I have never read a book more infuriating than The Dumbest Generation. Its author, Mark Bauerline, predicts a grim future based on statistics about my generation. His facts may be accurate, but his interpretation is wrong. No, the sky is not falling. Here are a few reasons why.
Change does not jeopardize the future. The technology of communication has changed many times. Neither the printing press, typewriter, nor telegram crashed civilization. Rather, they sped the Enlightenment, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution. Likewise, the Internet is an opportunity, not a curse. It lowers the cost of widespread publication. Expensive books limited publication of ideas to highly literate authors. Blogging and social media expand publishing power to all.
Civic activity is not the only variable in producing quality government. Cultural pressure, wealthy lobbyists, foreign affairs, and the health of the economy influence government, too. Today’s youth may not vote, campaign, or lobby as much as the youth of the 1950s, but this is not necessarily a decline: it is change. Decades ago, the public square was the place to share and spread ideas. Today, the public square is the Internet. The political tools of decades past must adapt to advance of digital communication.
Finally, the intellectual future of the United States is brighter than ever. My so-called “dumbest” generation is exposed to an ever wider and diverse stream of ideas, but this does not dull or stupefy. Exposure sharpens our power to filter, discern, interpret, and analyze. My generation cannot be sheltered from learning about lifestyles, opinions, and cultures different from our parents’. We learn younger and better how to judge credibility, ignore noise, and make decisions. The intellectual future rests in our hands, and we come as hungry to know and think as any generation past.