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The Dumbest Generation

Explanation and review of "The Dumbest Generation" by Mark Bauerlein

James Rigney

on 7 March 2011

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Transcript of The Dumbest Generation

The Dumbest Generation,
Is Google Making Us Stupid,
and can we do anything about it? Full ownership [of a book] comes only when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it is by writing in it. An illustration may make the point clear. You buy a beefsteak and transfer it from the butcher's icebox to your own. But you do not own the beefsteak in the most important sense until you consume it and get it into your bloodstream. I am arguing that books, too, must be absorbed in your blood stream to do you any good.
Mortimer J. Adler, Ph.D.
<http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/adler.html> Really, don't we all know by now that finding examples of teens' and twentysomethings' ignorance is like shooting fish in a barrel? If you want to exercise your eye-rolling or hand-wringing muscles, take your pick. Two thirds of high-school seniors in 2006 couldn't explain an old photo of a sign over a theater door reading COLORED ENTRANCE. In 2001, 52 percent identified Germany, Japan or Italy, not the Soviet Union, as America's World War II ally. One quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds in a 2004 survey drew a blank on Dick Cheney, and 28 percent didn't know William Rehnquist. The world's most heavily defended border? Mexico's with the United States, according to 30 percent of the same age group. We doubt that the 30 percent were boastful or delusional Minutemen.
<http://www.newsweek.com/2008/05/24/the-dumbest-generation-don-t-be-dumb.html> "The jury is still out on whether these technologies are positive or negative" for cognition, says Ken Kosik of the University of California, Santa Barbara, codirector of the Neuroscience Research Institute there. "But they're definitely changing how people's brains process information."
<http://www.newsweek.com/2008/05/24/the-dumbest-generation-don-t-be-dumb.html> Scientists at UCLA led by Russell Poldrack scanned the brains of adults ages 18 to 45 while they learned to interpret symbols on flashcards either in silence or while also counting high-pitched beeps they heard. The volunteers learned to interpret the cards even with the distracting beeps, but when they were asked about the cards afterward, the multitaskers did worse. "Multitasking adversely affects how you learn," Poldrack said at the time. "Even if you learn while multitasking, that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily."
Newsweek Difficult tasks, such as learning calculus or reading "War and Peace," will be particularly adversely affected by multitasking, says psychologist David Meyer of the University of Michigan: "When the tasks are at all challenging, there is a big drop in performance with multitasking. What kids are doing is learning to be skillful at a superficial level."
Newsweek Whether or not our kids are the "Dumbest Generation," we, as educators, still have to teach, reach, and mature them. What is reading now? The knowledge gap
"encapsulated entertainment" How students might read FCAT (and whatever comes next) on a computer It's a risk. "The ancestors of oysters and barnacles had heads. Snakes have lost their limbs and ostriches and penguins their power of flight. Man may just as easily lose his intelligence," warned J. B. S. Haldane in 1928. [...]

I am more worried by people growing up unable to tie a bowline, sharpen a hunting knife, or rebuild a carburetor than I am by people who don't read books. Perhaps books will end up back where they started, locked away in monasteries (or the depths of Google) and read by a select few.
Futurist George Dyson responding to "Is Google..." The flood that is drowning us is, of course, the flood of information, a metaphor so trite that we have ceased to question it. If the metaphor was new we might ask, where exactly is this flood coming from? Is it a consequence of advances in communication technology? The power of media companies? Is it generated by our recently developed weakness for information snacks? All of these trends are real, but I believe they are not the cause. They are the symptoms of our predicament. [...]

We evolved in a world where our survival depended on an intimate knowledge of our surroundings. This is still true, but our surroundings have grown. We are now trying to comprehend the global village with minds that were designed to handle a patch of savanna and a close circle of friends. Our problem is not so much that we are stupider, but rather that the world is demanding that we become smarter. Forced to be broad, we sacrifice depth. We skim, we summarize, we skip the fine print and, all too often, we miss the fine point. We know we are drowning, but we do what we can to stay afloat.
W. Daniel Hillis , Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Applied Minds, responding to "Is Google..." A Metaphor:
Brain = Stomach http://www.dumbestgeneration.com/media.html What does our students' media diet look like? An 18 year-old who attended school full-time with no absences will have only spent about 9 percent of their life in formal schooling. "Consider what this means [...] if much of what goes on during the other 91 percent is at cross purposes to the values and lessons of school." (37) In 1982, almost 60 percent of 8-24 year olds were literary readers.
In 2002, the number was just below 43 percent -- a 28 percent drop. "literary reader" in this case meant the read a single poem, play, short story, or novel in the last 12 months outside of work or school. The Numbers The average 15- to 24-year-old spends about 8 minutes a day reading. American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of labor Statistics. National Endowment for the Arts

