have links to data that supports your claim that there is a direct link between remedial classes and video games?
Mark_Bauerlein: Email me directly and I'll pass along surveys, reports, etc.
Mockturtle__Guest_: Now, I find all of your pionts interesting and mostly true, with the exception of point four, but my thoughts when reading this is that 1) have the standerds that you are judging this upon still the same or have they changed? Mean can we validly judge this generations knowlegde and skills with the past ones still? 2) Do you think this is really all members of the current generation?
Mark_Bauerlein: We've got a small population of kids who are brilliant, accomplished, inquisitive, and ambitious, no doubt. But the group is too small, and a healthy democracy doesn't work that way. We need a critical mass of informed, learned citizens who revere their inheritance and guard their prerogatives, not just an elite.
Mark_Bauerlein: As for evolving skills and knowledges, you make a good point. Those things are changing, but maybe not as fast as people think. Remember the talk in the late-90s about the "paperless office"--that is, that everything was going online and digital. Well, we have more paper than ever before.
saynotodumb__Guest_: I agree with everything in your book and just wanted to say thanks for writing it! maybe people will think about what you are trying to tell them!
saynotodumb__Guest_: just wanted to share! have a great day
Mark_Bauerlein: Again, thanks!
ed__Guest_: If reading Henry James had the utility that, for example, reading a textbook on finance had, would you agree that people would read James?
Mark_Bauerlein: Probably. Unfortunately, some of the smartest kids are mercenary about their education. If they don't see a payoff, they ignore it. Why work in a basic history course if you're shooting for an MBA. It's a shame, and many of them, when asked in their 30s what they regret about college, they say they wish they had taken more art history, film history, literature, and classics.
Demosthenes__Guest_: Do you have any idea how many times I, a 23 year old "Millenial", have had to instruct members of your generation at the simplest of computer-related tasks?
Mark_Bauerlein: No doubt, Demosthenes. But what about when we get beyond the "simplest of computer-related tasks," such as composing an argument, writing an effective paragraph, compiling a narrative, researching a concept . . .?
Demosthenes__Guest_: Apologies for the rhetorical nature of the previous question, but I do not think you have been fair in your amount of criticism of this generation versus the amount for others. Do not forget that it is this ?dumbest? generation which will have to bail the ?greediest? (baby-boomer) generation out of massive debts to foreign agents, failed foreign policies, and now this current credit-card-orgy-fueled recession you have put us in.
Mark_Bauerlein: Agreed, we have a lot to answer for.
Chris__Guest_: As a college student, I found the slideshow presented to be a bit unfair... I think the author should have been a bit more careful in using the word dumb. As a college student in the 21st century, I have more access to information, immediately, then students in the previous generation thanks to advancements in techonology: YouTube, Wikipedia, etc... The immediacy of info is something that I, a college student, crave. I thrive off of it. I understand and appreciate your concern that young people today do not embrace the old... but in today's society, does it really matter?
Mark_Bauerlein: Ah, Chris, your final question is the answer to your previous points. Does it really matter? Yes, does it really matter to you what happened in the Cold War? Does it matter what Thoreau said in Walden? Should you care about Hamlet's ruminations on the meaning of life?
Mark_Bauerlein: These things don't come through fast and immediate web browsing.
Yakov__Guest_: I think you need to mention all the C-level execs who pass the buck allday on their blackberries before coming down on the new generation...
Mark_Bauerlein: Maybe so. Incompetence is everywhere. Here is the thing about the young today: at no time in history has access to knowledge been so widespread. We have more libraries than ever before, more museums, more colleges, more historic sites, the History Channel, Wikipedia, C-SPAN, the Globe and Wall Street Journal and London Times all through a double-click. And yet, the illumination hasn't happened. This is a fortunate time to be knowledgeable, and the Knowledge Economy tells young people to read and write and learn. But they haven't responded.
Proof355__Guest_: That is the dumbest thing I have ever read. Way to generalize and stereotype an entire group of people, many of whom do not fall under the aforementioned categories. So what I can't spell? I write damn good papers, have coherent thoughts, and use the internet as a resource, not a storage bin. The person who wrote this article clearly is jealous of the vast array of media and information available to teens via the internet. Yes, this generation is different. Why is that such a shock? Every generation is different. If that is such a mind-blowing fact, I fear the dumb generation is the one the writer belongs to.
