On Thursday, Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University, disappointed Georgetown students. It’s not that he chose to speak on why our generation is “The Dumbest Generation” because of our technology use, an inflammatory statement that could easily have caused offense, but that he didn’t present his argument well enough to convince a discerning audience.

Bauerlein’s argument for our stupidity goes something like this: There is an inherent conflict between the youth’s social life and its intellectual development. School life is characterized by “tribal youth activity” in which weaknesses are found and exploited by peer pressure and other uncomfortable scenarios. Yet, in his idyllic version of the past, before those pesky bits and bytes, youngsters were able to retreat to a bastion of freedom – the home. Crossing into familial life left teens free of social pressures; they were exposed not to playground politics but to “important” cultural and political questions through dinner conversation and Walter Cronkite’s voice of reason. However, now the world is vastly different. Kids surreptitiously text under the dinner table and hustle back to their room to finish their AIM conversations or update their blogs. The only time away from social pressures is when they sleep. According to Bauerlein, this means the end of high culture and intellectual discourse. Out with the brainy and in with the banal!

If his vision of the past or view of the present strikes you as curious, put down your iPhone and give your thumbs a rest: You’re burning brain cells. Or are you? While Professor Bauerlein points to some startling statistics (43 percent of community college students have to begin freshman year in remedial courses, or that geographic awareness and adult literacy have notably fallen), any question of digital causality is left undetermined. In fact, by one measure, this is the smartest generation ever: IQ, the measure of cognitive capacity, has risen in every measured country since the 1930s.

Bauerlein apparently fails to see that there are two sides to every coin. By using the technology at our disposal, we have found means of engaging in society at ages during which young people were formerly kept out of public discourse. Kids, well, they’ll be kids: The ones who ignored Cronkite’s drone 30 years ago will no more pay attention in class today. But what has changed is the ability to mobilize many to engage and discuss – in the classroom, the public sphere or simply with peers. Intellectual life need not just be through undergraduate research programs or New Student Orientation improvements. Digital technology, when accompanied by a little bit of curiosity, unleashes intellectual potential in new and exciting ways.

As true believers in young people pursuing journalism, we were particularly distressed by Bauerlein’s antiquated stance concerning young bloggers. As he bemoans the fall of authoritative news sources, he channels the monastic community that lost its control over publishing with Gutenberg’s nifty invention. When he dismisses teenage bloggers, he misses the rich ecosystem of idea exchange and debate developing online. It is almost unbelievable that a professor would discourage young people from entering into intellectual discourse. Taking part in the blogging world will encourage the very intellectual discourse for which Bauerlein is searching.

Technology does have its shortcomings, but it is not the baleful factor Bauerlein presents. It has more stimulating aspects than bad ones.

aybe technology has rotted our brains, but Bauerlein failed to make a convincing argument in affirmation of our ineptness. Instead, by confusing correlation and causation and relying on hyperbole, his ideas seem more suited for a stump speech than a Georgetown symposium. If you’re going to call us dumb, at least make a cogent argument!

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