More on The Dumbest Generation

As I contiune to read this book, The Dumbest Generation, by Mark Bauerlein, I continue to be both compelled by the subject matter and annoyed by the author, his tone, which seems arrogant and finger-wagging, not only a the “dumb” Millennials that he is reporting on but at their parents and teachers, the government, school systems etc. You name it, and that’s to blame, or so it seems. Which leads one to surmise that Bauerlein hold the opinion that if people were to just listen to him all would be right with the world.

One thing that I found myself knodding my head at as I wrote was the body of evidence that Bauerlein presents refuting the notion that simply supplying computers to students will somehow improve their reading skills, study habits, and academic performance overall. I’m not sure I ever really bought into that notion, although I freely adimt I thought it was a good idea for school and universities to either supply students with laptops or require them to have one upon acceptance to said institution. Unfortnuately, studies seem to show that not only does it not seem to help students academically to have a laptop it can even cause declines in performance.

Makes sense, if you think about it. A computer is just a tool, like a pen or pencil or a book or pad of paper. It can assist you in learning, but it in and of itself can not make your a better learner or student or whatever.

I recall whe I was in community college, in my first computer course (this was before the mouse had been invented and everything was done with fucntion keys —  Yikes! I’m old) the instructor liked to say that a computer is very fast but very dumb. It can only do what you tell it to do. It cannot work out problems for you. You have to do that, you have to think, and then instruct/command the computer to do thy bidding. That’s what I would tell older students in the computer lab who seemed intimidated by the computer they were working on. “It’s not magic,” I’d tell them. “And it won’t bite you. Just remember it’s really fast but really dumb. It only does what you tell it to do.” That usually seemed to help them, at least a little anyway.


3 responses to “More on The Dumbest Generation

  1. Every generation tends to criticize the one after it, or a few after that. This time it may be true only because the economics of life are now being denied wholesale. Giving someone a computer thinking that it will make them study or be smarter is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Which goes to show the generation before the one getting the computers doesn’t have a clue and might want to look in the mirror. After all if giving a kid a computer makes him smarter than giving him a tractor might make him a farmer? Are you kidding me? Whoever thinks this stuff up should consider hemlock for indigestion. Thanks from us at

  2. Computers/Laptops are helpful but you’re right, they’re JUST things we use. Supplying computers to students doesn’t mean their academic performance will get better right away, it still depends on the students themselves. If they want to learn, then they will learn–with or without computers.

  3. Exactly true – computers don’t help make students smarter. But what is crazy is that according to the book, legislators are still funding such programs, still clinging to the idea that computer improve academic performance, even while some institutions are cutting back on such programs or simply getting rid of them all together.

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