Mark_Bauerlein: In fact, Proof355, I sympathize with kids today because the advantages you mention often look to me to be a burden. Look at the anxiety kids suffer if they haven't checked for messages and comments and posts for six hours. What happens if they don't have a network or a blog or a personal page? They feel like the kid who didn't get picked on either team to play kickball. How many of them would love a break from all the input?
nandoif__Guest_: why do you think this is a dumb generation?
Mark_Bauerlein: They're just as intelligent, but with so many advantages (such as more spending money and just as much leisrue time), they haven't capitalized on them. You know how hard it would be to find a college English teacher who says that kids write better than they used to?
fonz__Guest_: it's difficult to say if it is the "dumbest" generation because it is the parents that spoil the kids. Recently a friend of mine was complaining that his 12 year old daughter's cell phone bill is running about $200 per month. I'm so glad to have discovered this chat so I can express how I feel of that situation. That parent is the dumbest, most ignorant, most irresponsible moronic fool that I have ever been acquainted. Unfortunately, that parent is probably the majority. So again, I'
Mark_Bauerlein: Agreed, fonz. Too many parents see technology as a way to avoid parenting.
Brokenbil__Guest_: Can't trust anyone under 30 or are us "old people" incapable of embracing the changes this younger generation have taken is stride?
Mark_Bauerlein: Sometimes change is good, sometimes bad. Favorite quote of mine, by a 19th-c. fellow: "Change, change, change. All this talk about change. Aren't things bad enough already?"
Moose__Guest_: Haven't you made the claim that other generations have made before you? They said the same thing about Generation X (dumb, don't know what they are doing, will lead us to oblivion), the baby boomers (hippies, slackers, drug addicts) and yet we seem to get smarter and more adept at every generation.
Mark_Bauerlein: Yes, and elders should continue to chastize the kids. This time it's different, though, because the juniors are able to wrap themselves up on a youth cocoon, delivered by digital tools, and ignore the voices of authority like never before.
bman__Guest_: But adults, by and large, aren't reading either. Isn't there an argument that kids' IMing each other is better communication and intellectual stimulation than their parents are getting watching TV?
Mark_Bauerlein: No doubt that television doesn't do much for knowledge or verbal skills. The with social networking is that it takes place in a youth idiom, one that doesn't push users toward better vocabulary, stronger syntax, witty style, complex ideas . . . It keeps them at the same teen level for many years beyond adolescence.
Brokenbil__Guest_: Wow, Not_so_much, I think you just proved Mr. Bauerlein's point.
Gomda__Guest_: Do you think using a slide ruler makes one more intelligent than one with the ability to use computers?
Chris__Guest_: Are you saying that we, young people, do not have a respect for the old? What kind of relationship do we have with literature, history and cultural studies? What relationship do you want us to have?
Mark_Bauerlein: The best relation is a critical one--informed by analytical, reverential but not unquestioning. And that means that you need to learn a lot before you make judgments, and once you have gained some erudition, be independent and critical about what you encounter. What we have now is a "so what?" attitude. 15-year-olds just don't see the relevance of the Communist Manifesto or Antietam or Tet or the Reformation to their lives. If it doesn't impact them immediately, they don't care.
gosox08__Guest_: So Mark, you don't think that in an increasingly globalizing economy, this generations obsession with technology is not going to benefit from the skills they pick up?
Mark_Bauerlein: I don't think that globalization requires greater technological know-how, at least not in the formative years. Globalization requires more understanding of history, religion, languages, geography, finance and trade, and geopolitics, and the backgrounds for those can be acquired without ever turning on a screen.
CM70__Guest_: From your observations, do grade school children today spend less of their free time outside, socializing with one another, playing sports, etc.? And if so, what are the future implications of having a generation which has been completely socially dependent on remote mediums such as MySpace and Facebook?
Mark_Bauerlein: More and more time is spend in front of a screen, to be sure, and I don't know what the impact will be. In fact, nobody knows what the impact will be because the technology moves so fast that you can't design research around it. By the time you design a study, get funding, organize the research, and collect the results, the technology you wanted to study has changed or become obsolete.
Charlie_BA__Guest_: Mark, Are we as educators primarily responsible for creating this problem?
