Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I enjoy reading and have read many books throughout school and just for fun. However, The Dumbest Generation, by Mark Bauerlein, was so far removed from fun that it made my skin crawl. Even though it was for a class, I have never disliked a book more. Mark Bauerlein is off his rocker and should be locked up for the serious stereotyping and downgrading he wrote inside the cover of this book. He threw all people, under 30, into one big bowl and said they should not be trusted because of this or that. On the cover, the words were there, “OR, DON’T TRUST ANYONE UNDER 30.” In other words, we are all the same. I don’t think everyone over 30 is the same or shouldn’t be trusted. Even though, there are the select few I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them. But, I don’t lump everyone inside the same category like Mr. Mark.
I am part of the “dumbest generation,” so maybe, I take this a bit more personally than say a thirty-two year old reading the book. I don’t know how the author decided to draw the line in the sand at age 30. There are people of every age that take technology a bit too far and forget about the books. Have you seen “The 40 Year Old Virgin?” Case in point, this movie is set in a Best Buy look alike store and the guy is surrounded by screens all day long, every day. I don’t believe he really picks a book, say Shakespeare, the whole movie. This guy is forty years old. It doesn’t matter how old a person is, they are capable of losing themselves in technology and forgetting about real life, books, or music.
Overall, I was severely disappointed in how the author went about discussing the matter. Yes, technology can become addictive and lead to poor writing, reading, and test scores. However, there are those 30 year old and younger members of society, who successfully contribute. There are those who read classics and correctly write. There are those who do well on tests.
I took from this book a lot of negatives. However, there is one positive. I realize that, as a teacher and parent, I have an enormous responsibility to the students in my classroom and my son. The children need to know how technology can take them places they may never see. It can provide many opportunities. It can provide new and innovate ways to learn and communicate. But, they also need to know about all the great books available to them. They need to know life doesn’t revolve around a computer, or any kind, of screen. They need to be able to communicate in person. As adults, teachers, and parents, we need to create a healthy balance between screens and real life. Our students and children are not going to create the balance themselves. It is like when children are learning to tie their shoes, they need someone to show them the correct path.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I found this book to be a very difficult read. It was tough to hear someone with such a negative view of younger people go on and on about how dumb they are. I can understand where the stereotype comes from, but it doesn not apply to everyone. The use of technology has and will continue to enhance our lives. What I have taken from this book is simply that we must all do our jobs in helping others to understand how to use technology productively. I hope that there are others out there who found this book more interesting than I did. It was a great day when I finished this book!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reflection on The Dumbest Generation

The book I chose to read for our literature study was The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein. To be candid, I did not enjoy reading this book at all. I feel the author has an extremely negative outlook on young people that are 30 and under. I believe he looks for negativity, and therefore finds it, in a "glass is half empty" point of view. However, like I heard Oprah say once, if an author can get you to feel this much emotion about their writing, even if it's negative, they must have done something right.

I am a parent of someone under the age of 20 and I believe that technology and the new digital culture is at an exciting place and that it is these young people that will take us into an exciting future! Like anything in life, there are exceptions to the rule and those that take shortcuts, but let's not forget those responsible young people that want to make the world a better place. Not everyone is being "dumbed down" and spending all of their time in social networking. The author stereotypes young people so much it is infuriating! The world has changed so much and we have got to keep up with it!

If there is one thing this book has done for me, it is to make me even more aware of the huge responsibility that we as parents and teachers have in teaching our kids and students how to be responsible technology users and responsible people and citizens. Parents and teachers must work together on this and we must also teach the concepts of the need for the balance between technology and the "old way" of doing things. I believe kids must be exposed to and taught at a very young age and have opportunities for trial and error when it comes to technology. I am amazed at what my high school aged daughter knows about technology and some of her school assignments she has to complete using the computer. However, I also want her to be able to function by reading a book and doing her own research, should the Internet go down! Thus the need for balance and teaching kids to be responsible people with the ability of using technology, or not, to better our world.

In summary, I'm sure I will think about this book as I continue to teach and seek new, interesting, and exciting ways to help my first and second grade students learn how to be responsible technology users, and to try and rid the stereotype of being "The Dumbest Generation" for their generation and beyond.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chapter 2: The New Bibliophobes

            In 2004, while Mark Bauerlein worked for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), he did an interview with NPR that centered on a discussion about the significant drop in leisure reading, especially among 18-24 year olds. The radio interview was one amid many different types of media interviews and reports that followed a NEA report entitled “Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America”.  Bauerlein reports that during the radio interview, he was “startled” by the reaction of the radio-listening audience. He summarizes after recalling the conversation he had with one high school student “she didn’t like to read, period, and she wanted to tell us that, throwing our assumption that every young person should read books right back in our faces”.  He states that this “new attitude” of flaunting “a-literacy (knowing how to read, but choosing not to)” and “anti-intellectualism” is peculiar to the millennial generation.  Bauerlein gives another example – this time a college panelist relates how his “dad is still into the whole book thing” and that he goes to the library only to retrieve course information, but never to check out leisure books. He has not realized that the Internet kind of took the place of that”.
            Among my students, I do see youth with both of these aforementioned attitudes. However, I also know youth that love to read. I have several students that choose to read their leisure books (checked out from the school library) during free time in class. Still, we don’t have computers in our classroom. Given a choice – would they choose the Internet over their book?
This also makes me think of the different attitudes of a niece and two nephews (in the same family). The oldest who is almost 18 years old loved to read Harry Potter books and also other books in that genre a couple of years ago. Now he spends less time reading, and more time on his smart phone texting. He reads well, but his writing is terrible and he wants to be an engineer! I wonder- does his texting (shorthand) have something to do with his writing skills? His brother is 16 and has always hated to read. He would rather spend all his time playing video games - mostly in the subject of shooting (hunting animals). Their sister, who is 14, loves to read books, especially in the popular romantic-vampire series. So here is an example of 'same family- different interests'.
Bauerlein goes on to describe numerous observations that suggest that events such as the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, are more about the social event than a reading trend. In other words, the mind-boggling sales of such books are a result of “special social meaning” or “youth identity”, rather than purely in the interest of reading because it was something they were interested in themselves.
Pages forty-five to sixty-three are mostly filled with information on surveys, statistics and reports with a somewhat common dismal conclusion – a staggering number of “students are not learning the basic skills needed to succeed in college or work while they are in high school”. They end up needing “remedial coursework and advising before they can even start college-level instruction” and this ends up costing tax payers a bundle. Then on page sixty-five the discussion switches to a different view – “a newfangled cognition and knowledge.” This opinion states that although they don’t read books “well, they read other things” and while they “don’t know any history” from books – “they know other kinds”. Some proponents of this generation point to a “quicker attention span”, and better ability to “multi-task”. Bauerlein however, is quick to point out though that many of these proponents are actually the “20-something” “practitioners themselves”. He gives an example where a young blogger says:
“What smart person would devote hours to learning words that can be accessed at the click of a button? Spell check can spell. Shift+F7 produces synonyms. What is wrong with relying on something that is perfectly reliable? (Andrukonis)”.
            My thought here is: Yes, but what about the countless times I have had students who fail to even remember to use Spell Check?
            The chapter concludes that after all the arguments about learning in the digital age, there is still the question: While students have so many more conveniences and quick information, available to them, why then are their reading scores, and science, culture and civic knowledge still suffering?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Cover Image

I chose this image because it reminds me of a quote in chapter 2 of the book “My dad is still into the whole book thing. He has not realized that the Internet kind of took the place of that”.  I liked this photo of a dad reading a favorite book to his teenage children because he is carrying on a family Christmas tradition. I think this is probably rare these days!