Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Social Nitwitting"

Since I am in the academe, with special interest in using e-learning as a teaching and learning mode in technical education, it is of concern for me to read in the news and blogs (thus, through the internet, mostly) about how technology affects in a negative way our children (and us) -- this is not saying that there aren't any good that can be derived from it.

In a post I received today through email from Laura Ingraham, she says this:

THE DUMBEST GENERATION? Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein (author of "The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future") appeared on today's show (365ers, click here to listen) to confirm what many of us have already started to notice: The Digital Age is wreaking havoc on young Americans' ready and writing abilities. Of course, the Internet offers countless opportunities for learning, but Mark's research found that kids are using for vanity rather than intellectual enrichment. Spending endless hours texting, chatting, and posting every intimate detail of their lives online, kids today suffer a new kind of peer pressure -- one that keeps them locked in a state of immaturity. Far from using the 'net for mental enrichment, Bauerleins discovered that average high school students spend an hour per week studying for their classes online and nine hours on social networking sites. No wonder kids' standardized test scores for reading comprehension have been falling since the birth of the 'net.

I checked out Mark Bauerline (yes, online) and saw a link to a site of his book. As a way of summary, here is what the homepage says:

The Dumbest Generation
50 Million Minds Diverted, Distracted, Devoured

For decades, concern has been brewing about the dumbed-down popular culture of young people and the impact it has on their futures.

Social Nitwitting
The dawn of the digital age once aroused our hopes: the Internet, e-mail, blogs, and interactive and ultra-realistic video games promised to yield a generation of sharper, more aware, and intellectually sophisticated children. The terms “information superhighway” and “knowledge economy” entered the lexicon, and we assumed that teens would use their know-how and understanding of technology to form the vanguard of this new, hyper-informed era.

That was the promise. But the enlightenment didn’t happen.

Mind(less) Games
The technology that was supposed to make young adults more astute, diversify their tastes, and improve their minds had the opposite effect.

According to recent reports from government agencies, foundations, survey firms, and scholarly institutions, most young people in the United States neither read literature (or fully know how), work reliably (just ask employers), visit cultural institutions (of any sort), nor vote (most can’t even understand a simple ballot). They cannot explain basic scientific methods, recount foundations of American history, or name any of their local political representatives. What do they happen to excel at is – each other. They spend unbelievable amounts of time electronically passing stories, pictures, tunes, and texts back and forth, savoring the thrill of peer attention and dwelling in a world of puerile banter and coarse images.

The Not So Greatest 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.

To fail to do so may well mean sacrificing our future to the least curious and intellectual generation in national history.

Laura has this to say:

Worried about your kids? Here's an easy solution: Get the computer and television out of their rooms and set limits! Trade online time for time spent reading and writing. The study and work habits your kids learn during their teenage years will stick with them for years. They'll thank you for it later.

Food for thought.

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