Mark_Bauerlein: We are a big part of the problem, and every time we let the students slide for being ignorant, for not reading, doing homework, writing well . . . we pass along the message that it doesn't matter.
mrb__Guest_: I am curious as to how you are defining dumb? Is it defined as a lack of voluntary reading?
Mark_Bauerlein: Dumb only in the sense of not making use of all the extraordinary opportunities, prosperity, schooling, culture, and, yes, technology, to become more learned, eloquent, and informed than previous generations.
lisak__Guest_: Just wanted to comment: I agree with you. As a mother of a 16 year old I understand the points you are making.
Mark_Bauerlein: Make your child spend an hour a day reading, and you may see a big change in a year.
Moose__Guest_: So reading for fun is an indication of intelligence?
Mark_Bauerlein: It's an indication of intellectual curiosity, and it's also one of the best indicators of academic achievement. A high predictor of academic success for a child is the amount and quality of reading material in the home.
Paul_Revere__Guest_: Do yopu think that problem is mainly technology, or simply the lowering of academic standard?
Mark_Bauerlein: Both, and they have conspired together in powerful ways. Just take a look at how much money has been spent on digitalizing classrooms, and look at reports of how many of them haven't produced any improvements in academic achievement.
GRINDELWELD__Guest_: Have you ever seen the Woodstock movie? Take a gander and its clear who the dumbest generation was
Mark_Bauerlein: Hard to argue with that, Grindelweld. What were those people thinking?
Moose__Guest_: Do you have the statistics on what kids have to read in high school and college now? Or are you selectively picking stats?
Mark_Bauerlein: Those things are hard to gather, Moose, because curricula vary so much from school district to school district. But one thing we can see is how well 4th Graders do in reading and how poorly 12th Graders do. Something happens during middle school to turn a lot of them off the printed page. We need more studies of readings they love and hate.
Paul_Revere__Guest_: And when did someone tell these kids that is was acceptable to prounounce the "t" in the word "often". that makes me crazy and makes the speaker sound ignorant.
Mark_Bauerlein: What irks me is the "-in" pronunciation for "-ing" as in "goin," "doin," . . .
Evan__Guest_: Mark I'd argue that the Baby Boomer generation has wasted more and has shown the poorest stewardship of any generation...what generation is going to be paying for your Social Security, Medicare and Rx Drug Coverage? That fact the average baby boomer feels entitled to retirement while still in their 50's due to social porgrams the society can't afford isn't the fault of Video Games and Facebook...
Mark_Bauerlein: I think the Boomers' and their kids were terrible stewards of culture in general.
Linkz1__Guest_: I think you do have a point in regards to the attitude of this generation. I'm 22, and where I grew up I witnessed a number of people who seemed to have a sense of entitlement. I've been working since the age of 15 and am currently employed full time with an insurance company and I'm glad that my parents instilled a work ethic into my mind. It's depressing when I see people my age complain about working when they still live at home and don't have to pay numerous bills (I live on my own and have been for the last 2 years). Do you think that parents are partly to blame for this problem with work ethic?
SJ__Guest_: I'm a teacher who returned to classroom after 30 years in journalism and communications. I was astonished to see the reliance on calculators in math class, and on math tests. Also so many of these students will be deaf with their ipods blasting constantly in their ears. Finally the way they talk to elders is shocking. The few who show any respect really stand out. It's been scarey seeing who will be running the world in 20 years. I think it all starts with the parenting they get or dont get. Agree?
Moose__Guest_: Why don't you rename your book; Hey you kids! GET OFF MY LAWN!
Mark_Bauerlein: My lawn is always open.
Bibliomancer__Guest_: What should schools do to address the problem? Should they adapt the curriculum to the students, or try to adapt the students to the curriculum?
Mark_Bauerlein: Always begin by giving the established curriculum authority. We should respect the past, and hesitate to change it just because things in the larger society ohave changed. Sometimes, the campus should stand as a bulward against social and cultural changes, which often come and go, and appear in retrospect, to be mistakes.
Dumb_One__Guest_: Mark, if this is indeed the dumbest generation, isn't that the fault of our generations? Today's youth didn't invent all the high-tech toys and distractions. They are a product of their environment and that environment was created by their parents, and our leaders, and the corporations that put this crap out there.
