Posted by: Billy Marsh | March 27, 2009

The Dumbest Generation on Mohler Radio

The Dumbest Generation ~ Mark BauerleinOne of my favorite reads of 2008 wasn’t a theology book. With a little tweaking, however, it could easily be one. Regardless of the fact that you won’t find Mark Bauerlein’s book at LifeWay, Christians don’t need to miss his warning. After being a youth pastor/leader several times over, and now a college professor, I was eager to listen to Bauerlein’s assessment of my generation and the trajectory on which it is headed. Interestingly enough, he chose one of the most provocative titles I’ve ever seen: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future; he also gives an alternate title, *Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30.

By means of statistics, surveys, research, and so forth, Bauerlein evaluates the intellectual well-being of “my” generation, and the results are bleak, though for me, not surprising. As a veteran now of the educational system, both as a long-time student and recently an instructor, I think most people would be blown away at the reality of how anti-intellectual students are who have voluntarily enrolled to be educated. For many education in general is the means by which they receive their “meal-ticket” to a career or worldly-success rather than the desire to grow in knowledge and intellectual maturity. Bauerlein actually deals with this subject in his study and the findings are very revealing of how my generation’s individualism and extreme pragmatism determines their approach to education. But what people in the Church may be shocked to find out is that the disposition within the Christian educational culture isn’t any different than the world in which Bauerlein is critiquing.  And what continues to amaze me is that here we are dealing with the knowledge of God, not just world history or economics. Nonetheless, the apathetic attitude continues to linger.

The book offers only six chapters, but they are each fairly long. They deal with critical issues such as the state of non-reading in the culture and a collective disregard for books, the danger of too much “screen time,” and an analysis of how “online learning” has actually proven to be the prime location for “non-learning”. The final two chapters respectively approach the issues of the loss of the mentors and the disappearance of true cultural warriors. Although each chapter in The Dumbest Generation proffers an abundance of conclusions and charges that could easily be applicable to the Church, these final two chapters are extremely kingdom related. Essentially Bauerlein remarks that “my” generation has flipped the ancient practice of the young being mentored by their elders. Instead, the youth have the elders under their thumbs, and view them as having nothing profitable to offer in terms of wisdom, knowledge, and/or experience. “Old” now has the connotation of “outdated” or “useless” rather than “weathered,” “experienced,” or the source of sage wisdom tested and tried by time. Bauerlein comes down on the older generations, however, for failing to take up the mantle of mentoring, thus giving “the dumbest generation” free roam to rule society and to set its course. Here I can agree with him as I have watched parents and adults cowardly lie down for the young people to tread all over them. An insight that is clear from Bauerlein’s analysis is that since we have lost the dynamic of mentoring in our culture, we have a generation of “Peter Pans,” who, unlike Pan continue to age, but yet follow in his footsteps, still refusing to grow up.

I’ll just throw this out there: it was very enlightening to be reading this book all throughout last year’s presidential election.

Originally, I began this post as nothing more than to create a resource for you to consider reading Bauerlein’s cultural study and to go and listen to his appearance on Dr. Al Mohler’s radio program recently. I was excited to see that I’m not the only one who believes that Christians should not pass by his findings. So I’ll give you some links at the end for you to go and download that particular show.

I could say more, but this post is already getting out of hand. In conclusion, I say that Bauerlein’s thesis and conclusions are kingdom related because though he himself is doing this study to assess and critique the culture, Christians will see beyond his remarks and note the real problem and solutions beneath his worldly-wisdom. His findings indirectly expose the spiritual problem and condition of this generation at large, which is undeniably permeating our churches, schools, colleges, and seminaries. The most prominent thing that continued to come to my mind as I read it was how this generation’s technological disposition affects its approach to a relationship with God, and subsequently, its neighbor. Not only does the American culture need to be on the outlook, but the Church needs to lead the way in resolving the deep-seated issues in “my” generation which must be sought through the transformation of the heart and a renewing of the mind according to the Word of God.

  • Purchase The Dumbest Generation
  • Listen to Mark Bauerlein’s guest appearance on the Al Mohler radio broadcast called “Does Your Child’s Cell Phone Preach Another Gospel?
  • Click to subscribe to Al Mohler’s podcast on iTunes.
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Responses

  1. Thanks for the heads up about this book, I might have to go for it. Sadly, 20 years ago when I was in Seminary, I knew soooo many guys that were there just for the “Piece of Paper” that MDiv that would be their ticket into an “easy” profession. A lot of the guys from Baptist colleges were especially bad, complaining, “I covered this in college why do I have to study it again…”
    Voof!
    You got me going Billy!
    Bryan

  2. Don’t even get me started! I read parts of this book and it is definitly right on. All that I have to do is make a dreaded visit to the mall and eventually I have to leave or get arrested. When I grew up I just knew that those that were older than me were due respect. In fact there are still a couple of people around that are older than me and I have high regard for them and their wisdom. Maybe they don’t know how to use a cellphone or the internet but personally I think thats a good thing. Many of the younger generation now have not only a lack of respect for their elders but a disregard for them as well and I think this is where the problem lies because this disregard is not only for their authority but for their experience and knowlege as well. Culture has created the idea that faster and younger is better and old means slow and out of touch. I had an article to fax to you by Walt Woodard where he was talking about missing his dad. He said that basically that when he was younger he didn’t realize that he would miss his dad’s wisdom when he got older. He kind of thought that when he got older he would know everything he needed to know but now is finding out that he wishes his dad was still around to be able to pull from his knowlege. Even though my dad and I didn’t get along that well I still find myself having the same feelings. I think this is also at the very heart of the “mentoring” problem as well. The lack of need of each previous generation’s knowlege probably began to pick up steam since back in the 60’s. It’s pretty hard to mentor someone if they aren’t interested in what you have to say. I could go on and on but it’s raining today. I think I’ll go to the mall this afternoon and beat up some young people.
    DAD


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