Millennial Generation: Smartest or Dumbest?

Is the Millennial Generation the smartest or dumbest generation? Two short videos debate the topic.

I came upon this video debate between Mark Bauerlein and Neil Howe on Youtube:

Mark Bauerlein:

Neil Howe:

Disclaimer: I like Neil Howe’s work and have read most of his books. I have not read Bauerlein’s but probably will soon.

This video is very short, but I don’t find Mark’s argument compelling. For example, he says:

“Teen to teen contact is crowding out the voices of teachers, parents, ministers and other mentors in in their lives”.

Sounds like the Boomers (born 1943-1960) are getting some payback on this one. They certainly did not listen to any of their teachers, parents, ministers or other mentors in their youth. They had a similar “echo chamber” amongst their peers, and they used it to preach to each other and then tear down the society built by the GI Generation (born 1901-1924). But unlike the Boomers, this is a generation of people who DO more than they SAY and want to build up something new rather than tear something down.

“They don’t read books” and “In 1982, 18-24 year-olds formed the most avid readers in our country. In 2002 they became the least active reading group”

Equating reading books with intelligence is, well, an out-dated concept. I am Gen X and I read a ton, but I have lots of VERY smart peers and friends who don’t read much. Should we really judge intelligence by the size of a person’s bookshelf? Is complex thought only possible after reading a book?

Although I personally place high value on reading, it is worth noting that it is a very passive activity. Sure, some might say you use your imagination when reading, but in comparison to having an active conversation or debate with another person it is pretty passive. Should we judge those conversations harshly because they happen online instead of face-to-face?

It is particularly ironic that Baurelein subtitled his book, “Don’t trust anyone under 30”. It is a reference back to the 60’s statement “Don’t trust anyone over 30“. The message here from a Boomer is that we shouldn’t trust anyone older than a Boomer, and probably should discount anyone younger than a Boomer as well!

Bauerlein’s whole argument seems to be very, “Kids today! They have no respect for their elders”. It’s a tired argument that does not apply. It applied to Gen X (born 1961-1981) and Boomers(born 1943-1960), but not to Millennials. Time to get past that myth. Listen Howe’s brief statement. It has a LOT better facts backing it and paints a much clearer picture of what this generation is about.

Note: I can see the argument that the “multi-tasking” that afflicts most people today (of almost all ages) is destrimental to coherent thought processes, but doesn’t make Millennials stupid as a generation. I may do a future post on this distraction/multi-tasking topic in the future.

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