Mean Name-calling

The other day my 50-something co-worker told me about this book she saw recently at our small-town bookstore: The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30). She hasn’t read it, just the reviews of it.  She told me how sad a title like this makes her–it undermines any possibility for intergenerational communication or exchange, she bemoaned.  

Not having read the book myself yet, either, I joined in, wondering what the author hopes to accomplish with a title like that, other than further disengagement of demographics. The Dumbest generation?  Whoa.  And don’t trust anyone under 30?  I mean, I understand the game of having sexy titles to sell books, but this is going too far.

I’m sure this book makes valuable points about the ways technology is hurting our generation.  The publisher’s book flap promises that the author, Mark Bauerlein (prof. of English @ Emory), surveys a lot of research, including a 10-year study of teenagers and young adults.  And I’m willing to bet that I might even agree with some of the concerns Dr. Bauerlein has about our generation.  What I don’t think is okay is the title of the book.  It’s too offensive to be helpful.

My co-worker worries that the book is another treatise from the Baby Boomers against their offspring.  I worry that a title like that shuts off communication between generations–and in a society like ours, one that is unreasonably age-segregated, that seems dangerous to me.

I am pro-age-differentiated ministry in the Church; I think the young adult ministries in many of our parishes are needed and important.  But, of course, these cannot operate in a vaccuum.  We “young’ns” need to know how to learn from our Elders.  And our Elders need to know how to learn from us.  And unless we’re talking with one another–rather than calling each other mean names like “dumbest”–that’s not happening.

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