The Dumbest Generation

By: Mark Bauerlein

Journal Response 2

The second chapter of the book The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein discusses the fact that the percentage of adolescents that read is gradually declining. The chapter is introduced with a radio interview:

CALLER: I’m a high school student, and yeah, I don’t read and my friends don’t read.
HOST: Why not?
CALLER: Because of all the boring stuff teachers assign.
HOST: Such as?
CALLER: Uh… That book about the guy. [Pause] You know, that guy who was great.
HOST: Huh?
CALLER: The great guy.
HOST: You mean The Great Gatsby?
CALLER: Yeah. Who wants to read about him?

And the call ends. My initial reaction to this was laughter, followed by great disappointment. It’s sad knowing that our generation is not knowledgable of books such as The Great Gatsby, which is otherwise well known enough to be made into a movie. In fact, many people probably became knowledgable of the novel after the movie came out. If it weren’t for technology, Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby would most likely be regarded as “the great guy” by many, which supports that notion that we are “the dumbest generation.” We voluntarily make ourselves ignorant to things like the greatest novels or current events, because we pulls ourselves into the world of social media.

The second chapter of The Dumbest Generation provides many statistics regarding the declination of adolescent readers. Adolescents simply do not enjoy reading and would much rather spend their free time doing something else. In American Time Use Surveys, data shows that people in the 15–24 age group spend approximately 8 minutes per day doing any reading of any kind, and spend about 5 hours per day in their free time doing something else (like watching television, socializing, etc.). In later pages of the book, statistics show that adolescents spend minimal time reading leisurely and find hardly any importance in reading books (they believe it will not help their career pursuits).

The middle school hallways can be as competitive and pitiless as a Wall Street trading floor or an episode of Survivor. To know a little more about popular music and malls, to sport the right fashions and host a teen blog, is a matter of survival.

Rather than reading books, adolescents are far more interested in new trends. Rather than being updated on current events happening around the world and being educated in historical events, they prefer to be updated on social events. Mark Bauerlein says it’s “a matter of survival,” the more we know socially, the better chance we have at surviving in the social world. Will we reach a point where books are no longer valued by any one?