Counterculture

Me Am Part of Dumbest Generation! Is You Too?

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In yesterday's Washington Post, Neil "Millennials Rising" Howe strikes a blow against generational tirades…by attacking late baby boomers/Generation Jones/Early Gen Xers as the real "Dumbest Generation."

Howe's starting point is a broadside against Mark Bauerlein, a (very) occasional Reason contributor, a Reason.tv interview subject, and the author of The Dumbest Generation: How the digital age stupefies the young and jeopardizes our future.

Howe's basic line:

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."

The whole thing is here.

The most interesting things about Howe's article?

First, he is wrong to argue that Bauerlein's book is short on "facts." It is chock full of data from comparable data sets about various sorts of intellectual activities (such as literary reading) and it has a lot of good things to say about the current younger generation. I don't agree overall with Bauerlein's general thesis—that those who don't know anything about history, economics, literature, etc., are likely to create an inferior society—but his book is not a rant in the same way that, say, Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason, is (to my mind, Jacoby misinterprets a shift away from LBJ-style progressivism as a sign of widespread dumbing down).

Second, Howe spends most of his time trying to explain why, despite his bold statement, Barack Obama (born 1961) is not a data point in his argument but Sarah Palin (1964) is. Well, fuck him and his thesis then. For all his supposed oratorical acumen, can anybody cite any evidence that Obama, despite his Ivy League degrees and his windy rhetoric, has ever read a book or pored over a particular period of American history? His first memoir is a great read, but his political speeches are remarkable for their lack of historical and literary allusion. And then Howe suggests that, against all reality and mind-altering chemicals currently known to mankind that the "1946 birth cohort (including such notables as Gilda Radner and Oliver Stone)" is somehow preferable to "the 1963 cohort (Mike Myers, Quentin Tarantino)." Full disclosure: I too was born in 1963. But I don't think I'm special pleading to say I'd rather be trapped in an elevator with the latter couple.

I don't believe in "generations" (if by the term we mean some tightly knit homogenous group) and have certainly spilled a good number of pixels mocking the idea that the kids today are somehow beneath previous cohorts (and that the older generations were somehow even greater or more depraved still). But what Howe does is something that I know I (and dare I say it) people about my age are overly familiar with: He simply recapitulates the long-standing animus against late-boomers by earlier boomers.

Which is more tired than Gilda Radner's corpse. And besides, we all know that the only generation worse than the Greatest Generation was the first half of the one they gave birth to.

Below, check out Dumbest Generation author Mark Bauerlein make his case to Reason.tv:

And watch him answer questions from the home version of Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? below:

NEXT: Volcker: Our New National Sadist?

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  1. Full disclosure: I too was born in 1963. But I don’t think I’m special pleading to say I’d rather be trapped in an elevator with the latter couple.

    Yeah, Gilda would be a bit ripe, wouldn’t she?

  2. Boomers suck in so many ways that any other argument is just trolling.

  3. At least there will be no more Presidential elections about who was doing what during the Vietnam War.

  4. I was only 8 years old when my pals Bill Ayers and Bernadine dohrn was courageously trying to stop the madness of the Vietnam War.

  5. He’s just mad because our women, drugs and music are all way better than his when he was growing up.

    Cold Y pride!

  6. I really shouldn’t collectively condemn boomers but the ones that just won’t fucking shut up about how great their generation is make it very, very hard not to.

  7. TV…TV…TV

    It rots your mind, and TV with less options, as those in question, who grew up before cable and after those who remember life without TV, would most likely be the dumbest. However I think as time continued and choices became greater, the parity between idiots and nonidiots became much larger. So yes, they were dumber overall but the gap between smart and stupid continues to grow.

  8. This is the kind of moronic drivel that i’d expect from a person born in 1962! And my argument counts for something, because I was born in 1967.

  9. That’s because they fucking suck, Epi.

    I can say something nice about every generation but them.

  10. I dont know, the 18 year old goth chick behind the burger counter today whipped out her calculator to make change from $15.30 for a $12.28 lunch.

  11. I mean, can you imagine when Gen X proper is running the country that they will have entire election cycles about what each candidate was doing in 1991?

  12. Epi,

    Which is worse, the boomers or the “greatest” generation folk?

    The group between those seems okay to me. That includes both my parents. Its the “alive during WW2 but too young to serve” generation.