Mark_Bauerlein: We've got entrepreneurs making millions off of the worst habits of the DUmbest Generation. We've got software firms making millions off of digitalizing libraries and classrooms. This is a big industry with big incentives and lots of pull.
m__Guest_: how do you justify your statement when that kids today do not read... when the previous one day entertainment sales record holder was JK Rowlings latest Harry Potter book?
Mark_Bauerlein: Harry Potter is an extraordinary phenomenon. But it's more a social thing than a reading thing. Unfortunately, many kids read Harry Potter not because they love reading but because other kids read it. If they don't read Harry Potter, they get left out of schoolyard conversations. Harry Potter will only be a reading phenomenon if the kids start reading other books, too. But that hasn't happened. Take Harry Potter out of the mix, and juvenile book sales look weak.
Moose__Guest_: Mr. Bauerlein, couldn't part of the reason youth statistics are down because every generation calls them stupid and acts like they need to be shielded instead of incorporated?
Mark_Bauerlein: Perhaps. But from what I can see there is a lot more indulgence of youth than their is criticism of youth. Elders used to me a lot more judgmental than they are today.
fiji592003__Guest_: Mark, I agree with your thinking to a point. My belief are shows like the Real World are way worse for the younger generation then video games and online chatting. The Real world showcases an unrealistic view of how life is. There should a reallity show specifically for high schools that channel kids in their 20's. Do you think that would help?
Mark_Bauerlein: Yes, and the knowledge shows, too, such as Smarter than a 5th Grader, have done some good.
Brokenbil__Guest_: Is it fair to say that older generations are contributing to the younger generation's laziness by creating so many digital distractions for them?
4theLulz__Guest_: Hello Professor Bauerlein. I saw a statistic recently that cited the United States as having the worst public school systems of any developed nation. Do you see this lending to your conclusions?
Mark_Bauerlein: Our schools are doing pretty poorly, in spite of the enormous effort by teachers. One thing we need to remember is what teachers are up against. If you're an English teacher, you have about 4 contact hours a week with kids, and you can expect, perhaps, an hour of homework. Compare that to the leisure hours they have--about 40 hours--and if they do things in leisure time that don't complement English class, your efforts with them will have little effect.
bman__Guest_: What about the relationship with class (money)? A kid's gotta have some financial resources to be using computers and cell phones.
Mark_Bauerlein: Yes, but costs are going down, and schools and libraries have free services. And television is pretty much universal.
A_Dingo_Ate_My_baby__Guest_: Hello Mark. My feelings is this generation is too reliant on technology and therefore the computers do most of the thinking for them. Perhaps "lazy" more than "dumb" but guess it all boils down to semantics. Why the need to learn, study and retain when you can Google or Wikpedia and ge t instant results? Also this is the plug in, tune out generation. Rather than hang out together, they text message or email. Case in point; a group of 5 teens walking together on the way to school and each kid was on a cell phone talking to someone else and not each other. Today the internet provides resumes, false diplomas, etc. But the BS (not a degree) will only get them so far. Agreed?
Mark_Bauerlein: Good point.
Alex__Guest_: It's ironic that while you claim that the internet and electronic age is a crutch for todays youth yet we are conversing through the internet, using it as a medium to promote your book. I think that awareness of the population's stupidity is heightened because we have so much more access than ever to viral video, myspace, facebook and other pop-media but this doesn't mean that the generation is less intelligent, or less capable than generations before.
Mark_Bauerlein: Yes, the Internet does allow for intelligence, and it contains great art, brilliant literature, documents, history, laws, news, etc. But that's not where most kids go and what most kids do. When Nielsen compiled ratings for most popular web sites for teenagers, nine of the top ten sites were for social networking.
fiji592003__Guest_: I'm 27 and I feel you are right about reading. Most of my friends that do read books do it to pass time because of their hour commute to work everyday. My issue with your point is we do read a lot of articles online from many different avenues (Fox, CNN, Forbes, ESPN). The point is where's your data to showcase that.?
Mark_Bauerlein: If only more teens and 20-somethings read magazines and newspapers online, they wouldn't display so much ignorance of current affairs. But you can check Pew Research for news consumption habits online by youths. It's not pretty.
Larry_Boufont__Guest_: Do you feel that this dumb generation is merely a biproduct of a dumb generation?
Mark_Bauerlein: No, it's a product of a relativistic generation that lost faith in cultural authorities, combined with technology that connects them with one another 24/7.
