Sunday, October 31, 2010

Introduction & Chapter 1: Knowledge Deficits

Mark Bauerlein starts his book with an introduction of how hard students are pushed in high school to achieve perfection. But then goes on to show with surveys that very little time is used for homework on a daily basis. (pages 1-6) He states on page 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 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."
We start chapter 1 with a reminder of the "Jaywalkers" segments for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Mark Bauerlein goes on to say that high school students are not uninterested in world realities (history, literature, civics) but that they are "cut off from them." They are more involved with "friends, work, clothes, cars, pop music, sitcoms, Facebook." (page 13)
The middle of the chapter is devoted to surveys and statistics about what high school and college students know (or don't know) in history, civics, math, science, technology, and fine arts.
The next section discusses why students test scores have not increased in social studies over the last few generations. Students know no more now that the generation 50 years ago. (pages 26-30) Yet they have more resources such as libraries, museums, internet, and news broadcasts any where they go. (page 31)
In the last section of this chapter, the author does some comparing of leisure time vs. educational time and the impact the two have on each other.

A quote I kept coming back to is on page 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. . . . The 18-year-old may have a Visa card, cell phone, MySpace page, part-time job, PlayStation 2, and an admission letter from State U, but ask this wired and on-the-go high school senior a few intellectual questions and the facade of in-the-know-ness crumbles."
My question is, "WHY?"


  1. I think one reason for the paradox is because our students have SO MUCH at their fingertips. They have become lazy about finding information and they have no sense of investigation or triumph when they find the information. Plus, I think there is so much crappy information available to them that it is easy for them to settle for "good enough" instead of really work to find the answers to their questions. Remember searching though the Periodic Guide and reading all those articles (on microfiche)in order to piece a paper together? The bottom line is that our kids have become lazy in their thinking. If information doesn't magically appear before them and dance, it isn't worth finding.

  2. Nice job of summarizing this first chapter! This is a different type of reading and you have to wrap your mind around it to get started. I do agree that kids are exposed to much more technology today than they ever have. However, I think this then makes our students more accountable to use it and apply their knowledge. I thought the first comment was quite cynical about students being lazy. I like to look at the student who would use all of the updated technology and go above and beyond what is expected, just simply because they can and the technology makes it easy to do so. Yes, I remember all of the library days and going through microfiche, etc...I know this makes me sound old, but I would much rather continue with that then try to wrap my head around some of the new technology that is out there! The students today come into the classroom knowing so much more than I do. I am trying to stay on top of it and make sure my students continue to learn from me and not despite me. Even though the children I teach are first and second graders, I take responsibility in being a good model of someone who is using technology and continue to help then learn what is available to them.

  3. Jamie, awesome job summarizing the first section! Very impressive! I'm not going to lie, I was very offended by the beginning of the book. I am twenty four years old and fall right in the category of a "millennial." I DO know how to read. I DO know how to find relevant information. It may not be the way it has been done in the past, but it still works. When I was receiving my undergraduate degree, I wrote many research papers. I can tell you the clue for students researching today is teaching them proper ways to research and demonstrate the tools out there with relevant, reliable information. When writing papers, I used the databases available through the university's library. The articles, or research, I found was written by reliable sources and validated. Maybe the clue is in teaching/demonstrating for the students today how to use the database tools available to them. I had never heard of the databases until I reached college. So, is it the students' or teachers' faults for improper research papers? I also find, I have had so much pressure on right and wrong answers throughout my school career. I know history, civics, etc. However, ask me a question on the spot and I freak. I freak, not because I don't know the answer, but because of the pressure of right/wrong answers. As for "Jaywalking" proving whether the new generation knows facts, I can say I knew each one of the examples written in the book. I believe, teachers today have a responsibility to demonstrate different tools for students that will allow them to properly research and write a paper. It is also a teacher's responsibility to show students the "arts." Students are not going to access museums, concerts, or galleries at home. So, bring all of the above into the classroom.