December 6, 2008

The dumbest Americans: "those born from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s."

WaPo reports:
Compared with every other birth cohort, they have performed the worst on standardized exams, acquired the fewest educational degrees and been the least attracted to professional careers....

Early Xers are the least bookish CEOs and legislators the United States has seen in a long while. They prefer sound bites over seminars, video clips over articles, street smarts over lofty diplomas. They are impatient with syntax and punctuation and citations -- and all the other brainy stuff they were never taught.
Is that dumb or a different way of being smart?

IN THE COMMENTS: Jeff with one 'f' said...
Talk about moving the goalposts. The last I heard the Baby Boom was defined as those born between 1946 and 1964. Now this clown wants to cut the generation in half to make the Xers look bad? Please.
We talked about that back here when the subject was whether Barack Obama, born in 1961, counted as a Boomer. [DATE CORRECTED.] I say he is not. To be a Boomer, you need to have grown up in the post-war afterglow, when parents and communities were psyched about living a normal, conventional family life. You have to have seen what the world was like before the Civil Rights Movement, before the Kennedy Assassination, before Vietnam. If you experienced the Beatles when you were a teenager, you're a Boomer. If you had disco, you're not.

AND: Palladian said...
"Is that dumb or a different way of being smart?"

It's called the influence of the Sixties, man! Even though the Boomers caused the Sixties, they were lucky enough to have had a pre-Sixties education and exposure to pre-Sixties culture. Not so for the poor younger folks, whose brains were permanently damaged by firsthand exposure to the catastrophe of the Age of Aquarius.
I too suspect that the dumbness attributed to the X-ers was produced by the culture of the previous 2 generations. It's not just the Boomers. We were sucking up that culture and promoting it, imbuing it with the power of the young, but people like John Lennon and Bob Dylan were not themselves Boomers. They were born in 1940 and 1941, respectively. Timothy Leary was born in 1920. Allen Ginsberg was born in 1926. Abbie Hoffman was born in 1936.

What am I trying to say? We didn't start the fire.

54 comments:

Ron said...

Woohoo! The WaPo likes me! They really like me! Gosh, I'm not a Boomer, but an Early Xer! This is better news than a red Ferrari and Viagra milkshakes!

Dumb? Or could it be we just don't trust those Boomers who've sucked the Nation dry for their own happy, happy vision of things?

Darcy said...

ouch, im not amused

EnigmatiCore said...

I will go with "a different way of being smart", if being red is nothing more than a different way of being blue.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Talk about moving the goalposts. The last I heard the Baby Boom was defined as those born between 1946 and 1964. Now this clown wants to cut the generation in half to make the Xers look bad? Please.

Palladian said...

"Is that dumb or a different way of being smart?"

It's called the influence of the Sixties, man! Even though the Boomers caused the Sixties, they were lucky enough to have had a pre-Sixties education and exposure to pre-Sixties culture. Not so for the poor younger folks, whose brains were permanently damaged by firsthand exposure to the catastrophe of the Age of Aquarius.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

I was born in 1958, so I'm -

- what were we talking about again?

Martin said...

Born in 1963 (evidently now the new nadir in intelligence), I would guess that my peers and I watched more TV than those before us without the stimulus of computers which came after us. Perhaps watching the results of Vietnam and Watergate, and then making our way through Reagan took its toll?

MadisonMan said...

Speaking as a child of 1960, let me say that the early boomers caused this. Yes, Ann, I blame you and your ilk! All this talk of do your own thing, tune in, turn on, drop out, etc. Of course we listened to our idolized older siblings! Is it any wonder we younger siblings turned out dumber?

sonicfrog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

Their only alternative was to pioneer the pragmatic, free-agent, low-credential lifestyle for which Generation X has since become famous.

O Pioneers! I salute the Alexandra Bergsons and Carl Linstrums among you.

former law student said...

Geez, no wonder Obama made President of the HLS Law Review. The competition didn't exist for a kid born smack in the middle of the Dumbest Generation. I used to be impressed by Obama's educational accomplishments, but no longer.

sonicfrog said...

