Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kathy's Animoto

Create your own video slideshow at


Throughout his book, Bauerlein expresses his feelings of disdain for youth. Each chapter reverberates with this message. Youth are more interested in their social life and the here and now than anything the author reveres as important in our world or country today. History and traditions have little or no importance in their lives. He fears that their lack of interest in what he holds to be the foundation of our country will lead to the slow disintegration of our democratic republic.

His critical attitude toward youth may not be totally unfounded. The research and reports he looked at seemed to support his feelings. But, research can be found to support any ideas and beliefs if you look hard enough. Is his pessimism truly founded? It does take an educated public to make informed decisions. Also, by nature most youth are self-centered and view the world around them based on their own lives.

Educators need to do all they can to make sure students gain an understanding of their world. By instilling a love of learning teachers can insure that Bauerlein’s prediction will not come true. Not all students will find the joy of knowledge and value the feeling of accomplishment but we can give them the tools by which they will be an informed generation.

Chapter Six Summary

Bauerlein begins the final chapter by recounting the story of Rip Van Winkle and stresses the importance of the specific time period (1776-17960) covered in the tale.  This appears to be his way of directing our attention to the importance of civic minded people in the development of our nation. He refers to Jefferson and his view of the import of our "need to read" (p. 211).  He explains the role of journalists, the ignorance of voters and states that tradition acts as a yardstick (p. 215). He comments that at some point in our maturity, we move beyond the individual and and begin thinking in terms of community duty, and it would seem, we fail miserably.

Our author emphasizes that knowledgable antagonists elevate thinking levels and, in general, society (p.218) and puts context to our lives and accomplishments. He then moves on to tear down several civic groups stating, in essence, that they are shallow in their content and are not "sufficiently prepared or interested in pursuing the cultural, ideological warfare" (p. 223). He states that the Establishment of the sixties and seventies fell "to the Adolescent horde" (p.223). 

Bauerlein believes that those few who do attempt the task of warring for the benefit of all, are "limited by having no youthworld of ideas and arguments" (p.224). He speaks of pockets of intellectuals who are unable to match the depth and quality of those who came before.

John Erskine is quoted as saying that people have "the moral obligation to be intelligent" and Bauerlein proposes that knowledge is as basic as individual rights (p. 232-3).  Ultimately, he ends the book with his call to set the bar higher (for adulthood) or the habits of the under-30's will cuse them to "be recalled as the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever" (p. 236). 

chapter 5 comment

Chapter five comment

Whether or not I believe Bauerlein's total portrayal of the typical American youth, I will tell you I am the proud "owner" of a twixter. I have been frustrated for several years at my son's inability or nonexistant desire to get the teaching job he has worked so hard for- or move beyond his social life which involves writing groups (yah) and gaming (huh?). He is 29 and fits the description to a tee. (This is my personal issue- I know, but I present it to say that I can verify that twixters exist.)

I do happen to believe that we have fallen into the "rub your tummy and make you feel good" syndrome and what, by all imaginable, would make an individual want to change-if they have always been told, that they are GREAT just as they are??

I am interested in what Bauerlein says about studies showing NO advantages of collaborative learning (p. 187) over lecture. I question how he would propose advancing our teaching methods if everything we try fails by his standards.

I do believe there is value to "connecting to the ancients" as Matthew Arnold says (p.191) but the problem is that life moves on and there are "new" Arnold's (so to speak) out there who have something valid to offer us. We need to find them- we need to hear what they have to say and have the chance to integrate that into our collective consciousness, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chapter Five: The Betrayal of the Mentor

As Bauerlein started this chapter I thought maybe he was going to find something more positive to say about today’s students. I soon found however that he was continuing on with his negativity. He began with a discussion about a study of arts programs for troubled youth. At first he seems supportive of the arts programs, but he soon questions the validity of the reports made by these organizations.

Bauerlein states that if teens are left to themselves don’t have any forward direction (p. 164). The author looks at teen mentors for younger youth as a way to guide these young people by giving them some structure and directing their energy in positive ways. Bauerlein continues to refer to the documentary made by “Art Show” which seems to be an advocate for youth and their potential. This documentary encourages educators to treat students as colleagues (p. 165). If that is done then these students will be able to reach their full potential.

Bauerlein then introduces a group called “Twixters” which includes 22 to 30 year olds who are college educated and come from middle class families according to a Time magazine article (p.169). This group is reported to have achieved little and is on a journey of self-discovery. They are peer-oriented and feel that maturity is more social than knowledge based. It has nothing to do with learning or wisdom (p. 173).

