I was browsing the selection at the bookstore when I came across this book, with it’s extremely attention grabbing title. I decided to pick it up to see what it was all about. Despite the rather alarmist title, the book itself is not as over the top as you would think it would be.
The Dumbest Generation is a non-fiction book that aims to bring to the light the shortcomings of this generation and the effects that the internet and other new technology has on this current generation. Whether or not the book succeeds at conveying its intentions is another thing altogether.
The author really likes to use loads of statistics in order to prove his point. While statistics are definitely needed for a book like this, he relies on them too much. And even despite all these statistics, the author never really explains how this stuff specifically affects this generation. Instead it’s just filled with generalizations that are justified through statistics. There is some stuff I agree with the author on, but the way it’s conveyed is just not interesting.
Occasionally, the author uses terms such as “Web 2.0” unironically, which makes him seem like an outsider who does not know what he is talking about. Bauerlein seems to treat the much of the internet, ebooks and the like with disdain, without adequate knowledge of their inner workings.
Sometimes the book comes off as dishonest. The author portrays pro-technology and internet advocates as blindly enthusiastic strawmen, so of course they are going to look foolish. He says something along the lines of kids would rather play Mario Bros. rather than read The Great Gatsby. It’s not exactly fair comparing a literary classic with the literary equivalent of Twilight or Harry Potter.
I don’t think that The Dumbest Generation is a terrible book, but I do think it’s pretty mediocre. There are a lot of other books that tackle similar subjects much more effectively. If you’re interested, check out The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.