This is justified academically through Gardner's Multiple intelligences:

* Linguistic intelligence ("word smart"):
* Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
* Spatial intelligence ("picture smart")
* Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
* Musical intelligence ("music smart")
* Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
* Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart")
* Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart")

There used to be only seven "MI's", but they keep adding more to placate other dumb groups. I guess we could add "Soundbite Smart" to the list, and that would help raise the self esteem of this bunch. Many of this generation would like to believe they are "Nature Smart", which is one of the newest ones added to appease the Al Gore crowd, but after seeing how they all freaked out over the Sarah Palin slaughterhouse interview, well, I have my doubts if this one applies.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

Me, b. 1961.

I have to agree we received a horrid education. My kids have enormous, even excessive, amounts of homework. I rarely had any at all. My peers lack any knowledge of Shakespeare or Kipling or American history (except civil rights) or much in the way of math.

But I do not believe today's kids are much smarter than we achieved; the evidence in front of us is too stark. (The SAT has changed its scoring and difficulty over time, so I do not think it's a good scale for comparison.) My kids are getting a better education; but they're in a parochial school. Some of my kid's friends are whip-smart and learned. Others not so much. My experiences with public school suggest that idiocy is shared by teacher and pupil alike.

My generation acknowledged its inferior training and embarked on an autodidactic course. The internet is one example.

Can today's clerks make change?
Can they write a memo lacking IM shortcuts?
Can they use a hammer and screwdriver (or just get hammered drinking screwdrivers)?
Do they know any civics?
Do they know much American history?
Can they change a tire?
Can they fix a leaky toilet?
Can they sew?
Can they cook?
can they embroider, garden, make small repairs?

No, no, no, etc, no.
The hip-hop culture embraced by much of today's youth is entirely anti-intellectual and although tech-savvy, they know only what hacking teaches them, and think they are discovering for the first time many very common ideas.

My vote?
This is a very stupid article.

J said...

"Like it or not, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (born in 1964), who stumbled over basic civics facts during her vice presidential run, is more representative of this group"

Like how ,many states there are, or which president went on televison reassure the public after the crash of 29? Oh, I see - it's an anti-Palin piece, in an oblique way that evidently appears clever to journalists.

"They are impatient with syntax and punctuation and citations -- and all the other brainy stuff they were never taught"

So someone who doesn't know "stuff they were never taught" is dumb?

Bissage said...

Sure I’m dumb but it’s not my fault.

The future was supposed to be full of super smart robots that would take care of everything.

I blame the Jetsons!

Darcy said...

That was excellent, Pogo. I'm grateful. (b. 1963)

(And, like Theo on another thread, I'm too picky to let my attempt at mocking this article look like I'm confirming it...so "Ouch! I'm not amused.")

Big Mike said...

Jeff is right. Late 1950's to mid-1960's should still be part of the Baby Boom, though the fact that the first Boomer was born in 1946 means that this is a cohort spanning 18 years -- the tail end of the cohort could be children from the start.

I'm scared by the thought that Palladian and MadMan might also be right. Of course, the WaPo likes to blame everything on the Baby Boom generation (it's true!)

Richard Dolan said...

I doubt that this indictment is true, but let's put that aside for now. The indictment is that the Gen Xers read less, have shorter attention spans, prefer video to print and value "street smarts over lofty diplomas".

In part, that sounds like the usual complaint when norms of what passes for civilized behaviour are changing. Substitute the techy details for those of a century ago, and you can hear the high Victorians sniffing about the vulgarians who mocked and eventually overturned the certitudes of 19th century culture. It is also an echo of the sort of thing that the Beaux Arts types said of Cezanne & Co. All of that qualifies as a "different way of being smart," really a different way of observing and experiencing the world.

In part, the indictment is something quite different. It suggests a perpetual childhood where the connection between work and reward is never quite grasped. In this wonderful world, who is going to make all those videos, and come up with just the right sound bites, to capture what's important? As long as Daddy is still around, there's no need to ask. Then he's gone and it's too late.

