The kids are getting stupid debate

The Great Gatsby
Image by Victoria_Hume via Flickr

I followed a Tweet this morning and finished up reading a long and interesting (though in my opinion misguided) article from the PhillyMag  called “Is It Just Us, Or Are Kids Getting Really Stupid?

Basically the writer uses her own son as an example of where the multi-tasking, video-gaming child of the present day is increasingly unable to read works like “The Great Gatsby” but have to have the film played to them. She is concerned that her son cannot even list the days of the week!

She uses a lot of neurological research to examine the way that technology is making children less able to think deeply, to read at depth and even gives a potted history of the way that our brains had been rewired by the onset of the printing press and how the present video-game generation are having their minds rewired with implications (as she sees it) for their academic abilities.

What I really liked about the article were the excellent set of comments that can be seen at Page 9 Many of these comments are from young people who have obviously read the article and have responded in showing their depth of reading and how technology has actually widened their perceptions and their abilities to get to a range of information that just wasn’t available to their parents and grandparents.

Here is one example:

This is ridiculous
Posted by Logan | Dec. 31, 2010 at 12:36 PM

I’ve never seen a more ungrounded, half assed assessment of anything that I have ever read. You see such a small percentage of the teen population and you accent that as if it resembles the entire generation. I am 16 years old, I play video games and use facebook, but I read, I have read Crime and Punishment, The Iliad, the Odyssey, Count of Monte Cristo, Owen Meany, Gatsby, Le Mis, and countless others. Can you, Sandy Hingston, tell me who wrote the prince, who Carnegie sold his gigantic steel company too? Because I cannot tell you who Snookie is, or anything about Twilight, but I can tell you how to create a buffer in a solution of Hydrobromic acid to maintain a stable pH of 5.4, or how to properly research a generation to get accurate data when writing an article for a prominent magazine.
My favourite comment was the following:
What a joke
Posted by Devon | Dec. 14, 2010 at 2:17 PM

I’m a kid (at least I think I count as one), and I’m pretty damn smart. I know the days of the week in four different languages. I read a book a week. And I loved The Great Gatsby–“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.” Love that line. Maybe the one most meaningful sentence ever writ. Are there idiots amongst my fellow high school and college students? You better believe it. But the rumors of Generation Y’s demise have been, to paraphrase Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated. Are there plenty of self-absorbed, anti-intellectual, vacuous, whorish, fame-driven, disrespectful punks? Of course, and MTV surely isn’t helping by perpetuating that machine. But the more I reach out to my peers, the more I’m surprised at how many are far more intelligent and intellectually curious than I’d given them credit for. Then again, this is for “Philadelphia” magazine, and that city is just a black hole of culture, independent thought, and ingenuity. Back in New York, we actually reward hard work and creativity, so there may be a bit of a culture divide here.
I don’t want to get into the arguments between the great cities of New York and Philadelphia but Devon’s prose certainly seems to give a lie to the main thrust of the article. I would recommend you to read it and the comments at the end.
Where I would compliment the PhillyMag in creating the forum for a very important debate.

One thought on “The kids are getting stupid debate

  1. I think just because a kid doesn’t like to read and prefers the video version doesn’t mean they are dumb. Video is just another TOOL to use to learn and to educate oneself. Some of us get on better with books (like myself) while others get on better with watching things and listening to things (like my boyfriend). I would say my boyfriend is far superior to me in intelligence and he struggles to read many books. In fact I have read about 20 this year already and my boyfriend is still only a fifth away from the one he started last year. He just gets along better with other tools.

    I think we put technology down too much when we should be seeing it for what it is – another tool to use that doesn’t make you dumb!

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