Book Review: The Dumbest Generation
Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English and produces the most data for his arguments concerning civics and humanities (surprise surprise). He trots out scary statistic after scary statistic. The problem is that his scary statistics are in isolation. He trots out the tragic performance scores of High School seniors concerning the foundation of our Nation, but fails to share any similar statistics for previous generations. References for previous scores that go back even just as far as the 80s are rare enough to be notable. Is it pitiful how few US High School Seniors know who James Madison is? Of course it is, but how do they compare to their peers in the 70s...60s...50s...40s? Having that sort of data to compare is not trivial to Bauerlein’s argument, in fact it is everything. He is arguing that there is something different about the current young generation... and that the difference is the technological culture popular among the under 30 crowd.
His arguments concerning science and technology are even feebler. He gravely informs us that roughly 3% less College students want to be engineers in the years post 2000 compared to the 90s. However, the most abysmal thing about Bauerlein’s work is the sense that it is cultural whining masquerading as concern for the state of the citizenship of the young. When the good professor laments the fact that in 2002 only 11.4% of young people saw a play and only 2.4% saw a ballet, I admit that I begin to view this former director of Research for the National Endowment for the Arts with a very jaundiced eye. Generationally based, cultural snobbery dressed up as alarmism I call it.