Thursday, January 15, 2009
What, Me Dumb?
My revew of Mark Bauerlein's fine book, The Dumbest Generation, is now available at Denver Journal.
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A forum for discussing matters of moment, from a curmudgeonly perspective. (The ideas posted here do not necessarily represent those of any organization with which I am a part). Rude and insulting remarks will not be published, but civil disagreement is welcome.
Its a good review, though I would be more inclined to attribute much of the "dumbness" of my generation as much to poor parenting as I would to technology - part of that might be directly result from the fact that many parents don't know what to do with the technology.
I agree there is a whole lot of dumbness out there in my generation, but there has always been a lot of dumbness—the previous generations, for example, didn’t put that smoking cigarettes and poor health might be connected.
As I counterpoint to the dumb thesis, check out this article by author A.J. Jacobs who wrote this piece for Esquire.
This line from your review struck me:
[O]ne may be well-informed (given all the data available through technologies) without having very much knowledge, since knowledge requires a particular personal orientation to information-one that reflectively probes material, asks pertinent questions, is aware of the perennial issues, and consults proper sources.
It reminded me, in an odd way, of Richard Whately's essay "Weights without Scales," unpublished in his life time but included by his daughter in his Commonplace Book, pp. 277 ff. The title is Whately's metaphor for minds that are filled with information but ill equipped to weigh the significance of that information. Here is a brief sample, pp. 282-83:
In this and several other points, I observe that a good many men have a mind supplied with weights, but no scales. Anyone who should be furnished with a series of accurate weights from a grain up to a hundred weight, but without a balance, would be greatly astray when he came to estimate the comparative weight of two objects by a random guess. . . .
Now there are some men, not wanting in acuteness, who notice all the reasons and all the objections on each side of a question, not overlooking any probability or improbability; but when they come to set one against another, are often as inaccurate as one who should consider a handful of gold-dust and a handful of road-dust as of equal weight. Their minds, in short, seem to have weights, but no scales.
As a member of the dumbest generation I don't necessarily disagree with most of your review. I find myself, already someone with A.D.D., constantly moving from one book to the next, although my most recent book is requiring sustained attention. My reading though is augmented by using Wikipedia, in a concept heavy philosophical work I can have the parts I don't understand illuminated by turning to Wikipedia for help.
I can understand not allowing laptops in your class. Do you make special consideration for learning disabled students? Although I imagine you don't get too many at the graduate level.
Yes, many parents simply give their offspring over to the techn-culture, pleading ignorance. They must exegete the culture and guide their children wisely, seek wisdom from Above (and reading some good books on this).
It is not general human terpitude taht the book addresses, but how new technologies rob us of knowledge. Of course, this comes out of our fallenness, but the technologies add a new dimension of problem.
Not sure why anyone would need a laptop because of special needs.
Wikis are not generally reliable. They are not properly vetted and change too quickly. Check my blog for an essay or two on this.
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