Zesty__Guest_: Speaking of sticking, how does this "under 30" generation view jobs. In other words, do they stick out tough times at work, or look for new jobs more quickly than previous generations?
Mark_Bauerlein: During their twenties, they drift from job to job until they finally settle down in their thirties. Check out a TIme Mag story on the Twixters by Lev Grossman.
CM70__Guest_: It seems to me that my generation should be the smartest. We are now more globally connected than at any other time in human history. One would think that the recent developments in informaion exchange would lend this generation to be one of the greatest. However, as we have seen, while they (20 something's) are more connected , in reality they seem to be more socially disconnected than any other generation. Is this because they opt to spend more time in front of the internet and social websites rather than engage in actual social networking? Is this the very thing which makes us dumber?
Joeya__Guest_: Hello, just an example, I have a 14 year old niece who already is complaining about having a painic attacks
Mark_Bauerlein: Some kids start worrying about the college admissions process in 9th Grade. It's crazy.
pixelchaser__Guest_: Mark, I'm turning 40 this Monday and I see myself having an "belonging" crisis, my words. I want to be hip like my 20 year old co workers, but I feel I identify with my elders. Does your book talk about family and the lack of mentorship/advice? Seems to be a breakdown generation to generation to me.
Mark_Bauerlein: Well, pixelchaser, you have to embrace your aged-ness. They look at you as having crossed a great divide, and I suggest you go with it. My students look at me sometimes as if I'm a foreign body--especially when I told them I went 10 years without a TV--but we have a good laugh about it.
27_and_great_speller__Guest_: Mark - forgive me for not having had the chance to read your book yet. I'm curious more about if, and where, you place the blame for the phenomenon you describe?
Mark_Bauerlein: The book hits the stores tomorrow, 27, and it lays out the ingredients: technology overly-embraced by the kids, humanities teachers who lost conviction about their material, parents who use the screen as a baby-sitter . . .
Brokenbil__Guest_: What recommendations do you make to reverse these trends?
Mark_Bauerlein: One hour a day of family reading time. That includes the parents. No connection with anything but a book, magazine, newspaper.
Dave_Bowman__Guest_: What about the argument that young people are technologically savier than older generations?
Mark_Bauerlein: Savvier about entertainment tooks, yes, but not savvier about using technology to learn about history, civics, art, . . .
teacher8thgrade__Guest_: In the Globe's poll about the reasons for this generation's weaknesses, I voted for the "enabling" being done by parents and teachers as the top root cause. Why is my generation afraid to hold kids to a higher standard?
Mark_Bauerlein: The youth culture of the sixties made being old a suspect condition. Remember the slogan, "Don't trust anyone over 30"? Well, the last thing these folks want to be is cranky, curmudgeonly, dinosaur-like, obsolete.
SJ__Guest_: I ask my classes what's more important to them...learning or getting an "A." Roughly 90 percent say it's the "A" that matters most. I think the love of learning has gone out of the schools. Do you think paying teachers more and greater respect for their work would help?
Mark_Bauerlein: Yes, more pay would help, but it sure is hard to change the student attitude.
Dan__Guest_: I like Bowie's comment...The children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultation. They are quite aware of what they're going through.
Mark_Bauerlein: No, they're not quite aware of it. Only later on, when it's too late, do they realize how much time and effort they wasted.
flaneur__Guest_: Does your study account for extracurricular literacies such as blogging, creating music and visual arts? Could it be that certain skills have been rendered (almost) moot and at the least atrophied, but other skills are emerging?
Mark_Bauerlein: Those other skills get them lots of credit in the youth zones, but they sure don't help when it comes time to apply for law school or write that job application letter.
daman__Guest_: Did anyone know where technology was going 10, 20, 50, 100, 1000 years ago?
Zesty__Guest_: The dependence on digital information for "pass along value" and not retention seems similar to the shift from farms to depending on the grocery store for food. If the supply every has a breakdown, it can have serious consequences. I wonder how many people today can go untethered from cell phones and the internet for a week, much less a month.
Mark_Bauerlein: I think serious withdrawal symnptoms would set in.
CM70__Guest_: Why won't you answer my questions?
Mark_Bauerlein: Which ones?
Mark_Bauerlein: I'm out of time now, everybody, but I appreciated the sallies. I respond to emails, and if people want their questions answered, they can contact me directly.