Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Dumbest Generation, Part 1

Alas: It is one of those days. I have to go in for a medical test late this morning, but ministry associate Nick Peters is on the spot for me with the first of a two-part series he and I will do on a great book titled The Dumbest Generation. Nick will offer his perspective today as an atypical member of that generation; I'll offer mine tomorrow as a member of an older generation.


I am currently 30. Based on what time of the year The Dumbest Generation was published, I was either 27 or 28 when it came out, which includes me as being a part of the Dumbest Generation, as no one under 30 is to be trusted. While I regret that is the way my generation is seen, unfortunately, Mark Bauerlein makes his point exceptionally well leaving me with the desire to change my generation.

I will state at the start that I do not believe I am your normal man of my age. I am diagnosed with Asperger’s and thus my information processes, particularly in the social area are not the same. I also happen to have a large library here at my house which can lead to my wonderful wife worrying about what will happen if I get any more books. Of course, there are ways I am like others. I do happen to have a number of video game consoles, I am on Facebook, I am regularly on the internet. For TV viewing however, I watch only House, Monk, and especially Smallville, and every now and then a DVD or movie at the theater.
However, there was a time I was not like this until apologetics came along and gave me fulfillment. I quickly became an avid reader. Before that, none of my subjects in school ever really challenged me. I was elected Most Studious of my class, but it was an odd win since I never studied. I’d just come home and play video games until it was time to go to bed. Of course, I did some reading, such as mysteries be it Hardy Boys or Mary Higgins Clark.

Now as one who does seek the greater things in life, I understand the writer’s concerns. I also understand them more recently having recently undergone debates with people on the blog site of a member of the Rational Response Squad. My opponents were Christ-mythers and a number of them made comments documented in the Screwballs section of TheologyWeb asking why we should read books when everything is on the internet?

Ah yes. The fear of books. That’s one of the places where it all starts.

Now in saying this, no one is saying everything on the internet is bad. After all, this review is on the net. My own blog site is on the net as is JPH’s web site. The problem is not the use of sources on the internet but the uncritical use of such sources and the lack of books.
Living in Charlotte, I recently heard two bookstores in the area were closing, and it was something that brought great sorrow to me to hear. How a society views knowledge and the quest for truth will show what really matters to it. I can’t help but think that we are moving closer and closer to A Brave New World. (That’s a book for those of you unfamiliar with the literature.)

Bauerlein deals with objections that maybe it’s lack of time or lack of income that are keeping people from reading. It’s neither. The bottom line while not specifically given seems to be that we are too hedonistic a society looking only for pleasure and not really caring about truth. Everyone lives for the moment.
Bauerlein makes a strong case that social approval is sought for. If anyone reads a book, it is because they need to be in the know as to what goes on in it to interact with their friends. In fact, Bauerlein says that this is what was going on when Harry Potter book sales were skyrocketing. The kids enjoyed the books, but they also gained social approval by reading the books. Enter phenomena such as texting and Facebook. Kids are more interested in doing this to be accepted by their peers than they are in interacting with those older than them to be accepted by them.

Early on in my apologetics career, I saw Ravi Zacharias as the man I wanted to be like. Today, the up and comer in a field would say that they are the one they want to be like. It doesn’t matter who is respectable in the field. What matters is the respect of friends.
The Internet has sadly helped to perpetuate what has gone on. I don’t see the Internet as a tool for evil in this. The Internet is a tool like any other tool that can be used for good or for evil. When used correctly, it is an excellent resource medium. There is also nothing wrong with the social interaction. I do think youth should be spending time with their friends as well and doing a number of social activities. However, there must be moderation in all things.

While on Facebook, I don’t make it all about me and rather enjoy getting into heated debates on the site.
Bauerlein recommends that our youth get educated. Learn what’s going on in the world around you and also what went on in the world before you. Even if you’re reading fiction, read good fiction. Find an area of interest and learn all you can about it. Know what the great thinkers thought. Naturally, none of us can be specialists in everything, but we should have at least a rudimentary knowledge.

A criticism of this book is that I don’t think Bauerlein goes into the cause of this enough or what to do about it. My stance is that it is not that the church abandoned thinking because the world did. I think the world abandoned thinking because the church did. The church should be the intellectual forefront in the world and when it abandons the areas of logic and truth, we can be sure that the world will follow.
It will also help to get past this view of religion that it is all about us. We often make the gospel about us instead of about God. Of course, it involves us, but it is not that God is participating in our story. We are in fact participating in His.

Much of the individualism in society today caters to a world where personal feelings are of utmost importance and what is true is of secondary importance. It doesn’t matter if what you said is true because what you said is offensive.
I hope that people today will restore our intellectual bearings. If you are not part of the dumbest generation, find someone who is and mentor them. If you are, educate yourself. No one really wants to be seen as dumb. The stakes are high. As Bauerlein says on the back of the book about the dumbest generation, “They may even be the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever.”

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. I remember a point in the book saying that it's not just literacy that has gone down since the advent of the Internet, but attention levels. It was so funny. When you mentioned Smallville, I didn't finish reading the blog; I immediately went to youtube.com and searched a Smallville episode: the one where he fights Titan, if that matters. Where is my mind, as the Pixies would ask?!?!