Friar John's Ruminations

Being the thoughts of an Episcopalian Layman. In Search of and service to "Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order."

My Book Shop:

Please visit my online bookshop Friar John's Books of Interest.

Monday, December 08, 2008


The Kids Are Alright. But Their Parents ...By Neil HoweSunday, December 7, 2008; Page B01
It is the prerogative of every generation of graybeards to look down the age ladder and accuse today's young of sloth, greed, selfishness -- and stupidity. We hear daily jeremiads from baby boomers who wonder how kids who'd rather listen to Linkin Park and play "Grand Theft Auto III" than solve equations or read books can possibly grow up to become leaders of the world's superpower. The recent publication of "The Dumbest Generation" by Mark Bauerlein of Emory University epitomizes the genre. His subtitle -- "How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future" -- says it all.
Generational putdowns, Bauerlein's included, are typically long on attitude and short on facts. But the underlying question is worth pursuing: If the data are objectively assessed, which age-slice of today's working-age adults really does deserve to be called the dumbest generation?
The answer may surprise you. No, it's not today's college-age kids, nor even today's family-starting 30-somethings. And no, it's not the 60-year-olds who once grooved at Woodstock. Instead, it's Americans in their 40s, especially their late 40s -- those born from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s. They straddle the boundary line between last-wave boomers and first-wave Generation Xers. The political consultant Jonathan Pontell labels them "Generation Jones.
Read the rest here.

I note that the writer, who is I think a Boomer, places these guys as "early Xers" so as to distance his own generation from his and cast a shadow on mine.


ConnectingTheDots said...

I also read that Howe op-ed in WashPo yesterday. I am proud to be part of Generation Jones (born ’54-’65, between the Baby Boomers and Generation X), and have been very happy to see so many prominent journalists and experts talking about Generation Jones in the national media. I am really offended by Howe's years of trying to undermine our long-lost generation (the reason Howe keeps trying to undermine GenJones is that Howe's theory doesn't allow for the fact that most generational experts now view generations as shorter than the traditional 20 years which Howe's theories depend on).

If you have a chance, read the comments on the Washinton Post site responding to this op-ed yesterday and today; I was happy to see lots of people defending Generation Jones. Here's one of my favorite comments, from ‘CultureAndPeople’...

"As someone who has studied generations for years, I must say that I’m very surprised that Neil Howe would go this far when it comes to attacking GenJones. It’s well-known to many of us in the field that he has felt very threatened by the whole GenJones thing, but you’ve got to get over it, Neil! Generations are getting shorter, there is a Generation Jones. Instead of embarrassing yourself trying to diss it, just figure out a way to adapt your theory to include the shortening of generations. Your theories can co-exist with GenJones; figure it out.

This article takes the cake when it comes to your attempts to diss GenJones. Using ridiculously bad science to try to position GenJones as “The Dumbest Generation”?! Wow. Feels over the top to me.

First, Neil, framing this generation as “dumb”?! As you know, dumbness is another way of saying “low intelligence”. What evidence do you have that Jonesers are less intelligent?! If Jonesers were the “victims” of ineffective educational experiments, less attentive parents, a souring national mood toward youth, etc., etc., etc., on what basis does that make them less intelligent? You might more plausibly say that they are, for example, less knowledgeable (although I believe that would also be untrue), but to characterize them as “dumb”?

You might also frame this in a positive light; for example, showing how Jonesers have overcome these enormous obstacles to get where they’ve gotten (e.g. wealthiest generation in the country). But instead, framing them as the dumbest generation?!

And the evidence you use to try to make this case makes my jaw drop. Take the SAT comparison you make as one example; how could you write this with a straight face? I find it hard to believe that you are not aware that: students now do all kinds of SAT prep that they didn’t do in the 70s/80s, that SAT scores were re-normed in the 1990s which significantly inflated the scores, making any comparisons obvious apples to oranges, the relevant varying admission standards (including the 1970s admissions de-emphasis of SAT’s) affecting SAT scores, the fact that it was the ACT, rather than the SAT, that “smart” teens took in the 70s/80s, and all the other reasons why your SAT comparisons are completely absurd.

In addition to your faulty SAT comparison, this article is filled with similarly ridiculous “evidence”. Are you so desperate to diss Generation Jones lest it hurt your business, that it’s worth cheapening your name this way?

And given the dire situation our nation now finds itself in, and given that it is primarily GenJones, starting with Obama and most of his main appointments, who we are looking to lead us through these difficulties, do you really need to use the platform which you’ve built to try to position this new generation of leadership as the Dumbest Generation? Couldn’t you at least wait until they are sworn in and have a little time to try to lead before you launch this kind of attack?

With all respect, Neil, it feels to me like you are putting your own selfish personal goals ahead of the country’s interests at a dangerous moment in our national history. William Strauss deserved better than this, Neil."

Frair John said...

I posted this as a part of my curiosity over generational issues. I'm often suprised over how the dynamics of age and generation are unoticed in many contexts, in particualr the Church.

For the most part I found that this was an interesting is that he distances himself from the group he is being critical of by pushing you all into my generation.

Now, the most singularly intelectualy incurious lot I've seen of late tend to be "Generation Jones." That is not quite the same as "dumb" but telling. Unlike the self-indulgent hostility of the Boomers or much of the lazyness of Xers, Jones types tend to be almost activly anti-intelectual. That is just a personal observation, but a consistant one.