  13. I think if anything the article underestimates the effect of “generational crowding” on late boomers / early Xers.

    By considering a generic and lumpen statistic like “all advanced degrees”, the study sets itself up to accentuate the crowding effect. After all, “all advanced degrees” includes the sort of nonsense-degrees that are handed out to manufacture liberal arts professionals of all kinds, and it was obvious to anyone planning a career at the tail end of the baby boom that the early boomers had camped out demographically in all those professions and that their tenured asses weren’t going anywhere.

    If anything, I would consider the presence of a lot of advanced degrees among people born in 1963 to be better evidence of stupidity than the absence of those degrees. If you were born in 1963, you would have to be some kind of moron to pursue a PhD in English literature. A literal moron.

    Add in the aerospace-related advanced degrees that were obvious nonstarters after the takedown of NASA in the late 70’s, and I have to ask: what exactly would someone born in 1963 pursue an advanced degree for? Basically you’re left with medicine and the law, and the late boomers had no problems churning those out.

    Disclosure: I am a late Gen Xer, so the study flatters my generation. I still don’t think it’s a good study, though.

  14. the 18 year old goth chick behind the burger counter today whipped out her calculator to make change from $15.30 for a $12.28 lunch

    See! How many baby boomers would be smart enough to even bring their calculator to work?

  15. The boring fact is that each succeeding generation is, by and large, better educated, if not “smarter,” than the last. By any rational measure, the “dumbest” generation in U.S. history wrote our constitution. Since then, there’s been nothing but progress!

  16. I don’t think that any generation is dumber than any other. Each new generation just has new ways in which to be dumb, so it stands out to older folks.

  17. BDB,

    Graduating college and then working in Switzerland.

    1991 could cause me some problems, I guess.

  18. “Cold Y pride”

    Of course, it takes an X’er to fix your tags (no problem really, now that gen x is in middle management, it’s our job to fix the sloppy errors of the Y entry level staff)

    Also, that had possibly the most bs of any page in the history of the internet. To wit: “Whereas Generation X has now largely had time to fall into the standard orthodoxies of political participation blah blah blah” Note to Y: only use ‘whereas’ when writing actual legistlation, otherwise you sound like a douche.

  19. I’ve said this before, but Mark Bauerlein is a member of the dumbest high school graduation class ever. His age puts him graduating high school around 1977-1979 when standardized test results were not just in the toilet but were in the septic tank. Course, those kids went on to be productive Americans anyway, so what does that really say about the value of public education?

    BTW, Pro, Bauerlein is a boomer in name only (BINO), not that we don’t suck anyway. 🙂

    My anecdotal experience with younger people is completely at odds with Mark Bauerlein’s assertion. Unless you count the Obama worship, which is pretty dumb. 🙂

    My own kids are learning far more in class than was taught when I came through the children’s prison system. I find younger people, across the board, to be bright, articulate, friendly, and ironically, extremely courteous to old people. I mean older people who have trouble getting around. Old fashioned courtesy. Something that most boomers had a distinct lack of when we were young.

    Dumbest Generation Ever? I don’t think so.

  20. Note to Y: only use ‘whereas’ when writing actual legistlation, otherwise you sound like a douche.

    FTFY

  21. Millenals actually watched less TV than X or Boomers, but that’s only because there were other kinds of electronic entertainment by then. I don’t know I’d that makes them smarter or dumber.

  22. dont know, the 18 year old goth chick behind the burger counter today whipped out her calculator to make change from $15.30 for a $12.28 lunch.

    That’s nothing new, nobody has been able to make change since the 1950’s.

    I can’t add shit in my head anymore either. Not sure if I’m just old or I’ve become dependent upon excel, the internet, and my 10 key. What counts is knowing what you have to do to get the correct answer. The Goth chick obviously knew what she needed to do to get you your change and she did it.

  23. That’s because they fucking suck, Epi.

    I can say something nice about every generation but them.

    We used to say that about Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. Then, eventually, we grew up too.

  24. Nick:

    Gilda would not be caught dead in an elevator with you.

  25. I worked the counter at McDonalds in 1974. I had a pen and a pad of paper. For small orders (one or two people), I did the math in my head.

    I think the bright kids in today’s environment have access to the most amazing tools (computers and stuff), but the bulk of the kids in the middle to the bottom of the pack are in far worse shape than in the past.

    I went to school in Tennesse with kids that literally lived in shacks. They did just fine in school. The middle class kids in my mostly rural Iowa home now are dumber than a box of rocks.

  26. I was born in 1966, which makes me a Fire Horse in Chinese astrology and, therefore, a God. Along with, um, everyone else born that year.

