The Dumbest Generation
This past week, everyone from the President down through the ranks to the local school district board members has talked about education and how to fix it. If it needs to be fixed, they must think there’s something wrong with it. One thing about our education system, right or wrong, is that you can’t blame our youth if it has gone astray. As adults, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask what have we done wrong.
Wyoming has always produced a majority of smart, hard working youth. Our lifestyles, with our open spaces, our love of sports and other activities that keep us occupied, our small communities and the work ethic that they produce, have made Wyoming a great place to grow up. Those who were fortunate to grow up in a rural community or on a farm or ranch most likely complained about it at some point but then came back when they were ready to raise a family.
As each generation grows up, the last one seems to have left more challenges for the next one to live with. The world today, with all of its technology, has made life easier for our youth, but has turned them into captives of themselves. The social life of some youth today is Facebook and MySpace. To some of us the Internet is an avenue for knowledge and a means for communication, while for a number of youth it is only a social life.
I recently read reviews of a book written by Mark Bauerlein, titled “The Dumbest Generation.” It is a good read, and brings up some good facts. As the review states, “The way Bauerlein sees it, something new and disastrous has happened to America’s youth with the arrival of the instant gratification, go-go-go digital age. The result is, essentially, a collective loss of context and history, a neglect of enduring ideas and conflicts. Survey after painstakingly recounted survey reveals what most of us already suspect: that America’s youth know virtually nothing about history and politics. And no wonder. They have developed a brazen disregard of books and reading.” In other words, they know who the latest American Idol is, but not the current U.S. Vice President.
We outfit our kids with laptops and cell phones, and we hope they’ll gain knowledge and communicate with home. In reality, they serve mainly for instant messaging, either in school or at midnight under the covers. The stress of peer pressure and being the “perfect child” is relentless these days. The review says, “And all of this feeds on itself. Increasingly disconnected from the adult world of tradition, culture, history, context and the ability to sit down for more than 15 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.”
Mark Bauerlein may have been talking about America’s youth, but not Wyoming’s youth. While it’s not easy growing up, it is easier in Wyoming.