Fortunately, this strikes me as another of those silly pop-cult things that has only the flimsiest basis in reality. If anyone cared to find out, I suspect that the age-cohort this article is writing about has read more, and absorbed more from print and other sources, than the same cohort 50 or even 20 years earlier. When the Gen Xers came along, there were higher levels of prosperity resulting in more leisure to pursue what in earlier times would not have been possible. So the point seems to be that this the social reality generated by all that leisure, all that prosperity. And the surprise is...?

AllenS said...

I'm at the start of the Boomer generation (b. 1946). I remember that it was hard to get laid in 1964. When I got out of the Army in 1968, man, there were women everywhere to screw. What was the question?

Darcy said...

OT: (Or maybe not, since growing up with so much TV led to my love of sports viewing..) Anybody have the Army/Navy game on? Whoa. I want one of those Army jerseys!!
Very cool.

OSweet said...

I blame Kurt Cobain.

kimsch said...

Pogo, great! I was born in 1962. Years ago I worked at the bookstore at Northwestern University. Even then, the temp students hired for new semester book sales couldn't give proper change. One temp rang in $100 instead of $10 on a $1.50 purchase. The register "told" him that he needed to give $98.50 in change. He thought he had to because that's what the register said. It took several tries to get the temp to understand that the register only knew that it needed $1.50 more than it had before. That giving the customer $8.50 change for the $10 presented would be quite all right.

kimsch said...

And weren't we held to higher standards in school? I remember people failing classes, people being held back, people who had to go to summer school to make up grades from the previous school year.

In Michigan, they want to change failing grades from F to H for help. That the student just needs help and isn't really failing. Calling a student "failing" makes the student feel bad... boo hoo.

Palladian said...

Thank God I was born in 1975! I can only remember the Reagan administration.

"Anybody have the Army/Navy game on? Whoa. I want one of those Army jerseys!!"

I want one of those big burly things inside the jerseys.

AllenS said...

"I want one of those big burly things inside the jerseys."

Shoulder pads?

Meade said...

Yeah well, I was born in the mid 50's. Thank God I can't remember anything.

chickenlittle said...

I asked him if he knew what time he had
He said he wasn’t sure, maybe a quarter past

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s

I peered in his eyes as we stood in line just to have a look
But the pages I found looked like an unbound coloring book

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s
The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s

It’s not reality, just someone else’s sentimentality...
It won’t work for you...

Baby boomers selling you rumors of their history
Forcing youth away from the truth of what’s real today

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s

Stadium minds with stadium lies gotta make you laugh
Garbage vendors against true defenders of the craft

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s
The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70’s
It’s not reality, just someone else’s sentimentality...
Look what it did to us...


Mike Watt (1995)

link

AJ Lynch said...

Darcy:

The Army Navy game is one of the best live sports events you will ever attend.

I recommend you put it on your list of things to do.

Get to the game early so you can be there when the Blue Angels swoop over the stadium!

Ann Althouse said...

"being red is nothing more than a different way of being blue"

This could be a hit song....

First, steal some melody...

Ann Althouse said...

I suggest "Me and Bobby McGee."

traditionalguy said...

By personal experience of the 1960's the Greatest Generation who survived the Depression followed by the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan entered the 1960's determined to relax and turn over the hard lifting to their baby boomers with the better educations and the better social skills. But without firm leadership vision from the Greatest Generation [who believed that hard work and good morals wins], social standards were expendable. This was very much a zeitgeist change. But that's all history now.

Palladian said...

""being red is nothing more than a different way of being blue"

This could be a hit song...."

The B-side could be a cover of "It's Not Easy Being Green".

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The writer of the article seems to think that there is some big mystery here. The education system began to change in the early 70's and continued to decline to the sorry state that it is today.

Instead of actually teaching, testing and holding students accountable, the system began to be a kinder, gentler, don't hurt anyone's feelings, free form, teaching to the lowest denominator system. I also think that the teachers themselves have gotten dumber and dumber. I blame the Union because it is nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.