    Losers!

  27. A serious question for anyone inclined to pursue in the comments ether and/or Reason administration: I have always been convinced that, especially today, to have what is referred to as an “Ivy League Education” is somewhat meaningless unless one specifies the curriculum. One can navigate any number of America’s most premier and expensive institutions of higher education, and if he were so inclined only to matriculate in Postmodern Feminist Horticulture, could graduate with a BA in such studies, having never glimpsed a word of Milton.

    That isn’t to say he wouldn’t have had a commensurate education in Postmodern Feminist Horticulture, but there are virtues to a classical education that one does conflate to the freight given a degree from, say Yale or Harvard.

    So I would love to know exactly which courses Mr. Obama took while he studied at Harvard. Was he schooled in the Western Cannon, as Harold Bloom put it, the cultural capital and basic history, sans Howard Zimm flotsam? Did he take a single economics course, and if so, which economists did he read?

  28. PL – I was born in 1976 which makes me a Fire Dragon in Chinese astrology. I wonder if the Chinese did some extra fucking just to produce more of the superhuman fire dragons that year.

    Who knows. I did like the “Fuck him and his thesis, then” line. You just don’t see that actually written out often enough.

  29. I’m a tiger! Seriously, the main problem with this generational business is that there is no coherence within generations. It does *kinda* make sense to compare the “best and brightest” of one generation to the same of another.

    Yes, with the fantastic information tools at our disposal the smart kids become brighter (scarier) and the dumb kids, well, they stay dumb.

  30. and the dumb kids, well, they stay dumb.

    As my buddy Jack Gray used to say about his dyslexic son…..

    That’s why they make backhoes.

  31. Yes, with the fantastic information tools at our disposal the smart kids become brighter (scarier) and the dumb kids, well, they stay dumb.

    I worry that the middle of the pack is slewing towards dumber rather than smarter.

  32. yep the poorest informed and well read, yawl can work a video game thoughy, and as long as long as obama dont reproduce no Smoot-Hawley im good

  33. “Cold Y pride”

    Of course, it takes an X’er to fix your tags (no problem really, now that gen x is in middle management, it’s our job to fix the sloppy errors of the Y entry level staff)

    huh? don’t try an impress me with your fancy tech talk – just make that damn website work…

  34. “His first memoir is a great read, but his political speeches are remarkable for their lack of historical and literary allusion.”

    Why the fuck would Obama rattle on with historic and literary allusions, which inherently harken back to the past, when his whole schtick is based on change and looks to the future? Anyway, that shit’s usually just filler, and/or cheap attempts to ride the coattails of past historic figures.

    We do, however, know Obama’s read up on the Hyperborean Age. But I wouldn’t expect him to exclaim “By Crom!” in a speech.

  35. 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.”

  36. Each generation has smart and dumb members. I have seen more stupidity from the boomer generation than any other.

  37. I thought I kept up to date with stuff, but I’ve never heard of GenJones until today.

    I guess this validates the point that we’re “dumb”.

    At least I can stop saying I’m a boomer.

  38. Cool Cal wrote: “So I would love to know exactly which courses Mr. Obama took while he studied at Harvard.”

    He was at Harvard Law, so I expect the curriculum would be law-related. Probably constitutional law, as he ended up lecturing on that at Chicago. (I take that to mean his law education was more substantial than, say, Bush’s education in History or Business were, from Yale or HBS).

    His undergrad was at Columbia, and I think he majored in Poli Sci / International Relations.

  39. as time continued and choices became greater, the parity between idiots and nonidiots became much larger. So yes, they were dumber overall but the gap between smart and stupid continues to grow.

    And how old are you, if I may ask?

  40. Why won’t somebody PLEASE think of the Children?

  41. By Strauss and Howe’s own theories, he’s far too self-absorbed and narcissistic (being a Baby Boomer) to adequately analyze his own generation, let alone any others.

    At least the pair of them had the good sense back in the ’90s to admit to Gen Xers that we were going to have to clean up the mess their generation makes. It looks like they were pretty prescient on that score.

  42. 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.

    Screw that “Jones” noise. Class of ’61. That makes me one of the Gen X Elders (Nick, feel free to genuflect in our direction).

    I have 2 undergrad degrees and a Masters. My adolescence was throughout the societal shit-stain of the 1970’s, the legacy of our dear, dear late-Boomer friends. You gave us Watergate, wage and price controls, disco, Saturday Night Fever, oil price shocks, malaise, a 50% divorce rate, Squeaky Fromme, the AMC Matador, Three-Mile Island and Jimmy Carter.

