Monday, June 28, 2010

The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein

Computers and the Internet have been around long enough for long term studies to show the effect of them on students and career age individuals.  We have a net savvy generation but in the things that really matter, ignorance abounds. Studies show that wired classrooms have produced no measurable increases in desired educational outcomes such as reading skills and problem solving.  This generation knows all about pop culture but is at a loss understanding world events.
"As of 2008, the intellectual future of the United States looks dim."  (233)  While the outlook looks bright for technology, the future of civic understanding and liberal education the direction is downward.  "The Dumbest Generation cares little for history books, civic principles, foreign affairs, comparative religions, and serious media and art, and it knows less."  (234)
Bauerlein suggests that adults needs to align against youth ignorance and apathy.  Adolescence must be regarded as an inferior realm.  If the current habits are not corrected, the Dumbest Generation, "...may even be recalled as the generation that lost the great American heritage, forever."  (236)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

God is Not One by Stephen Prothero

To understand our world, Prothero says, "We need to know something about the basic beliefs and practices of the world's religions."  (337)  He provides that information on Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba Religion (perhaps the third largest religion in the world), Judaism, and Daoism.  He also includes a chapter on atheism. 
Prothero's desire is that all religions get along with their religious rivals.  He is convinced this goal needs to be pursued through a new means.  Rather than lumping all religions together, "we must start with a clear-eyed understanding of the fundamental differences in both belief and practice" between major religions.  Denying differences is a recipe for disaster.
Prothero has done a great job introducing to the reader the most influential religions of today.  Anyone desiring to understand today's world will benefit from reading this book.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Stockett has written a thought provoking novel of Mississippi (and the South) in the 1960s.  Of major interest is the relationships between white families and their black maids.  There are also plenty of troubled relationships between the white women to stimulate the reader's thoughts.  Having grown up in Washington State, this book was an eye opener for me.
This would be a great book for book groups.  It's long (451 pages) but well worth the reading.