The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, April 19, 11:08 p.m.

Op-Ed: Author argues that we are the dumbest generation in history

You are part of the dumbest generation. If you are reading this and are surprised by it, you are not alone — I was surprised, too.

According to a book by Mark Bauerlein, a professor at Emory University, titled “The Dumbest Generation,” the information age has corrupted our young minds to the point that general knowledge and literacy have plummeted to all-time lows.

I didn’t get this book for Christmas, nor did I stumble upon it at Borders. I was at the Student Recreation and Fitness Center, a place that should be far removed from heinous accusations like the ones made by Bauerlein. I was there to work out, not get an information injection detailing the shortcomings of my generation, but two older gentlemen, probably in their 50s or 60s, began discussing the subject next to me in the locker room.

Guys usually talk about chicks or fast cars in the locker room — you know, manly stuff. These gents, however, were more interested in striking up a rousing diatribe of the dumbest generation in the history of man and how accurately Bauerlein had hit the nail on the head.

According to the book, young people are more self-absorbed, ill-informed and illiterate than ever before. Social networking sites and instant messaging are the culprits since they have caused individuals to focus upon themselves and the “now,” causing disinterest and impatience in learning things that truly matter, like history, science and current affairs.

I was a little offended, to say the least. I like all the perks the digital age has bestowed upon us. I have Facebook and AOL Instant Messaging accounts, but by no means do they make me any less intelligent or aware.

Do you think past governments and news agencies could communicate with other nations as quickly as they can now with technology? Did past generations receive life-saving alerts as quickly as they are administered now? Thanks to Facebook, I can find out what my cousin is up to in Azerbaijan without having to waste precious dollars on an international phone call. Take that, anybody living before 1995.

When asked why he decided to write the book, Bauerlein said, “Because in my limited experience as a teacher, I’ve noticed in the last 10 years that students are no less intelligent, no less ambitious, but there are two big differences: Reading habits have slipped, along with general knowledge. You can quote me on this: You guys don’t know anything.”

As much as you don’t want to agree with him, he does have a point. A lot of young Americans are getting lazy about reading, relying on Wikipedia too much and learning the test instead of learning the material. We spend more time online than visiting with friends. We want things quick and easy — that is what the digital age has taught us. Knowledge, meaningful relationships and interest in community all fall by the wayside.

How do we combat pompous elitists like Mark Bauerlein? Well, for one, don’t stop using technology and the Internet. Just limit its use and spend more time studying, getting out there and getting ahead. Facebook and AIM will always be there and won’t miss you when you’re at the library. Plus, face-to-face conversations make you truly thankful for not having to read “LOL” and “ROFL.” Finally, learn something new every day; otherwise, you’re not appreciating life enough.

Is the digital age bad for our generation? Not at all. Mark Bauerlein should create a Facebook account, and he would see — although I’m sure no one but his mom would add him.

Andrew P. Young is a well-informed, literate and modest individual who loves the digital age.