Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Dumbest Generation - NOT

After hearing Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) speak at a Surrey Engaging the Digital Learner dinner series (#sd36learn), I was encouraged to read the Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein.  I was fore warned to "read it if I dare."

I eagerly purchased the book (as I like to read books in physical form still) (and to be able to share with others - so not from the library).

I started reading it, read the first chapter and a half - then put it down discontented.  It was hard reading page after page explaining how dumb young people are. 

I understand the point that is being made of young people not knowing what older people think is important; however, I disagree with the conclusions entirely.  If you try to evaluate the value of a car based on the view that trains are the best mode of transportation - Cars are dumb.  I think most of the book focused on providing evidence of the "dumb young," through application of data that answered the wrong questions.

Education has changed and continues to change.  I am excited to teach in a time where we are testing assumptions.  We can't even agree on 'best practices' or even settle on promising practices.  We now live where there isn't necessarily a right answer.  This is a great place to be.  We are forced to look beyond the answers and ask - What is really important?  What is the core understanding?

Seeing that ONLY 2.1 million 13 to 19 year olds kept a blog in 2004 as a negative shocked me.  This instead provided me a chance to look back and ask - How many had a blog in 1994, 1984, 1974?  If students aren't reading, why are they blogging and who is reading their blogs? 

How has the ability to share your ideas with the world changed your reading, writing, thinking, citizenship?

Identifying youth as dumb because only 52% could identify the authenticity of a website again misses the mark.  20 years ago, I would assume 95% of youth would identify all printed books as 100% accurate and never question authenticity.  We are so much further ahead now that 1/2 question the authenticity of what they read.

Society and culture has stayed much the same regardless of Bauerlein's assertions.
We still deal with bullying in the workplace, community and schools,
We still deal with poverty,
We still deal with crime.

I am an eternal optimist so I see major societal and cultural shifts as well
We are more accepting of differences,
We are open to new ideas,
We are developing social justice lenses,
We are developing social responsibility lenses,
We are changing schooling to be about learners and not delivering content,
We are starting to explore learning for learning sake.
I accept that we are learning and making mistakes.  I don't believe you are learning if you don't make mistakes.  Let's not cast off a generation as dumb because you use the wrong tools to access their value and access their learning.

 (This is a follow up to the first draft of my thoughts after reading (most of) the book.)

1 comment:

I. Khan said...

Thanks, Kevin. It's so easy to fall in this trap of thinking and not celebrating how far we have come as a society (youth included). As well as falling in the trap of not reflecting on what we can do to change the myth of "dumbness".