Much of what Bauerlein presents in this chapter he blames on the indulgent attitude toward youth held by teachers and others dealing with youth. Tradition is seen as aggression and cultural tradition is seen as authoritarian (p. 175). He gives many examples of how this all began back in the 1960s and has continued on to the present. He rephrases a quote by Ronald Reagan to say “Knowledge is never more than one generation from oblivion” (p. 186). The implication is that focusing on the present and neglecting the lessons learned from history will lead to the downfall of our youth. He blames the poor achievement scores (p. 195) in relation to other countries on this attitude of making sure youth feel good about themselves. He believes that youth today won’t be able to function in society and lead the country in the future (p. 202).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Summary Chapt 4 Online Learning and Non-Learning

Chapter 4 begins with the results of a survey of high school and college students and their digital research skills. The study found that while the students surveyed could use technology they were not always able to use it well. "Asked to construct a persuasive slide for a presentation 8 percent of them "used entirely irrelevant points" and 80 percent of them mixed relevant and irrelevant points, leaving only 12 percent who stuck to the argument" p. 114. The chapter continued to list a number of points all telling that increased use of technology has not resulted in achievement gains and suggested that the reader should thus question the value of digital learning.

Bauerlein wrote that vocabulary and comprehension skills gained largely through social and home life are what truly influence achievement gains. He says it is not possible for them to learn all that they need in school and that their use of technology can actually have a negative impact on learning. "Teen blog writing sticks to the lingo of teens and actually grooves bad habits" p. 132. "It (technology) super powers their social impulses, but blocks intellectual gains" p. 139. He says that students don't use technology to learn more about their world they use it to learn more about each other.

The author begins looking at the ways that reading text on the computer differs from reading text on paper. He writes that screen reading is very different from book reading and that, "Only 16 percent of subjects read text on various pages work for word sentence by sentence. The rest scanned them and processed them out of sequence" p. 143. He tells the reader that even when reading news "The most common behavior is to hunt for information and be ruthless in ignoring the details" p. 144. I thought this was interesting because a military recruiter recently told me that when they need a recruit to improve their ASVAB scores the best thing to do was make sure they took the paper version of the test because that always seemed to raise their scores.

Bauerlein closed the chapter by extending the idea that, for this generation, technology will extend their adolescence because they are able to limit their contact with things they don't think they will like and aren't interested in learning about.

I would like to note that while the author has mentioned that employers are not pleased with the lack of what he has refered to as 'basic skills' such as spelling and grammar he never touches on the benefits of having employees who come to them with some technology skills saving them time and money that would have been spent on training. I wonder if this never came up in all of his research or if he just left it out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Section 3 (Chapter 3) Summary

The Dumbest Generation Mark Bauerlein
Chapter 3: Screen Time

As the title of the chapter suggests, chapter three focuses on the amount of time "millennials" spend in front of a screen, be it TV, computer, etc. Bauerlein begins the chapter with a reference to an Apple Store at Lenox Square and ends the chapter with a discussion of Apple's marketing, which he argues pits computers vs. books. The major argument Bauerlein is making, and it is an argument that seems rather biased, is that print media and screen media are exclusive of one another and more importantly as consumers of this media, we cannot get the same thing from the two exclusive mediums.

With typical structure, Bauerlein begins by establishing that "millennials" do in fact spend time in front of the screen. He provides disturbing statistics that "One-third of the subjects (36 percent) reside in homes in which the television is on 'always' or 'most of the time''', and that "Half of the children occupy homes with three or more television sets in use, and 36 percent of them have one in their bedroom" (75). This leads to a discussion of parenting practices, including the tendency for parents to use the TV and/or the computer as a babysitter, and even more disturbing is the fact he quotes parents who believe it is acceptable because their children are learning (81). On page 77 Bauerlein gives a bulleted list of statistics: 84% of kids watch television on an average day, for an average of 3:04 hours; 54% use a computer for 48 minutes; 46% read a book for 23 minutes, etc. He totals the numbers to give a grand 295 minutes of screen time a day, which computes to 2,065 minutes per week.

In the middle of the chapter Bauerlein focuses on the research that he is arguing against. He looks at those who say the "millennials" have higher intelligence and those who argue all this screen time is a good thing. For instance, he quotes a paragraph from "The Net Generation in the Classroom," which ends with: "Raised amid a barrage of information, they [the millennials] are able to juggle a conversation on Instant Messenger, a Web-surfing session, an iTunes playlist while reading Twelfth Night for homework" (86). Bauerlein then quotes a question if students are understanding the finer points of the play or if they are merely just reading.

Bauerlein quotes an interesting study known as the Flynn Effect, which relates to IQ test scores and then proceeds to argue today's youth are not any more intelligent than others. The most interesting part about this section, for me at least, was his rant against the Apple marketing slogan that the laptop is "'The only books you'll need'' (99). Even as e-readers today are becoming more book like, Bauerlein deems books that are found in a digital format to be less worthy than those found in a library or a Barnes and Noble (99-100).

Calling on the likes of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury, Bauerlein ends the chapter with a quote from Billy Joy, a software programmer, who was quoted saying, "'I'm skeptical that any of this has anything to do with learning. It sounds like it's a lot of encapsulated entertainment....This all, for me, for high schools students sounds like a gigantic wast of time. If I was competing with the United States, I would love to have the students I'm competing with spend their time on this kind of crap'" (109). This "crap" is referring to the lengthy discussion of Web 2.0 tools on the "Read/Write Web." As this quote sums up, Bauerlein does not buy the research suggesting our students today are smarter, nor does he buy that Web 2.0 tools are any better than other tools in the classroom.

