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How Millennials Became Aggressively Illiberal, Censorious Young Adults

 

George F. Will

Washington Post, July 8, 2022

“A teacher would not be a “sage on the stage” but a “guide on the side,” with students “taking ownership” of their education.”

Time was, conscientious parents fretted about “summer learning loss.” Now, when much of what schools do subtracts from understanding, summer could at least be a time for recuperation from educational malpractice — were summer not just another season of screen addictions for young people deformed by this digital age.

In 2008, Americans were being inundated by journalism performing anticipatory sociology. “Techno-cheerleaders” — Mark Bauerlein’s term — predicted that millennials (born 1981-1996), the first generation suckled by their digital devices, would dazzle the world with the sublime personal and social consequences of their mind-melds with those devices. And their emancipation from the dead hand of everything prior. Bauerlein, Emory University professor of English, dissented. Fourteen years ago, in “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30)” he anticipated that millennials were going to become “unsatisfied and confused” adults, bereft of the consolations of a cultural inheritance, which is unavailable to nonreaders. They would be gripped by the furies of brittle people bewildered by encounters with disagreement, which they find inexplicable. And by the apocalyptic terrors that afflict frustrated utopians, the only kind there is.

Immersed in social media that have “contracted their horizon to themselves, to the social scene around them,” unable to “think beyond the clique and the schoolyard,” they pay the severe “opportunity costs of digital diversions” — “mind-maturing activities” forgone, such as learning a language, mastering a musical instrument, following the real politics of governance. Books are the best “reprieve from the bombardment” of the digital age, but the bombardment makes young people “bibliophobes,” drawing them into “the maelstrom of youth amusements.”

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