Sunday, October 31, 2010

New Cover

This is a picture of a "generation gap." I thought that this would be a good cover for "The Dumbest Generation" because the older man is reading while the boy is texting. This shows the difference between what the two generations do to pass time. The book is all about the digital age overtaking the new generation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Screens and Teens article

Check out the article related to this book at:

In Mark Bauerlein's introduction to his book, "The Dumbest Generation," he starts by giving examples of a small set of students from Bethesda, Maryland, in 2005, who, as he puts it, "have only one thing on their minds, SUCCESS, and one thing in their hearts, ANXIETY." They have descended into a "competitive frenzy" for grades and SAT scores, and Bauerlein makes a point about how miserable they are.

But midway through this introduction, Bauerlein switches gears to quote statistics proving how little American students actually do study, and how much time they spend plugged-in to TV and computer screens. His point is to underscore how, although the press may be broadcasting that we're overworking our students, the reality is that the intellectual condition of young Americans is on a downward spiral. His theme for his book is that while American students are given every conceivable opportunity to gain knowledge, "technology has concentrated their horizon to themselves" thereby crippling their intellect.

Chapter One starts with anecdotes taken from Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" clips where Jay asks people on the street pertinent questions and gets astoundingly stupid answers. Bauerlien goes on to cite several prestigious surveys which all back up his thesis that "most young Americans possess little of the knowledge that makes for an informed citizen, and too few of them master the skills needed to negotiate an information-heavy, communication-based society and economy."

After a parade of statistics pointing out how dumb our newest generation is, Bauerlien expresses his opinion that students now spend more time in school, students have access to more cultural institutions than ever before, and students have more money to spend pursuing leisure interests. According to him, the paradox of the Dumbest Generation is that "for the young American, life has never been so yielding, goods so plentiful, school so accessible, diversion so easy, and liberties so copious. The material gains are clear, and each year the traits of worldliness and autonomy seem to trickle down into ever-younger age groups. But it's a shallow advent. As the survey research shows, knowledge and skills haven't kept pace, and the intellectual habits that complement them are slipping."

At this point, I checked the book's copyright date.


I'm wondering if Bauerlein noticed what was happening around him in 2007 when he was writing this book?

--Karen Willmus

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Willmus' Book Cover

After reading the introduction and the first chapter of "The Dumbest Generation," the word which came to my mind was "garbage."
"Garbage" as in: "this book's not worth the paper it's printed on."
Hey, I should have known I wouldn't like this book when I read the title, especially the blurb that says "don't trust anyone under 30."
I haven't had a chance to research the author, Mark Bauerlein, and I don't know where he's coming from, but within the first few pages, I could tell he and I are from two planets on opposite sides of our galaxy. After I skimmed the rest of the book, I thought it just might be possible we weren't in the same galaxy at all.
Here's a quote: "most young Americans possess little of the knowledge that makes for an informed citizen, and too few of them master the skills needed to negotiate an information-heavy, communication-based society and economy. Furthermore, they avoid the resources and media that might enlighten them and boost their talents."
Apart from sounding pompous (furthermore?) and contrived, Bauerlein is just plain wrong.
My father, who died this past year at the age of 93, was a well-read, college-educated man. But I know, at the age of 48, that I far exceed his knowledge because of the information outlets I have access to. When he was 48, we had one television channel and a couple of radio channels. Dad's acquisition of knowledge was limited to what he could glean from a couple of farm magazines, a monthly issue of "National Geographic" and an occasional novel he had little time to read. Commodity prices were broadcast at noon before Paul Harvey's tidbit of trivia, and if Dad missed the evening news, he'd have to wait to see what the weather was going to be until it arrived. Letters to his family in Norway were mailed once a year (Christmas) and I heard from him once a week (Sundays) when I left for college. We rarely talked on the phone for more than a few minutes. Long distance was too expensive.
My daughter is 12. She certainly doesn't yet know as much as my father or I, but by the topics of the books on her bookshelf and by the list of websites she's visited, I'd say she's soon to leave us in the dust. Today's topic was cell mitosis. Interphase. Prophase. Metaphase. Anaphase. Telephase. Wha-la! New cell!
Don't get her started on designing skins on Adobe Illustrator, renewing her library books online or updating her Facebook account so that she can keep in touch with her 18 cousins. The poor girl moved 700 miles away from her childhood home but chats with at least three of her old friends twice a week. (When I was her age, I moved to a town one hour away and never heard from my old friends again.)
Now, if there's anyone in the family who has problems mastering the skills of today's marketplace, it's my 54-year old husband, a St. John's University graduate who has yet to master e-mail.
Seriously. He's been unemployed for two years because he's helpless in dealing with anything that has a USB connection.
Bauerlein seems to think children should learn how to use today's communication technology away from it?
I believe that technology and the internet provide children who would otherwise have been cut off from an education a chance to have as close to an equal education as possible.
Assuming a connection to the internet and qualified teachers, can a student in rural South Dakota now have an education at least on par with a student in New York City?
In a previous generation of Ivy-League prep schools, the answer would have been absolutely no. At least now it might be possible. What's more, like the Indonesian children in the photograph, there is a massive world-wide growth of education for rich and poor, male and female. No matter how much competition that gives American children, the growth of education is not something which can be bad!
It's been my experience that today's generation of children are eager to learn and exceptionally open-minded. But they don't like being "blahhhhed" at any more than the rest of us did at their age. (Don't know what "blahhhhed" means? That's the language Charlie Brown's teacher spoke. You know: blah..blah...blah..)
One major difference today's generation has is there is A LOT more for them to learn... and... in my humble opinion... A LOT of it's garbage. If Bauerlein wants to complain about all the garbage in our info world there is for the next generation to sift through, then I thoroughly agree with him.
When I saw the above image, I thought: "Yes, that begins to say what I think this book could potentially address."
Unfortunately, I'm afraid the book won't live up to this cover.

--Karen Willmus

Friday, October 22, 2010

Schwab's new book cover

I chose this image of a student "secretly" using their cell phone in class because my book, The Dumbest Generation, explains how tech savvy students are, but how they do not use technology to gain new and useful information. They use their computers and cell phones to keep track of friends and for gaming. I especially liked how this image shows unopened books on the desk because the author explains how students are not reading for entertainment or edification purposes. They see books as old fashioned and assignments that require them to read as roadblocks to spending time with their friends online. I have to admit that I agree with the author 100% so far.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Welcome to Literature Circle Twenty!

Your Super Summarizer schedule is as follows:

Section One--Due October 28, Karen Willmus
Section Two--Due November 4, Ethan Dschaak
Section Three--Due November 11, Carolyn Schuldies
Section Four--Due November 18, Geryl Schwab
Section Five--Due December 2, Hillary Hill
Section Six--Due December 9, Jonette Burns