    In spite of that, we managed to salvage the rest. You should be thankful that any of us actually came out that decade with our sanity intact.

  43. For all his supposed oratorical acumen, can anybody cite any evidence that Obama, despite his Ivy League degrees and his windy rhetoric, has ever read a book or pored over a particular period of American history? His first memoir is a great read, but his political speeches are remarkable for their lack of historical and literary allusion.

    Irrelevant to the point Mr. Gillespie is making here, but including historical or literary allusions in political speeches intended for an American audience would just be a waste of breath, anyway.

  44. as said somewhere above, I look forward to the point where the 90s and 00s are as ancient as the 60s and 70s. not that i want to be old, I’m just curious as to the difference between experiencing a decade and how history “paints” the decade with the brush of generalization and stereotype.

  45. I know you Weakly Standard wannabes have trouble using the intertubes, but I googled Barack Obama’s reading list and found several sites with names like Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, EL Doctorow, William Shakespeare, Malcolm X, Ralph Ellison, Saul Alinsky, Nietzsche, Reinhold Niebuhr, and his favorite book is my favorite American novel, Moby Dick. You can argue that the greatest (my opinion and I should probably keep it to myself) English language writer (no, it’s not Saul Alinsky), Pulitzer winners, and religious writers shouldn’t be read or noted by President-elect Barack Hussein Obama, but don’t say he hasn’t read enough.

  46. Shakespeare? That’s un-American.

  47. The whole notion of “the greatest generation” is absurd. Every generation is great.

    Wayne, born 1953.

  48. I’m just curious as to the difference between experiencing a decade and how history “paints” the decade with the brush of generalization and stereotype.

    I was pretty young, being born in 1969, but I dont remember the 70s being anything like “That 70’s Show”.

  49. I look forward to the point where the 90s and 00s are as ancient as the 60s and 70s.

    The 90’s already are ancient.

    How do I know this?

    I accidentally watched the opening couple of minutes of a Cold Case episode the other day. Apparently this show begins by showing the commission of a long-ago crime, which the show’s intrepid detectives retrieve from the pile of files of long-unsolved cases and proceed to solve. This particular episode established the mood for showing the ancient, long-unsolved, almost-forgotten crime by running sepia-toned film and playing the Everclear song Santa Monica.

    When your music can be used to establish mood in a period piece, you are officially ancient.

    I also noticed something the other day: to my kid, 9/11 will be as ancient as John Kennedy’s assassination is to me. His date of birth is almost exactly as long after 9/11 [to the day] as my own birth was after the Kennedy assassination. So 9/11 will be ancient too soon enough.

  50. fluffy, I’m terrified.

  51. Just look at college degrees and the level of selectivity of colleges in the 1980’s. Not only did these increase, but doctoral and masters degrees increased as well. We could argue, and many have, that it is related to a confluence of a shift to the knowledge economy and to an increasingly massified system of higher edu. If more people are getting degrees and more colleges are more selective, how is this the dumbest generation? http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5448/is_/ai_n21425411

    And you don’t become editor in chief of Harvard Law Review without having done some reading. I don’t care if it’s Obama or some other person, it’s just a fact jack. For what it’s worth Pain’s degree completion over more than four years at way more than one college is not representative of her generation either. They are smarter than that.

  52. Finally, a name for my-g-g-g-eneration!

    Prior to being labeled a “Jones,” I thought of myself as an “Iggy,” with reference to the International Geophysical Year, which was underway when my physical joined the geo. I had sort of adopted Donald Fagen’s “IGY” as the unofficial theme song. Now I guess I have to switch songs to “Ballad of a Thin Man,” though I like it a hell of a lot less. On the other hand, my wife is at the younger end of that cohort, so I suppose our song could be “Me & Mrs. Jones.”

  53. I look forward to the point where the 90s and 00s are as ancient as the 60s and 70s. not that i want to be old, I’m just curious as to the difference between experiencing a decade and how history “paints” the decade with the brush of generalization and stereotype.

    You’ll know when the styles and culture of your youth becomes a nostalgic memoir for the advertising and marketing trolls to rape so that they can sell something “fresh” in the juniors section at Bloomingdales.

  54. You’ll know when the styles and culture of your youth becomes a nostalgic memoir for the advertising and marketing trolls to rape so that they can sell something “fresh” in the juniors section at Bloomingdales.

