Friday, January 2, 2009

Are you dumber than other generations - and is sport part of the culprit

Thomas Benton, in a recent article, argues that your generation is dumber than generations of the past. He makes the argument based on his own experience as well as from the content of several new books - (Of which, I have read a few) - Below find his text from the Chronicle of Higher Education, August 1, 2008. I have deleted text marked by .... at the end, I have a question for you.

The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric From George Washington to George W. Bush (2008), by Elvin T. Lim, examines speeches and public papers — noting shortened sentences, simplified diction, the proliferation of platitudes — to show a pattern of increased pandering to the lowest common intellectual denominator, combined with a mockery of complexity and analysis.....

Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter (2008), by Richard Shenkman, argues that the dumbing down of our political culture is linked to the decline of organized labor and local party politics, which kept members informed on matters of substance.

What's the Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004), by Thomas Frank, Shenkman shows how the political right has been able to don the populist mantle even as it pursues policies that thwart the economic and social interests of the average voter......

Former Vice President Al Gore obviously has a dog in this hunt, and his book The Assault on Reason (2007) argues that the fundamental principles of American freedom — descended from the Enlightenment — are being corrupted by the politics of fear, the abuse of faith, the power of an increasingly centralized media culture, and degradation of political checks and balances favoring an imperial presidency.

Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World (2008), by Naomi S. Baron, shows how the proliferation of electronic communication has impaired students' ability to write formal prose; moreover, it discourages direct communication, leading to isolation, self-absorption, and damaged relationships.

Worst of all, the prevalence of multi-tasking — of always being partly distracted, doing several things at once — has diminished the quality of our thought, reflection, self-expression, and even, surprisingly, our productivity. Baron's solution is to turn off the distractions and focus on the task and people at hand.....

Her conclusions are largely affirmed by Nicholas Carr's cover story in the July/August 2008 issue of The Atlantic: "Is Google Making Us Stoopid?"

Carr, author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google (2008), argues that daily use of the Internet may be rewiring our brains for skimming rather than for the sustained concentration that is required for reading books, listening to lectures, and writing long essays. Obviously, such rewiring is going to have the biggest impact on the rising generation appearing in our college classrooms: the "digital natives.".....

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (2008), by Mark Bauerlein, provides alarming statistical support for the suspicion — widespread among professors (including me) — that young Americans are arriving at college with diminished verbal skills, an impaired work ethic, an inability to concentrate, and a lack of knowledge even as more and more money is spent on education......

Okay, you get the idea. Here's my question - is our love and passion for sport also a part of the problem - not only the digital nature of the generation - but also the passion for sport and the being tuned into hours of viewing of espn, sportcenter, and so forth - in which we do little active thought but much passive thought - we listen, we mimic, ...we hardly argue, question, or think for ourselves. What do you think?


  1. I personally believe that one's cultural background has a lot to do with the passion and love for sport. Being from a third world country provides you with the greater appreciation of things that you do not have. Even now I do not own a TV so I do not spend time watching the games and viewing the ESPN because I value the physical presence at the games more than watching them on TV. I think they lose the meaning. Watching the games alive allows you to connect deeply and reflect on your thoughts and actual appreciation for the game. I'd rather be outside and play than sit in front of the TV, but the big part has to do with how you were raised and where were you raised. I can always argue that...

  2. It surprises me from the standpoint that we are in an economic downturn, I didn't know how to fix it. However, there's obviously market dimension to it, because that's what the people want to listen and see.

  3. I agree with Dina on the cultural difference because there is many place in the world do not even have electrcity. Grow up in China I enjoyed being an athlete and I also enjoyed to watch sports games on TV. To me learning how to balance the things in my life is part of growing.

  4. I am an avid college sports fan who watches every football i can each fall, and i never miss an opportunity to watch the NCAA basketball tournament--BUT there is no reason why Callipari should be paid 31 million. With the curernt state of our economy there is no reason why a basketball coach should be paid that exhuberant amount of money. I don't care if he can save Kentucky basketball or generate money for the university...there is no reason why he should be paid that much.

  5. Living in an apartment with two students and one other varsity athlete, sports center is pretty much the only channel that plays on the tv, from when the first person gets up in the morning, to the last person going to bed at night. The sports shows run the tv in my apartment. I think it is a shame, as I would much rather play sport than watch it. I have grown up in a society where I played sport every day with my friends, whether is a kick around in the local park with friends or competitive tennis playing at the national level. I watch sport as I love the competitive nature, and would go to more live sports games if I could, because I love the culture. I have learned the balance between playing and watching, so when I do play, I appreciate it more. My roomates are quite happy to watch it all day, and not get outside. I feel that it is a real shame that my roomates don't take that extra step.

  6. I agree that watching sports on tv has become a prevalent part of our society. For some, it may even have a diverse effect. However, I also believe there has to be a balance. If no effort is made to also participate in sport or other activity, then yes, it is a problem. But I feel that to those who also make an effort to participate, think, learn, etc., it may not be as big of an issue.

  7. I do believe that sport veiwing has become a large portion of entertainment in our society and I also admit to being an individual who views sports on a regular basis (depending on the season, of course). I believe that the purpose of sport has been lost. In the article the author confronts this issue by stating that "Rather, the purpose of athletics is always about education, character, and sportsmanship". Rather than viewing sports, I believe that participation should be encouraged, as that is the aspect during which we gain moral development.

  8. Sports was always extremely important to me growing up as a kid. There was never a time that I was inside playing on the computer or watching tv when I was little. But as we grow up things tend to change. People feel like they have less time and can't do the activities they used to so they use the tv to get there sports need. For me I still try and get out and be active. But I also enjoy watching games that aren't located near me while I am doing my homework. The problem is, is that people are too in tuned with the tv and not themselves.