Guess Who's the Dumbest Generation

Last Updated Oct 5, 2009 2:32 PM EDT

Apparently, I've raised a couple of members of America's dumbest generation.
I would tell my two teenagers that they belong to the dumbest generation if I could only get their full attention. They are often too busy texting, instant messaging, watching weird You Tube videos or playing with iPod apps to have an old-fashioned sit down with their mom.

And that, according to Emory professor Mark Bauerlein, who has tarred the iPod generation with the dumbest honors, is the problem.

While parents gripe about these electronic addictions, Bauerlein, who is author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, warns that these digital distractions whittle away at the intellect of teens and twenty-somethings and could also jeopardize their success in the workplace.

Now you might dismiss this as whining from a pedantic English prof, but some of the statistics are alarming. The average American youth apparently reads no more than eight minutes a day, but according to Nielsen Mobile they send an average of 2,272 text messages a month.

When a teenager is watching someone stuff a bag of marshmallows in his mouth on You Tube, he's obviously not learning about the Gettysburg Address or following what's going on with the health care debate. But Bauerlein warns that stunted intellectual curiosity isn't the only causality.

Since so much of young Americans' communication is done electronically, they struggle with reading verbal cues. Maybe you can tolerate this, but the boss at your kid's first job probably won't.

"We live in a culture where young people -- outfitted with phone and laptop and devoting hours every evening from age 10 onward to messaging of one kind and another -- are ever less likely to develop the 'silent fluency' that comes from face-to face interaction," Bauerlein writes. "It is a skill that we all must learn, in actual social settings, from people (often older) who are adept in the idiom. As text-centered messaging increases, such occasions diminish...when it comes to their capacity to 'read' the behavior of others, they are all thumbs."

Now that's depressing.

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