Warning Millenials, Warning! You are under attack!

To arms! To arms!

Or in this case: To the books! To the books! As well as newspapers and sustantive magazines etc.

The attack comes from Emory University prof, Mark Bauerlein in the form of a book titled The Dumbest Generation: or, don’t trust anyone under 30. A rant against what he sees as the apparent ignorance of the Millenial generation.

A friend from college hipped me to this book and I was immediately interested in reading it mainly because the title irritated me so much. It smacks of certain kind of Boomer ire, turining an old 60s axiom around and pointing at a younger generation. (Although Mr. Bauerlein, who received his PhD degree in 1988 according to his profile on the Emory University web site, probably doesn’t qualify as a Baby Boomer, and is probably more likely an early GenXer.) And it reminded me of the barrage of similar criticism leveled at Generation X back in the early 90s when we were in the postion that the Millenials are now.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not really disputing the book’s basic premise. In fact, I agree with it. Young people should read more. But then I think most people should read more, not just those of the Millennial generation. Also, I suppose you can’t really argue with the stats the Mr. B puts forth in his book. One assumes he’s not making them up. But I would just point out that statistics can be manipulated. See this book and this book and this book and this book on the subject. I’m not saying the dude is lying, just that stats figures don’t always paint an accurate picture. It depends.

I guess what irks me is the focus on Millennials. It seems too easy. Who would not share the opinion that young people are ill-informed, disinterested, and lack a sufficient understanding of civics and current affairs? Even without the stats and reasoned arguments, most older people would agree. I do. Which begs the question: what it the point? Isn’t this just telling us something we already know or at least belive to be true? Well, I suppose that this publication makes a nice addition to the man’s CV, which is important for things like tenure and promotion and salary increase etc. Of course, that can’t be the only reason for publishing this important tome, now can it. Although it is more mainstream than his previous works, published by a bigger house than the others. One can’t help but wonder….

I’d venture to guess that this book was born, at least in part, out of frustation. The guy is an English prof. I’ve been there, having taught Fresham Comp for several years. Of course, this dude teaches at Emory, which I always thought was a fairly selective insitution and so would attract higher quality students.

I guess that I keep remembering when similar accusations were directed at Generation X a decade or more ago. Of course, for GenXers it was due to too much TV and video games (early on mostly coin-operated arcade games but also Atari and Intellivision and late the first version of Nintendo — dude, I loved Blades of Steel) where as now it is of course TV and video games but also the interent, cell phones, and texting. And I agree that these can be a distraction, but not just for young people.

Perhaps it is true that Millennials spend more time on Facebook and MySpace as well as on their cell phones and texting and surfing the net instead of reading or educating themselves about civics and currents, but I also recall that when I was in my teens and early twenties I was not very interested in such things either. I did, over time, become increasingly more interested in civics and current events and history, although I’d early on been a reader. And I see no reason why this shouldn’t be the case for some Millennials. Certainly not all. But the same can be said for those in all generations. I have had plenty of encounters with people of all ages who seemed, as far as I was concerned anway, less then adequately informed. It wasn’t just young people who could not tell you how long a Supreme Court Justice served (it is a lifetime appointment) or who the Sec. of State happened to be (currently Condi Rice, previously Colin Powell). And it still disappoints me that so many people do not read more just for pleasure. But I don’t see how bitching about is going to help matters.

Of course, I am not Prof. Mark Bauerlein of Emory University either, so…

I don’t know. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but there something kind arrogant and show offy about this book, as if he expects the reader to be, oh, so impressed by what he knows, becuase it is, oh, so vital for the future of our civilization. Take note all who stand before me! For the wisdom that I have to impart could save us, each and every one! Perhaps.

I mean, based just on the title, the dude is cleary trying to provocative. Either her chose the title himself, which makes him kind of confrontational, or he allowed his publisher to choose if for him, which makes him kind of pussy sell out. Either way he comes off as kind of a jerk. And who really pays attention to jerks?

Of course, I am reading the book, and will probably finish it. And I won’t deny that it interest me, and that I think the subject is an important one. But ultimately, this sort of thing was already prominent on my radar, especially in terms of raising my daughter. I can’t control what other people do. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t take opportunities to encourage others, especially young people, to read and develop and interest in the world that they live in. I suppose I’d be more impressed of the impressive Prof. Bauerlien at least attempted to do the same in his book. But perhaps he saves that for his classroom.

In the spirit of encouragment I would urge members of the Millenial generation to take some time to read, I mean if they’re not already. Some of them must read after all. But to those who don’t or don’t very often, please read. Read for pleasure. And read for information. Read for humor. And read for news and politics. Just read. If for no other reason than when books such as The Dumbest Generation come out you can dismiss it because that isn’t you. Take it from an aging GenXer (40 and counting). Once your generation gets tagged with a label it could be very hard to shake it off. Hell, I still occasionally have run-ins with idiots who insist that I am a Baby Boomer, because they still consider a GenXer to be some slacker in his 20s wearing his baseball cap backwards and riding a skateboard from where he lives in his parents basement to his buddy’s parents’ basement to hang out and play Nintendo and get high.