I also blame the baby boom generation. They rebelled against their parents' generation and basically threw the baby out with the bathwater. Meaning that they got rid of culture that was good as well as the bad things. Now we have an education system that is costly and provides zero value to the majority of students.

(b. 1950)Born at the mid part of the baby boom, got a good education through high school because the teachers taught us and ensured that we were learning the subjects by testing us. But even then as was in the last years of High School and I went to college I could see that it was more about feelings and politics (Vietnam all the time and everywhere in classes that had nothing to do with social sciences) and less about actually learning anything.

Darcy said...

Oh, good tip, AJ Lynch. Thanks. I might just do that next year! And it's in Philly again, right?

cardeblu said...

Another one born in '61, here.

Maybe we're dumber because we got the "blue eye vs brown eye" thing in 4th grade, or the "new math," or any of the other "make your own values/no right answer" type of crap in school instead of, you know, the actual 3-Rs. We were the ones experimented upon with "open classrooms" and more centralized educational administration. However, I'm not saying it got any better later on (now), either. In fact, I think all of the experimenting has gotten worse.

All of the above, btw, was in very rural, small-town Idaho.

Henry Buck said...

I suspect the results are related to the brief experiment in lowering the drinking age to 18 in the early 70's. This hit the late boomers precisely, and greatly increased drinking and drug use by teens. I was born in '67 and can recall feeling how unfair it was that my older brothers and sisters (born between 60 and 64) could drink at 18 but I had to wait until I was 21.
Also, the late boomers grew up in a time when drug use by teens was somewhat acceptable. The national campaign against drug use didn't really begin until the early 80's (after it would have had much effect upon the late boomers). Before that time, popular culture reflected that drug use among teens was acceptable.
The early boomers were a little older and had more education behind them when these changes hit.

zeek said...

The Greatest Generation. The Lost Generation. The Baby Boom Generation. Generation X. Generation Y. Who comes up with this shit and why?

Maybe I only feel this way because I was born (1960) during a generational transition period and can relate and not relate to both Baby Boom and Gen-X.

Now Althouse tells me I am absolutely not a Boomer even though my Greatest Generation parents were children during the depression, Dad was in WWII, Mom was a housewife, and my oldest siblings were born in the late 40s. Apparently, these my-generation-is-better-than-yours pundits don't make allowances for birth order, age of parents, etc.

As a cusp born I, for some time now, have wanted our generation to have its own name. Not Boomer and not Gen-X. Now thanks to the insecurity of early Boomers my dream has been fulfilled! We late Boomers/Early Gen-Xers are now members of The Dumbest Generation! Thank you!

Though I have to say for the arrogant Baby Boomers, you have the lamest, dorkiest generational name ever! Lost Generation is cool. Generation X is fucking cool. And now, Dumbest Generation is the shitz! Baby Boomer is laaaaaaame.

Maybe someday, like Lost Generation's Paul Simon, I will believe I was "Born At The Right Time" but for now I'll say that generational pissing contests are embarrassing.

Gil said...

According to Wikipedia, Obama was born on August 4, 1961, not in 1963.

Beldar said...

Nuh-uh. If you were born after Hiroshima but can remember when Kennedy was shot, you're a boomer. That's THE test. Period.

Obama isn't one, btw.

Duncan said...

Ann,

At least the article establishes that you, I, and Rush Limbaugh (all born in 1951) are members of a literate birth cohort.

Nice compliment.

blake said...

Isn't it interesting how good education doesn't teach respect for itself?

zeek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

I was born in 1962. My 4th through 6th grades were a complete waste of time; this was the height of the open classroom and all sorts of bullshit hippie educational experiments.

I've long observed that people born between 1958 and 1968 are different that both boomers and Xers. As a group we are deeply cynical of authority figures, in part because of all the crap we went through in high school. We witnessed first hand, boomers systematically destroying everything they could get their hands on. We were subjected to the first rounds of political correctness--stuff that wouldn't even raise eyebrows amongst the sheepish generation Y.

