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Old 07-07-2008, 10:55 AM   #1
Barry Cooper
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Dumbest Generation

I found this little book summary interesting. Have not read the book. The link is work and family safe: http://www.latimes.com/features/book...,3980465.story

Interesting quotes:

"This ceaseless pipeline of peer-to-peer activity [of Facebook and MySpace] is worrisome, he argues, not only because it crowds out the more serious stuff but also because it strengthens what he calls the "pull of immaturity." Instead of connecting them with parents, teachers and other adult figures, "[t]he web . . . encourages more horizontal modeling, more raillery and mimicry of people the same age." When Bauerlein tells an audience of college students, "You are six times more likely to know who the latest American Idol is than you are to know who the speaker of the U.S. House is," a voice in the crowd tells him: " 'American Idol' IS more important."

"Bauerlein also frets about the nature of the Internet itself, where people "seek out what they already hope to find, and they want it fast and free, with a minimum of effort." In entering a world where nobody ever has to stick with anything that bores or challenges them, "going online habituates them to juvenile mental habits.

"And all this feeds on itself. Increasingly disconnected from the "adult" world of tradition, culture, history, context and the ability to sit down for more than five minutes with a book, today's digital generation is becoming insulated in its own stultifying cocoon of bad spelling, civic illiteracy and endless postings that hopelessly confuse triviality with transcendence. Two-thirds of U.S. undergraduates now score above average on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, up 30% since 1982, he reports."

That last part I found particularly interesting. I'm completely sure you all will agree.
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Old 07-07-2008, 11:31 AM   #2
Brandon Oto
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Re: Dumbest Generation

The reviewer says everything I'd want to.

Quote:
But is he? The natural (and anticipated) response would indeed be to dismiss him as your archetypal cranky old professor who just can't understand why "kids these days" don't find Shakespeare as timeless as he always has. Such alarmism ignores the context and history he accuses the youth of lacking -- the fact that mass ignorance and apathy have always been widespread in anti-intellectual America, especially among the youth. Maybe something is different this time. But, of course. Something is different every time.
I'm going to get one of those flip-card counters. Atop I will post a sign, "Days since someone complained about the younger generation being different from them." I think two digits will be enough.
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Old 07-07-2008, 11:44 AM   #3
Casey Raiford
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Re: Dumbest Generation

It's very, very common in the military for people to look at new members and bemoan the sad state of the training pipeline and the junior personnel it produces these days. I've done it as much as anyone else. I did it after only a couple of years in the service, pointing at newer folks and saying how lazy, unmotivated and generally ineffectual they were.

Having been at it for a long time now, and especially after having been stationed at one of the big training facilites in my field, I came to realize something. Junior personnel in any one period aren't really that much better or worse than any other. They all do the same stupid things, ignore the same good advice and fail to take the same right things seriously. They're not of any lower caliber that my peers and I were at that point in our careers, though. We (my senior NCO peers and I) just don't give ourselves enough credit for being just as big a bunch of *******es way back then as they are now.
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Old 07-07-2008, 11:48 AM   #4
Barry Cooper
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Re: Dumbest Generation

There's a quote floating around, attributed to Socrates, about "kids nowadays". The intent, apparently, is to show that old men have complained about young men for time immemorial.

Yet, this take ignores the fact that the Athenians were conquered by the Spartans in the Peloponesian War, then by Alexander of Macedonia (who was taught by Aristotle that upon contemplation democracy wasn't so hot), then by the Romans.

Sometimes the quote is placed in the mouth of a Roman. Same outcome, different time scale, different conquerors.

In my own mind, the veracity of what he is saying is indicated by the fact that even the graduates of our best universities don't know most of these facts, or fail to put them into accurate historical contexts in the way liberal education was meant to enable to them to do.

By what means do the ignorant fathom their ignorance but by the acquisition of knowledge? And if they fail to perceive the need to know more than they do, and no one forces information on them, is this not a closed, downward spiralling loop?
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Old 07-07-2008, 12:28 PM   #5
Jimi Miller
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Re: Dumbest Generation

If anything, information is more prevalent than ever before, plus I feel kids today have a very healthy skepticism of the information that is given to them.
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Old 07-07-2008, 12:29 PM   #6
Brandon Oto
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Re: Dumbest Generation

And I think that the "downward spiralling [sic] loop" is an illusion produced by each generation applying its own standards for acceptable learning to the next generation, which has produced its own, different, but not inferior standards.

