Monday, February 7, 2011

Carolyn's Book Reflection

While reading “The Dumbest Generation”, by Mark Bauerlein, I was struck by several thoughts. First, as soon as I started reading the book, I felt a sense of aggravation and frustration for the current generation. The author implies that since this current generation of learners is using technology so much, they are more ignorant than previous learners. “They seem so adept with technology, multitasking to the amazement of their parents. They care so much about the trappings of cool, and are so conversant with pop culture. But they blink uncomprehendingly at the mention of Reformation, the Second Amendment, Fellow Travelers, and Fellini. (34, Bauerlein) I view the availability of technology for the use of today’s learners just the opposite of the author. They like using technology; it excites them, and in turn, encourages them to use it to research. When I asked a current Senior in High School about the above items, they knew at least a little about each of them. I credit technology for this.

Secondly, again, the author implies that just because a student can multitask with technology, they are learning nothing about the whole world. “On one hand, they navigate the multimedia environment like pros, wielding four email accounts and two virtual identities, jumping from screen to keypad to iPod without pause, creating “content” and expressing themselves to the world. On the other hand, they know remarkably little about the wider world, about civics, history, math, science, and foreign affairs, and their reading and writing skills remain at the 1970s level.” (94, Bauerlein) Here, also, I disagree with the author. I see not learning at the 1970s level as an asset not a deterrent to learning. The mind-boggling hours of reading extremely uninteresting facts vs. research with interesting technology is a huge plus to this generations learning.

Finally, I did find a common attitude with the author when he discusses how the amount of technology available to learners today is making them, and all of us, lazy. “In the 2006 National Survey of Student Engagement, a college counterpart to the High School Survey of Student Engagement, seniors in college logged some astonishingly low commitments to “Preparing for class.” Almost one out of five (18 percent) stood at one to five hours per week, and 26 percent at six to ten hours per week. College professors estimate that a successful semester requires about 25 hours of out-of-class study per seek, but only 11 percent reached that mar”. (6, Bauerlein) As a High School teacher, I find constant frustration when surveying the study habits of students. When left to their own resources after school and on weekends, they are participating in technological activities but very little of it is for educational purposes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hillary Hill's Reflection

Reflection Post – The Dumbest Generation

Overall, I think the author was overly pessimistic throughout the book. He brings up some very valid points, and I learned things from the book. However, I don’t agree with him overall. To say that this generation is the one “that lost that great American heritage, forever” seems pretty ridiculous. Like American heritage is just going to disappear. As though teachers will just stop teaching Romeo and Juliet or the class “American History” will just cease to exist.

Technology may make students read less, but there are a lot who still read. We can’t forget about the millions of dollars of revenue generated by Harry Potter books, Twilight series books, etc. There are kids who spend their time on computers, video games, and cell phones instead of reading, but there have always been kids who were not into reading. Even before the time of all this technology, there were always kids who preferred to do something else than read.

What I learned from this book is that history, literature, and traditional things are viewed differently by this generation. As a music teacher, that would apply to my subject area in regards to music history, composers, etc, not being viewed as something important by some students. So, I need to find ways to make this important info seem fun and interesting and exciting. Using technology can help make lessons that some students would call “boring” more appealing and interesting.

K.Willmus' Reflection

Reviewing "The Dumbest Generation:"

"Anyone who thinks this is mere intergenerational grousing, the time-worn tradition of an older generation wagging its finger at a younger one, should think again.

Drawing upon exhaustive research, detailed portraits, and historical and social analysis,The Dumbest Generation presents an uncompromisingly realistic study of the young American mind at this critical juncture. The book also lays out a compelling vision of how we might address its deficiencies."

I "googled" Mark Bauerlein and found the above statement front and center on Bauerlein's own webpage promoting his book. I thought, "Critical juncture? Young American Mind? Uncompromisingly realistic? Can this baloney get any deeper in two sentences or less?"

When I started reading this book I tried to give the author the benefit of the doubt by trying to focus on his statistics and "compelling vision." But by the time I got to the last chapter, with its ramblings of Rip Van Winkle and an educated populous necessary for a viable democracy, I was affirmed in my original guess that the author is a white, east-coast baby-boomer who has some sort of bone to pick with the way things are versus the way things were in the "enlightened" past.

Bauerlein's premise is apparently "The Dumbest Generation cares little for history books, civic principles, foreign affairs, comparative religions, and serious media and art, and it knows less..." and that this will spell doom for all of us in the future.

I totally beg to differ. Yes, teenagers may not be logging hours in the library with their noses stuck in John Dewey's "Democracy in Education." Thank god. The protesters who marched with Martin Luther King hadn't read it, either.

Teenagers these days know the fundamentals of the constitution as well as their baby-boomer elders who did an about face in the past ten years and instituted liberty-crunching homeland security measures. It's neo-cons and baby-boomers of Bauerlein's age who marched us into the Iragi war, and killed countless innocent people since 9-11 in the war for democracy.

As for foreign affairs, there is plenty of proof that there never has been an American generation more in tune with gobalization. As they should be, because they're going to need to be.

Comparative religions? The generation born since 9-11 has been soaked in Islamic-Jewish-Christian relations as much as the generations previous were brought up in Democratic-Communist issues.

And "serious" media and art? Give me a break. Does that mean that because they don't read the "Wall Street Journal" or hardcover books or attend opera or Broadway musicals (have you seen the price of those tickets?) or paste Andy Warhol Campbell soup cans on their walls, that they're not interested in art?

I'm not sure if Bauerlein's spent much time with today's teenagers. Perhaps he's been reading too many books instead of listening in on their facebook ramblings.

I agree teens these days spend an inordinate time playing video games, watching empty-calorie cable, and sending each other banal text messages. Earlier generations smoked pot, watched "The A-Team" and played hours of sand-lot baseball. So yes, I do think Bauerlein's guilty of intergenerational grousing.

The one positive thing I took away from the book is that I do agree today's technology can be mind-numbingly overwhelming. Our days at our computers weaken and bloat our bodies, fry our attention spans, and radically change our concepts of the real world by allowing a virtual world to take over. We, all of us, need to get out side, move our bodies, touch things, and experience non-virtual work, non-virtual nature, and non-virtual life. But to suggest that the cure to that is to spend time in a library becoming intellectuals is a hollow solution.

Today's generation may need to learn to turn away from their me-centered technology, but that's not to say that they need to turn away from technology. Never before in the history of our planet has so much valuable information been available for so many. If teens fritter away time by playing with technology for technology's sake, then that may be a negative side-effect we need to deal with. But Bauerlein's books seems to advocate the old saying of "throwing out the baby with the bathwater."

I think we're going to need to keep the baby.