In his provocative new book The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein argues that "the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future" by turning out hyper-networked kids who can track each other's every move with ease but are largely ignorant of history, economics, culture, and other subjects he believes are prerequisites for meaningful civic participation.
Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University who has written for reason, notes that a 2003 Foundation for Individual Rights survey found that only one out of 50 college students could name the first right mentioned in the First Amendment. Between 1982 and 2002, the National Endowment for the Arts estimates that the share of 18-to-24-year-olds who reported reading a single poem, play, novel, or short story outside of school or work dropped from 60 percent to 43 percent. "I tell students in class all the time, 'You guys are lazy and ignorant,'" says Bauerlein. "Don't tell me how busy you are. You watch two hours and 41 minutes of TV a day."
Bauerlein is a self-described "educational conservative," but his politics do not fit easily into existing categories. "I believe in a core knowledge, a core tradition, that everyone should learn," he explains. "Socially, I'm pretty liberal and libertarian; I think the drug war is one of the most absurd and costly government programs ever created."