Saturday, March 1, 2008


In a newspaper article about a new book, The Age of American Unreason, by cultural critic Susan Jacoby, the author tells of a dinner conversation with a student who was about to graduate with honors from Michigan State University in 2006. After the author mentioned President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "fireside chats," the author watched as the student "looked absolutely blank" in response.
Is this par for the course?

The article goes to reach the following conclusion:

"A slew of new books, studies and films all tell a similar tale: Americans — especially young Americans — don't know much about much. Overfed on self-esteem, pop culture and digital entertainment, students are starved for genuine literary, historical, scientific and mathematical knowledge, critics say."

This complaint is nothing new. Down through the ages, adults have complained about the lack of knowledge of the youth of their times. But the charges seem more serious if not paradoxical now.

On the one hand, with the advent of the Internet, students of all ages, have every bit of knowledge known to "man/womankind" readily available, and know more. On the other hand, the bombardment of media of all types, including the Internet seems to lead to short attention spans, and less depth of knowledge. In certain respects students are given more challenging assignments, and courses are more advanced than ever before, on the other hand, many aspects of our modern life are being dumbed down. It will be interesting to see whether this knowledge gap winds up over the next few years.

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