The Dumbest Generation?

One Emory professor is making a bold statement about Generation Y

By on September 15, 2010

Generation Y (People born between 1983-1997) has just been hit with yet another stab of insults. After being coined the ‘dumbest generation’ by Emory University English Professor Mark Bauerlein, the debate of coining “Generation Y” the smartest or the dumbest generation is continuing to gain press. Bauerlein recently published “The Dumbest Generation: How The Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans And Jeopardizes Our Future — Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30.”

The saying, “the youth is wasted on the young,” may be at the epicenter of this debate. Over the years, the older generations have had a history of “dumbing” down the newest generation. This tried tactic was recently the counter argument in the lengthy Newsweek article, “The Dumbest Generation? Don’t be dumb” written by Sharon Begley and Janeen Interlandi.

Begley and Interlandi say the using the word “dumb” to describe a generation isn’t the right term in the case of “Generation Y.”

“A more fundamental problem is what Bauerlein has in mind by “dumbest.” If it means ‘holding the least knowledge,’ then he has a case. Gen Y cares less about knowing information than knowing where to find it,” the article states.

Bauerlein argues, “Time and again, the statistics reveal that we are facing a very real intellectual crisis: not only is the current generation drastically uninformed about basic scientific, political and historical facts, they are ill-equipped for successful careers and unprepared to contribute to society as a whole.”

The U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES) refutes Baurlein’s accusations in their research. In IES fast facts on education write, “Between 1971 and 2009, the educational attainment of 25- to 29-year-olds increased. In 2009, for example, 89 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had received at least a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, an 11 percentage point increase from 1971.”

Neither side of the debate could examine Generation Y without taking its technological co-dependent, the internet, into effect. With Generation Y on the forefront of the digital age, each side of the debate counts the internet as a factor.

A press release from Emory University encompasses Bauerlein’s argument on internet saying, “Bauerlein’s provocative, deeply researched work finds ignorance in abundance and the Internet an all too-enticing web of social networking that further insulates youth from their intellectual development.”

With Bauerlein accusing the internet as stifling the incumbents of Generation Y, Newsweek writers Begley and Interlandi admit that cognitive studies haven’t proved yet if the Internet is indeed bad.  They will admit is that it is “definitely changing how people’s brains process information. In fact, basic principles of neuroscience offer reasons to be optimistic. We are gradually changing from a nation of callused hands to a nation of agile brains,” says cognitive scientist Marcel Just of Carnegie Mellon University in the article.

Begley and Interlandi end their debate with one lasting remark saying, “Writing off any generation before it’s [reached] 30 is what’s dumb.”

Comments

About Jenny Connell

One Comment

  1. Mark Bauerlein

    September 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Youre right, Jenny. “Educational attainment” has gone up–significantly so. More high school degrees and more college degrees. But a strange thing has happened at the same time. Reading scores are down since just before the Digital Age hit (early-90s), as are literacy scores for college grads. And on measures of civic, historical, and scientific knowledge, we’re flat-lining at abysmal levels.