The ‘dumb’ generation?

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Acclaimed author Sebastian Faulks (Birdsong, Charlotte Gray) has declared that this generation of western children will be the first in history to know less than their parents, citing access to the internet as one reason for the loss of knowledge, according to the Telegraph.

 The modern intellectual world: a "kind of catastrophe".

The main thrust of his argument is that:
  • People in their late 20s no longer felt the need to "capture" information since the internet makes it constantly available.
  • Facts and figures are available at the press of a button, leaving the modern world in a "kind of intellectual catastrophe".
  • Faulks: "...an extraordinary reversal of the centuries in which we have taken for granted that the next generation would cumulatively or collectively know more than before."
Perhaps there’s more to this generation than Faulks would allow...

The Google intellectual

While the traditional description of the “renaissance man” as someone whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas” may not entirely describe the youth of today, the astounding amounts of information required by western children in order to function normally would boggle the minds of previous generations.

It's true that reading remains an essential skill for intellectual advancement, but whether the reading matter is Googled first or not shouldn't matter, more important is the inquiring mind reading the information.

The first bastion of academia would have been academic libraries full of books, papers and journals. Now, many of these may be accessed online. Contemporary academics find themselves in an unusual position of having to seek out some area not yet studied in their field, forcing them to examine their area of interest in great detail; academics have become, by and large, specialists in remote corners of their subjects.

That said, the layperson is able to come to grips with virtually any topic without even leaving their computer, and that without having to waste time remembering countless phone numbers, storing huge amounts of paper or schlepping heavy tomes across musty libraries.

Yes, it’s can be disheartening to read a teen’s text language, but this needn’t imply that that teen is “catastrophically” ill-equipped, academically speaking. In fact, even toddlers are grasping complex technological concepts, and teens are developing new technologies which will allow society to forge ahead at speed.

Of course, if your source about this generation and their collective knowledge comes from tabloids and reality shows you can be forgiven for thinking we are a world without hope.

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What do you think? Will this generation of children know less (collectively) than previous generations?

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