This book by Mark Bauerlein is a sequel and updated assessment of his 2008 work, The Dumbest Generation, which makes the case that the dumbing down of our educational system together with the proliferation of the digital age into every corner of our lives has impoverished the Millennial generation, and the subtitle of the current work pretty well explains how Bauerlein feels about their progress over the past 14 years–“from stupefied youth to dangerous adults”.
In reading the book I participated in an interesting review exercise organized by my friend Greg Stachura in which about a dozen participants were asked to read the book and submit commentary on points of interest. I did so on the early introductory pages and here are excerpts of my comments:
“The first thing that struck me in these pages is the degree to which, in the infamous Westbury College episode in 1969, the revolutionary Herbert Marcuse should be the voice of tradition to the young late 1960s revolutionaries. Who knew that the author of the revolutionary bible, “Repressive Tolerance”, would be the one advising that, as the author put it, “if you want to be a canny revolutionary, you must start out an obedient student”? And one, no less, reserving for the classroom the priming of students through lessons in the classics. How far we have fallen in the education of our revolutionaries!
The other thing that struck me from the outset of the author’s description of the thesis of this book is that it dawned on me that the Millennials we have under scrutiny are the sons and daughters of the students Allan Bloom wrote about in his masterpiece of 1987, The Closing of the American Mind. If you are not familiar with it, the subtitle tells it all: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. After reading Bloom, there should have been little doubt about where we were headed.
I have long believed and I agree with the author that the failure we have wrought is not the fault of the kids—it is our failure, and I believe it began essentially as an abdication by our intellectual class that abandoned the pursuit of speculative philosophical truth in favor of analytic philosophy and logical positivism, along with “critical thinking”, as noted by the author. And it has been downhill ever since toward the invalidation of objective reality and truth itself. The result has been, as suggested in the book, that these kids have grown up with “a gaping hole in their souls, and the soul has needs that must be satisfied’”.
In the wake of a Uvalde event, this is a very good read on where we are, how we got here, and where the next generation might take us. Suffice to say, Bauerlein is not very optimistic.