And there's not really any debate here, because it's such a descriptive phenomenon that if you want something normative, you'll have to invent it.

If you want to show that an uncouth younger generation was responsible for the fall of the Roman empire, I'm afraid you may have a real challenge.
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Old 07-07-2008, 12:46 PM   #7
Barry Cooper
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Re: Dumbest Generation

There are really two issues here. Casey is pointing out that old salts complain about the stupidity of the young kids coming on board. What is self evident to them, because of their experience, will always be new to the uninitiated. This basic phenomenon will go on as long as craftsmanship of any sort is taught, and there are kids willing to do what it takes to learn them.

With respect to information, though, I will hazard two observations/guesses.

One, education has become much more democratic, in that more people are given a basic education now than were ever taught in generations past.

Two, that our elites know much less than comparable elites of 100 years ago. Your average Harvard graduate today likely doesn't approach possessing the sheer volume of information that characterized the bottom tier 100 years ago.

How many poems do they memorize? How many of the battles of the Civil War can they recount, and tell us who won and why? Can they recite the Gettysburg Address? Can they name the Presidents in order, and tell us the high and low points of their administrations? Do they know about the Napoleonic Wars, and the details of the French Revolution? How about the Cultural Revolution in China?

All of our founding fathers were in accord, in my understanding, that among the parts of knowledge most important to a self governing nation history was among the most important. Without history, you have no measuring stick, no basis of comparison.

And not just history, but history of the big events and people who shaped events. Nowadays, even basic history is woefully lacking, and when it is taught, it is quite often oriented around the people least important to the historical narrative, and thus least relevant to gleaning the lessons of the past.

Jefferson fought a war against the Barbary Pirates without asking for a declaration of war from Congress. Is this worth knowing? Maybe, depending on the conversation.

There are dozens if not hundreds of things like this that if we are to encounter them, we will only see in editorial pages from people who are doing their homework. Things that were commonly known 100 years ago, at least among the educated elite, are now not known by the elites or anyone else.

In this vacuum we are trying to run a nation wisely, and I can't see how we can remain stable t if we are comparing points of view without the third leg of historical context to guide us.

Additionally, he is pointing to the psychological ills of relentlessly self absorbed adolescents feeding upon the glow of what amounts to a mutual congratulation society all day and half the night for virtually the entirety of their formative years. If it's hard, and it doesn't make them money or get them attention, they don't want to do it.

Surely many of you have seen manifestations of this? No doubt I AM a cranky middle-aged man, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.
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Old 07-07-2008, 12:51 PM   #8
Barry Cooper
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Re: Dumbest Generation

Brandon,

What WOULD constitute inferior learning? Logically you would need to be able to differentiate equal but different and inferior and different.

I'm genuinely curious now. What criteria are you applying?

And do you want to disagree with the assessment that the cultural patterns of the Athenians led to their defeat at the hands of the Spartans? Can you contextualize that objection historically? Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems you would need to know that history to do so.

Would you like to argue that the Roman Empire did not decline and fall due to declining morals, expressed most notably by interminable and frequent civil wars, themselves indicative of the substitution of parochial interests for a primary concern for the welfare of the nation?
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Old 07-07-2008, 01:35 PM   #9
George Mounce
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Re: Dumbest Generation

With how capitalism works, does knowing the Civil War help you become a multimillionaire? I don't think so, but knowing Macromedia Flash can and does.

I'm not downplaying that information as useless, but it is not a requirement for a need to get ahead in this day and age. There is no reason to memorize when the information is readily available at your fingertips.

Is this right or wrong? I haven't decided. I think its great that people know history much, much better than I do. What interests me more is how the application of knowing such things works in today's society. (Not getting political in this next statement - just a thought process) Its blatantly obvious that knowing how many people died in the Civil War has no affect on how people view deaths in a war today. One today is one too many, when 22,720 in one day (September 17, 1862 - Antietam) was probably viewed quite differently back then.

Society as a whole has changed so the required information that one must have to succeed has changed. I find this completely natural. I wouldn't expect people in the year 3,000 to care much about the U.S. Civil War as there probably won't be a U.S. as we define it now around.
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Old 07-07-2008, 01:50 PM   #10
Jason Scheffler
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Re: Dumbest Generation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Oto View Post
I'm going to get one of those flip-card counters. Atop I will post a sign, "Days since someone complained about the younger generation being different from them." I think two digits will be enough.
Seriously? You think two digits would suffice? I would have thought a single digit would have sufficed. That's the problem with you young kids now a days. doh!
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