We’ve already spent way too much time chronicling the hysterics of the Facebook Doomsday Cult, but now some dill hole professor has gone and written a book about how the Intarwebs and teh MySpace and teh whatnot are ravaging the minds of our young people.
The professor is Mark Bauerlein of Emory University. The book is called — I shit you not — “The Dumbest Generation.”
According to this LA Times review, Bauerlein argues that today’s youth have developed a “brazen disregard of books and reading.” And you can guess who’s fault that is, right?
If you guessed anything other than social networking and other high-tech ways of staying in touch, please move to the back of the bus:
This ceaseless pipeline of peer-to-peer activity is worrisome, he argues, not only because it crowds out the more serious stuff but also because it strengthens what he calls the “pull of immaturity.” Instead of connecting them with parents, teachers and other adult figures, “[t]he web . . . encourages more horizontal modeling, more raillery and mimicry of people the same age.” When Bauerlein tells an audience of college students, “You are six times more likely to know who the latest American Idol is than you are to know who the speaker of the U.S. House is,” a voice in the crowd tells him: ” ‘American Idol’ IS more important.”
The future is ruined because one douchebag in this douchebag’s class piped up with a douchebag statement designed to piss him off.
Bauerlein also frets about the nature of the Internet itself, where people “seek out what they already hope to find, and they want it fast and free, with a minimum of effort.” In entering a world where nobody ever has to stick with anything that bores or challenges them, “going online habituates them to juvenile mental habits.”
Juvenile mental habits? Did we just fall into the 1880’s? Are we going to start writing prescriptions for lead tonic and cocaine again?
And all this feeds on itself. Increasingly disconnected from the “adult” world of tradition, culture, history, context and the ability to sit down for more than five minutes with a book, today’s digital generation is becoming insulated in its own stultifying cocoon of bad spelling, civic illiteracy and endless postings that hopelessly confuse triviality with transcendence. Two-thirds of U.S. undergraduates now score above average on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, up 30% since 1982, he reports.
The what? Hang on a minute…
… OK, Wikipedia tells me that the Narcissistic Personality Inventory is the most-commonly used method for studying narcissism in its sociological context. I also learned that it’s not necessarily the most consistent tool, since different NPI tests account for different things:
For example, some studies report three factors, some report 4 factors. Furthermore, it is often the case that factors of the NPI exhibit very low internal consistency (although the full scale exhibits acceptable reliability). Thus, it may currently be concluded that the factor structure of the NPI is unknown.
I also just plugged “Narcissistic Personality Inventory” into Facebook and found a high school senior’s project in which he hopes to compile results from a cross-section of the Facebook population for school credit.
I’m sorry professor, you were saying how social networking tools make us dumber rather than smarter, right? OK, carry on:
At fault is not just technology but also a newly indulgent attitude among parents, educators and other mentors, who, Bauerlein argues, lack the courage to risk “being labeled a curmudgeon and a reactionary.”
He’s right. What this world needs is more reactionary parenting. In fact, Pax Arcana was schooled entirely on 160-year-old McGuffy Readers and other curmudgeonly sources that taught me that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree, that Columbus proved the world was round, and that the pilgrims and Indians of New England coexisted peacefully. I was bored stiff the whole time, but at least I’m not an idiot.
‘The Dumbest Generation’ by Mark Bauerlein [LA Times]