    I swear to God I see chicks every day that I am sure I either dated or lusted after. Then it occurs to me that these hot little chiquitas with their bell bottoms, bare midriffs, and long straight hair are merely the embodiment of the girls I once knew, all of whom are mostly kindly grandmas or bitchy activists at AARP or MADD.

    Big Sigh.

    And what about all those bands that would never sell out?

  55. I was pretty young, being born in 1969, but I dont remember the 70s being anything like “That 70’s Show”.

    Of course not, you were too young. It’s just the same for boomer kids. We don’t really remember sock hops or Jerry Lee Lewis’ smokin’ piano.

    Sure I can remember my dad wandering around singing Blueberry Hill and Charley Brown, but what stays with you are the years of your coming of age. I peg that at 12-20.

  56. I swear to God I see chicks every day that I am sure I either dated or lusted after.

    I still lust after them, just not quite so obviously so as to not creep them out.

    I swear to god, I had a 32-year old woman tell me that I shouldn’t be looking at any woman under 35. Yes, I did look at her as if she was that fucking nuts.

    I’m not really quite sure what her criteria was based upon and it was even stranger considering that she had come onto me a few years earlier.

    And what about all those bands that would never sell out?

    WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THE ALL THE RACKET FROM THE AUTOMATED BILL COUNTER.

  57. Forgive me, I did mean to say Columbia.

    I know, he was editor of the Harvard Law Review, no minor feat at the time, given the givens.

  58. Irrelevant to the point Mr. Gillespie is making here, but including historical or literary allusions in political speeches intended for an American audience would just be a waste of breath, anyway.

    QFT. The most discussed literary reference that I can remember by a president was Bush’s “thousand points of light,” which came from the Narnia series. Melville it ain’t.

    A serious question for anyone inclined to pursue in the comments ether and/or Reason administration: I have always been convinced that, especially today, to have what is referred to as an “Ivy League Education” is somewhat meaningless unless one specifies the curriculum.

    Cool Cal,
    An Ivy League education is meaningless, but that does not mean that being an Ivy Leaguer, is meaningless. Harvard is good at one thing, identifying high quality talent. They’ve done longitudinal studies of people accepted by Harvard but did not attend Harvard compared to those that attended. No matter where they ended up, they ended up having the same average life outcomes as those that attended Harvard. Keep in mind, grade inflation is rampant in the Ivies. The Ivies in education is like having McKinsey or Bain on your resume, you are judged as smart by an approved sanctioning body.

    FWIW, when I was in Cambridge for orientation, my new friends and I had lunch in Harvard Square. Our waiter fucked up our change by a good 3 bucks, he was wearing a Harvard class ring.

  59. I was pretty young, being born in 1969, but I dont remember the 70s being anything like “That 70’s Show”.

    If you want a fairly accurate account of the late 70’s, watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Not too far off from my own life, minus Phoebe Cates and pizza deliveries to the classroom.

    On the subject of movies, I can still watch Animal House and The Blues Brothers and get a certain amount of enjoyment out of them. I watch movies aimed at the 18-25 year olds for the past 15 years or so and all I can think is “Meh.” They just aren’t all that smart nor imaginative. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the gratuitous nudity and all, but they just don’t seem to be nearly as well-made. Of course, that could just be my own lost youth talking, so I’ll handicap my critique a bit.

    Yout’ films, for the most part, took a nose-dive Breakfast Club and after.

  60. And what about all those bands that would never sell out?

    I’m glad I’ll never be that jaded. My generation’s bands explicitly sold out. Though I did feel really old when I was bitching to one of my friends about rap being better when it stood for something more than just being about bitches and bling.

  61. You know that when Obama headed the law review at Harvard, conservatives liked him because he was the only candidate who actually would listen to what they had to say?

    But to the point: Neil’s NAEP data relies heavily on 4th and 8th grade scores, which have, indeed, climbed. But who cares if it happens that when they reach 12th grade their performance gets worse (which is, indeed, the case)? Reading scores for seniors are flat since the early 70s, and they have actually declined significantly since the early 90s, and so have literacy rates.

  62. Will somebody please tell me what my generation is? I’m generationless. (Born 1977)

    We’re either the youngest Xs or the oldest millennials.

  63. Reading scores for seniors are flat since the early 70s, and they have actually declined significantly since the early 90s, and so have literacy rates.

    Have you considered ESL as a cause? What kind of percentage change are we talking about when you say significantly?

