Part II of this short series is an example of starting a project with one hypothesis and ending with a radically different one.
Let's begin with how Mark Bauerline claims he reached his conclusions in The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Don't Trust Anyone under 30). The book is full of reports from government agencies, foundations, survey firms, and scholarly institutions. Working independently of each other they generally reach the same conclusions, so Bauerline argues. Maybe so, but the author never really links these studies to the age of technology.
The following assertions in the introduction were what piqued my interest.
"We have entered the Information Age, traveled the Information Superhighway, spawned a Knowledge Economy, undergone the Digital Revolution, converted manual workers into knowledge workers, and promoted a Creative Class, and we anticipate a Conceptual Age to be.
Yet, young Americans "don't know any more history (than their predecessors), or civics, economics or science, literature or current events. They read less on their own, both books and newspapers, and you would have to canvass a lot of college English instructors and employers before you found one who said they compose better paragraphs."
Pretty heady stuff. I thought I'd lost my mind after scanning all those damn statistics and studies. And so badly written by anyone's standards, especially by an English professor. I'm not the best writer in the world and I make my fair share of mistakes, but Lordy, I wonder how his students survive. Emory University isn't exactly your community college.
After sweating and suffering through hours of tedium, I used technology to find book reviews to make sure I wasn't going totally batty. Only one of the four I read--The Los Angeles Times—failed to see what Bauerline didn't do: actually connect technology to the dumbing down of young Americans. Like the author, I'm sure others decry the vast wasteland of social sites such as Facebook, but that doesn't mean all the youngsters who use it have noodles for brains. I'll even confess to using it. What better way to keep up with my red-headed daughters—one in California and one in Boulder? And they're pretty damn bright.
Bauerline seems to have a major case of burn-out. He appears to be angry and very bitter. Maybe he should find another line of work because our youngsters just ain't that bad.
Bottom line: don't rush out and buy this book.