Third World America

We have an abundance of opportunities in America, but don’t always take advantage of our good fortune.

We have access to the Internet – the greatest library of all time – but we don’t always use it wisely, according to “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30)” by Mark Bauerlein

Information overload is a constant threat in the digital age. It’s something we deal with not just when going online, but when shopping.

In the “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less” Barry Schwartz argues that freedom of choice when shopping is essential to our autonomy. But endless choices can bring more heartache than gain, he argues. And reducing the number of choices – prioritizing – can actually make people happier, he says.

Question: Can the same be said for the choices we face while online?

As it is, peer contact never ends

  • Digital tools – cell phone, computer, etc. – are as essential and ordinary as food and sleep.
  • Parents and teachers often baffled by the immersion
  • Traditional literacy vs. e-literacy
  • We’ve all got ADD now
  • Tales of the Founding Fathers and the latest from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal have difficulty competing with messages from a boyfriend or photos from a party or tidbits from a celebrity Tweet


Example: In a survey, high school students were asked how much time they spent reading and studying each week

  • 90 percent said five hours or less
  • 55 percent said one hour or less
  • 31 percent watched TV or played video games for at least six hours
  • 25 percent surfed the Web or chatted online for at least six hours
  • College

Professors say students should spend about 25 hours per week doing homework to be successful

  • Only 11 percent of students hit that mark

Digital generation

  • Teens and young adults have absorbed digital tools into daily lives
  • They have grown up with more information and more knowledge readily at hand
  • They’ve had extraordinary opportunities to gain knowledge and improve writing and reading skills
  • But has technology opened up the minds of the under-30 generation?
  • Are young people using technology for greater global awareness?

Knowledge Deficits. Example: Jaywalking.

  • Jay Leno: “Do you remember the last book you read?”
  • Young man: “Do magazines count? Maybe a comic book.”
  • Leno: “Where does the Pope live?”
  • Young person: “England.”
  • Leno: “Where in England?”
  • Young person: “Ummm, Paris.”
  • Leno: “Do you ever read any of the classics? Anything by Charles Dickens?”
  • Young woman: “I saw the movie. I liked the one with Scrooge McDuck better.”

How does that happen?

  • How do you not know what’s important about the year 1776, the founding of our nation?
  • You have to forget school, care nothing about current events and never read a newspaper or listen to the radio.
  • You must be not only uninterested in world realities. You have to be actively cut off from them.
  • Put another way: You must be encased in a more immediate reality that shuts out everything else. That world is friends, work, clothes, cars, pop music, sitcoms, Facebook and not much else, according to author Mark Bauerlein.

Shame free

  • More and more people have no apologies for knowing little about history or civics
  • …for never reading a book
  • …for never visiting a museum
  • We celebrate ignorance
  • Example: “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”

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