Another point; reciting facts is not intelligence. Our generation knows this. We also knew that college was simply a tool and not for everyone. Want to know who created today's technology boom? Us. But then again, we were getting such jobs without going through the utter bullshit of CS degrees. It's called being a self-starter, being self-sufficient. It means that our destiny is up to us. Most importantly it means that we don't believe the modern crock of entitlement.

Jen Bradford said...

The biggest difference I notice between my generation (b. 1966) versus Boomers and Gen Y on either side is a wariness about what seems like their terribly earnest faith in their view of the world. The sanctimoniousness that comes with that, I admittedly also associate with Boomers and their kids. They're the good guys! The downside is the albatross of cynicism and indecision which has saddled a lot of people I grew up with.

Somewhat OT -it's also different to "discover" feminism as a young woman than to be "taught" about it as a child in the early-mid 70's. One teacher told me that by the time I was old enough to menstruate I could probably get it taken out in a quick visit to my obgyn. I didn't know what the hell she was talking about. Adults frequently seemed this side of demented to me because of crap like that. For a lot of my peers whose parents split (parents were less good at it then, I think) that was further proof that the adult world didn't have it together. I think it's hard for Boomers to understand how depressing the 70's were for kids.

blake said...

Wow, Jen!

I'd say that was dead on!

Ralph said...

Some of our parents had a lot more smoking and drinking under their belts by the late 50's.

I wonder what effect the trend toward delayed reproduction will have.

zeek said...

Beldar said...
Nuh-uh. If you were born after Hiroshima but can remember when Kennedy was shot, you're a boomer. That's THE test. Period.

Obama isn't one, btw.



So, Boomers include George W. Bush but don't include Barack Obama. ;->

sonicfrog said...

♫ We were born, born in the sixties
Born, born in the sixties

My mother cried
When Elvis Presley died
She said it was the CIA, But I knew better
Would they drop the bomb on us
while we drank "Sex On The Beach"
We were the class they couldn't teach
'Cause we knew better

We were born, born in the sixties
Born, born in the sixties

We srceamed
when the Police sang
But Sting went solo and broke up the band
Oh, they should have known better
Oh we learned to break dance
We wore parachute pants
Then we found our faith and prayed to Tammy Fae
We should have known better

We were born, born in the sixties
Born, born in the sixties

We streaked our hair blonde & dressed like the freaks on MTV
We stood in line for hours to watch Jaws, Star Wars, and ET
Ron and Nancy said "Just Say No"
To cocaine and angel dust
You don't understand us
I am not the Walrus
We're wreaking the future
We all became teachers

We were born, born in the sixties
Born, born in the sixties.... ♫

Just Lurking said...

Kids raised during the "Stoned Age" scored the worst on standardized tests, and were more likely, as a group, to use drugs as teens.

Kids who as young adults realized the education there were getting was absolute crap, were more likely to drop out, and/or view advanced degrees as a waste of time and money.

Kids whose adult role models were self-centered, irresponsible, and often unavailable for guidance (especially for legions of latch-key kids and kids of single working moms), grew up to be self-reliant and pragmatic.

Adults who know they got a third-rate education due to the misguided educational ideas generated by the best drug-addled liberal minds of the 60s, are more protective of their children and more demanding of their children's schools.

Why does none of this surprise this dumb American (born 1962)?

sonicfrog said...

BTW, born date - 1965.

Jen Bradford said...

Thanks blake - although being in this age group, my first thought is to wonder if you're pulling my leg. ha.

blake said...

Ha!

Reminds me of an episode of "The Simpsons":

"This is great."
"Dude, are you being sarcastic?"
"I don't even know anymore."

Shanna said...

The biggest difference I notice between my generation (b. 1966) versus Boomers and Gen Y on either side is a wariness about what seems like their terribly earnest faith in their view of the world.

Interesting. I’m kind of at the tail end of Gen X (77), and I think this is pretty astute.