This despite more than five hours of free time, in which they logged more than two hours of TV. According to the NAEP, the "nation's report card," the more kids read out of school and in school, the higher their test scores with those who "read for fun almost every day" scoring highest. NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress... Concurrent with the above findings from 2004, "the percentage of 17-year-olds who ' Never or hardly ever' read more than doubled from 1984 to 2004. "Fully 45 percent of the students just don't think leisure reading is important." (53) Consequences of "aliteracy and anti-intellectualism" in high school: More than 90% of incoming college freshmen pledge to finish "no matter what obstacles get in my way."
More than 85 percent intended to "make the effort and sacrifice that will be needed" to attain their goals. Less than half of entering college students graduate within five years. National Freshman Attitudes Report Only half of ACT test-takers met the college-ready benchmark in reading, and only 21 percent in all subjects. Manufacturing employers ranked "poor reading/writing skills" the number two deficiency among current employees. More than a third of employers said that high school produces workers with inadequate "reading and comprehnsion" skills. National Association of Manufacturers Twenty percent of college freshmen must take remedial courses in reading. Community colleges spend 1.4$ billion a year on this remediation. "Because too many students are not learning the basic skills needed to suceed in college or work while they are in high school, the nation loses more than 3.7 billion a year." National Center for Education Statistics Alliance for Excellent Education So, what are they doing oustide of school? Watch TV


Play video games

Watch DVD/videos

Read book

Read magazine

Watch prerecorded TV 3:04 hours

48 minutes

32 Minutes

32 minutes

23 Minutes

14 Minutes

14 Minutes
Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds The total amount of leisure time kids spend with media is the equivilent of a full-time job. (77) More than half of teens have a portable videogame player they take with them, and 65 percent carry a portable music player. Fun Fact:
One study found that almost a third of K-3 students have their own email accounts. Takeaway: Just like a food diet, students have a media diet. They have oppurtunity cost: consuming one form of media means they cannot consume another form. Remember me? With new media tools comes new media tastes. = More is not always better "But the kids are learning New Literacies" Stop me if you've heard this one: "But I'm a great multitasker." Fun Fact:
Less than 1 percent of google searches ever extend to the second page of results. (114) Fun Fact:
Nine out of the ten top sites for 12- to 17-year-olds were social networking sites. (135) "[Y]ouths who watched 3 or more hours of television per day were at elevated risk for subsequent attention deficit problems and were the least likely to recieve postsecondary education." Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine Screen-time replaces reading time, playing time, thinking time. For most rising users, screen time doesn't graduate them into higher knowledge/skill states. It super powers their social impulses, but it blocks intellectual gains. (139) With poor results in evidence, we should reassess the novel literacies hailed by techno-cheerleaders and their academic backers, compare them to old ones in terms of their effects, and determine whether the abilities aquired in game spaces and Read/Write Web sites transfer to academic and workplace requirements. (139 cont.) "In their minds, aliteracy and anti-intellectualism pose no career obstacles, and they have no shame attached." (53) Using eyetrackers to analyze how web users 'read' pages, Nielson Norman, a web consulting firm found: "Screen reading differes greatly from book reading. Only 16 percent of the subjects read text on various pages linearly." (143) The consulting document was titled, "How Users Read on the Web." The first sentence read, "They don't, they scan." (143) A 2006 study of web reading found users use an F-shaped pattern when they 'read' text on the web. "F is for fast [...] That's how users read your precious content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speed across your your website's words" in a pattern that resembles the capital letter 'F.' "The most common behavior is to hunt for information and be ruthless in ignoring details." (144) An irony:
Lower litracy readers, because of smaller vocabularies, cannot skim effectively. They read word for word. But when the reading gets at all tough, they give up all together. Teenagers, regardless of literacy level "have a short attention span and want to be stimulated." (147) "Teenagers don't like to read a lot on the Web. They get enough of that at school," according to Nielson. Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, told a panel of digital enthusiests, "I'm skeptical that any of this [incorporating digital technology and social networking in education] has anything to do with learning. It sounds a lot like encapsulated entertainment.... This is all, for me, for high school students sounds like a gigantic waste of time. If I was competing with the United States, I would love to have the students I'm competing with spending their time on this kind of crap." New Literacies The effects of screen media: The Generation M study: "Media use begets media use" and the new media connections are assimilated by teens, and they add new ones without dropping old ones -- except for 'old' media, like books. "Individuals who've grown up surrounded by technology develop different hard-wiring, their minds adapted to information and entertainment practices and speeds that minds maturing in pre-digital habitats can barely comprehend. much less assimilate" (84) Prof. David Williamson Shaffer, Game Scientist at the U. of Wisconsin:
The invention of computers ranks with the development of language in advancements of human intelligence. "Consider that analogy: the caveman stands to the average 1950's person as the average 1950's person stands to us." (85) So how does this rising generation reflect these fundemental changes in media use, from page to screen? http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html James Rigney and The Dumbest Generation Pasco High School
December 17, 2010 "Sometimes Sesame Street even falls into the familiar television subtext that TV is fun and exciting, while the life of the mind is boring and stuffy. Teachers, professors, and scientists in cartoon segments invariably speak in dreary, pretentious accents, often putting their audiences to sleeplike Annie Eyeball Ph.D., who lectures stiffly on the virtues of breathing." http://www.city-journal.org/html/5_4_on_sesame_street.html But wasn't all of this increased computer use and social networking supposed to make Johnny smarter? Take away: Bauerlein says: Some commentators speak of a Sesame Street effect. "[I]f learning isn't fun, it isn't any good." (106) = Comments, solutions, dire predictions: Please add your own Just click and start typing. Don't forget to save!
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