|Back to December Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 275||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||DECEMBER 2008|
Young Americans have more free time, disposable income, and educational opportunity than any generation in history. Yet survey after survey shows how little they know.
Many have "bibliophobia": in 2005, 19% of college seniors did not read a single book "for personal enjoyment or academic enrichment," and 54% read fewer than four. The hype says that young Americans possess new skills that replace the tried-and-true skills of close reading, clear writing, and historical and civic knowledge. Mark Bauerlein explodes that hype in this shocking book.
The time American 8- to 18-year-olds spend with TV (3 hours 18 minutes a day), computers (48 minutes), and video games (49 minutes) doesn't make them smarter or more competent. Rather, screen time "conditions minds against quiet, concerted study, against imagination unassisted by visuals, against linear, sequential analysis of texts, against an idle afternoon with a detective story and nothing else."
Paradoxically, the internet's endless offerings actually narrow users' minds, instead of opening them. "With so much abundance, variety, and speed, users key in to exactly what they already want," Bauerlein observes. RSS feeds bring 20-somethings the views they already agree with, and bring teenagers the same celebrity news and banal peer-group updates of which they already have too much.
MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, teen blogs, and other outlets for teen peer consciousness all help to isolate teens from adult mentors, great art, history, the classics, or the questions of work and family that have traditionally served to draw young people out of adolescence.
Bauerlein calls on parents, teachers, and other mentors to intervene and save the Millenial generation from itself. Stop bringing pop culture into the classroom in an effort to engage them; they spend enough time with it outside of school. 36% of high schoolers who say they doubt they will graduate blame the fact that they are "not learning anything." Only 11% say that "schoolwork is too hard."
"Young Americans need someone somewhere in their lives to reveal to them bigger and better human stories than the sagas of summer parties and dormitory diversions and Facebook sites," writes Bauerlein. They need their parents to set limits on screen time, and to engage them from an early age with other interests that will awaken their intellects and draw them out of themselves.