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.