Personally, I'm still frustrated by the large amounts of statistics and the negative attitude. The part I was most frustrated by this week, however, was the discussion of print v. digital medium. Although I agree wholeheartedly that not everything on the web is perfect, in my small school there are almost zero print resources for my students to use and so digital sources are our main source of information. Also, I don't agree with Bauerlein that there is a difference between reading Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities while holding a paperback copy or while holding the latest e-reader. Just because I'm reading it digitally does not mean I'm losing any of the magic of Dickens. Lastly, the one part I did agree with him on was his discussion of Web 2.0 tools and I found the quote by Billy Joy to be interesting. I know for a fact my students are not "creators" on the web. When I tried introducing blogs at the beginning of the year I was met with moans and complaints rather than excitement at being able to create.

Chapter 3 summary response

I found Bauerlein's remarks concerning IQ tests being altered over the years, interesting. Of course, tests would be updated but I never thought in those terms before-probably because I do not work with standardizing test norms and the like...

I had a most interesting conversation yesterday (true) with a female student in second block. She stated that she believed kids now-a-days were so much smarter than their parents and adults in general -because they have the net behind them and adults didn't grow up with the internet.  We spoke for a while and I asked if she peer edited her classmates writings or if she ever read stuff on the net written by other young adults. She said she did. I told her that she was correct, her parents may not have had the net as a tool but, thinking historically of our greatest inventors, thinkers and social movers who also never had access to the net-  technology doesn't equal intelligence. She stopped and considered and then stated, "Yah, some of them are pretty dumb". It wasn't that I wanted her to be ashamed of her views or her generation, but I did want her to think about the greatness of the mind, and power of personal motivation.

 Currently our school is "on alert" and we teachers have been assigned groupings so we can work together to plan a strategy which will (hopefully) give our educational system a kick in the pants. Somehow, I think, it wouldn't be a bad idea if parents got a kick in the pants wake up call regarding what their kids do - and don't do- after school in "free time".

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chapter 2 Summary

A-Literate or E-Literate? That Is The Question!

In Chapter 2 of The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein postulates that today’s youth is a-literate and proud of it. He defines a-literacy as “knowing how to read, but choosing not to” (Bauerlein 40, 2008). He cites a series of series of studies and surveys, among them Reading At Risk (A National Endowment for the Arts study, 2004) and American Time Use surveys that show reading for pleasure has declined significantly among young adults over the last two to three decades.

While today’s youth enjoys more than five hours of free time a day, they are devoting only on average 8 minutes a day to reading activities of any kind (Bauerlein 49, 2008). This lack of reading motivation is affecting standardized test scores adversely (see NAEP Trends mentioned on pg. 51). It is also having an impact on college campuses and in the workplace where there has been an increased need for remedial reading and writing coursework.

Today’s youth and their supporters seem unfazed and defiant by this data and tout their e-literacy skills as more important than book learning. MacArthur Foundation President Jonathan Fanton defines e-literacy this way: “a literacy which extends beyond the traditions of reading and writing into an evolving community of expression and problem-solving” (Bauerlein 67, 2008). It is a literacy based in knowledge of digital tools and the workings of the virtual world. Millennials believe that this type of digital literacy and not print literacy is their ticket to better employment opportunities and higher salaries in the 21st Century world. In reality, Bauerlein shows in Chapter 2, their a-literacy is only holding them back from achieving their goals.

As a school librarian, I found Chapter 2 to be quite an interesting read. What engaged me most on a professional level was his discussion of the Harry Potter book series. He asserts on page 43 that: “Kids reading Harry Potter not because they like reading, but because other kids read it” (Bauerlein 43 2008). To not read Harry Potter and not know the characters he further asserts is to be out of the loop with one’s peers, a fate worse than death for a millennial. He presents the fact that kids are pressured into reading Harry Potter as if it is a bad thing. As a librarian, I don’t care how kids come to books, just that they do. Peer pressure in this case is a great thing. If a student gets another student to read a certain book, I am ecstatic. It is my job as a professional to help kids find other similar great reads when they are done with the peer recommended title. For my project, I plan to harness this peer pressure to read through a digital medium.

Another part of Chapter 2 that piqued my interest occurred on pages 56-58 where Bauerlein discusses the impact that literature and reading have had on the lives of many important historical figures from Frederick Douglass to W.E.B. DuBois. Literature really does have the power to transform lives. For me it was the lifeline that helped me escape and make it through high school. One book that really touched me then and still touches me today is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I make sure to share it and other great books often with my student through booktalks, which are structured as 30-second book ads complete with cliffhanger endings. With the right marketing, books often fly off the shelves. I have found that a lot of getting millennials to read really does have to do with “marketing.” A circulation record at my middle school for this school year of 8, 143 items indicates that kids do still enjoy reading.

What disturbed me about Chapter 2 though was that Bauerlein offers no suggestions on how to encourage reading among millennials. So I thought we could share what ideas have worked for us. What books have transformed your life or the lives of your students? How do you share these and other important titles with your millennial students?