  64. C L–

    1)What format did you first listen to music in?

    2)What was your first video game console?

    3)Did you have a computer as a child?

    4)Do you remember the Soviet Union existing?

    Those are good guideposts.

  65. FWIW (1984) my answers are 1)Compact discs, 2)Nintendo Entertainment System, 3)yes, 4)no.

    A Gen Xer would probably be 1)Vinyl (or casettes), 2)Atari VCS, 3)no, 4)yes.

  66. BDB:

    Mostly cassette tapes

    Atari 2600

    Yes

    Yes

    Seems I’m a young X, way to make me feel old.

  67. the 18 year old goth chick behind the burger counter today whipped out her calculator to make change from $15.30 for a $12.28 lunch

    Sadly, I can top that: while buying stocking stuffers last Christmas, I went to one store where my bill, with tax, came out to $13.30. I gave the cashier $20.30, and he needed a calculator to figure out he owed me seven dollars back.

    As Dave Barry says, I Am Not Making This Up. But I don’t think that has anything to do with one generation compared to another; that has more to do with what sort of person pursues a career as a cashier at a dollar store.

  68. If you want a fairly accurate account of the late 70’s, watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Not too far off from my own life, minus Phoebe Cates and pizza deliveries to the classroom.

    After seeing that in the movie, my friends and I had pizza delivered to the classroom. Classic.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the gratuitous nudity and all, but they just don’t seem to be nearly as well-made.

    Now you’re really sounding old.

  69. But I don’t think that has anything to do with one generation compared to another; that has more to do with what sort of person pursues a career as a cashier at a dollar store.

    Pay minimum wage, get minimum people. I bring this up occasionally at staff meetings, but nobody listens…

  70. Born in 79. Always considered myself a young Gen-X’er. I remember the Challenger exploding and the Berlin Wall falling. Though when you bridge Generations like that I think you end up a bit of both.

    I bought cassettes, had a NES, did have a computer (but my dad was a computer geek so that doesn’t count), and yes I remember the Soviet Union.

    Off topic, but this is the year I started to feel old. I was out with a group that was some friends, and some people I didn’t know and the girl I’m talking to says “I need to do this before I get old, like 29 or something”.

  71. Seems to me these guys are having a hankerin’ for the “good ol’ days.” I don’t know if any of you watch Penn & Teller: Bullshit! but they had an excellent show this season about nostalgia for the “good ol’ days.” I highly suggest watching it.

  72. the “dumbest” generation in U.S. history wrote our constitution.

    Dammit! I hate it when Vanneman makes sense.

  73. I had to read Millenials Rising during my Ph.D. program. For Howe to criticize anyone for being short on facts is stunning. Our entire class, while finding some of Howe’s observations interesting and familiar, universally panned the book as a compilation of anecdotes. It wasn’t a terribly serious work of literature, scholarhip, or pop culture ramblings.

  74. That’s nothing new, nobody has been able to make change since the 1950’s.

    When I was in college and working retail I had no problem making change, except when I was studying calculus, at which point simple addition and subtraction became hopelessly obtuse.

  75. I used to take Howe seriously back before I became immune to his flattery of Gen X. I’ve never taken Bauerlein seriously. Despite all of the anecdotes and irrelevant data, the facts remain that IQs are going up. And IQ is mostly genetic plus environmental factors from very early childhood, which means it doesn’t matter what quality (or quantity) of classic English lit you’re reading by middle school or later.

    The only difference between now and colonial days is back then fewer people were literate and thus a disproportionate number of the literate were the smartest of the smart (hence the Founding Fathers). Now, even the semi-literate can get on the Internet and display their stupidity. They’re less stupid than the stupid of the past, but they have the ability to make more notable asses of themselves.


  76. I also noticed something the other day: to my kid, 9/11 will be as ancient as John Kennedy’s assassination is to me. His date of birth is almost exactly as long after 9/11 [to the day] as my own birth was after the Kennedy assassination. So 9/11 will be ancient too soon enough.

    Agreed, I noticed the exact same thing.

  77. Flynn effect.

    IQ test continue to need readjustment/renorming because each subsequent generation scores better than the last. I haven’t read anything that indicates a dip in that trend for those in my generation (born 1965).

    My HS class was (1983), however, the most absent most tardy, least engaged of any to go through my high school up to that point. The class had the lowest high school graduation rate of any at that high school up to that point as well.

    Generation Apathy might be the better term.

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